Recently, I celebrated a special occasion with a kamayan feast in MFK by Aysee’s dining room. Our group had such a fun time (after we photographed the hell out of it), I wanted to learn more. So Chef Henry was more than happy to indulge in my rapid fire line of questioning. One takeaway I learned from Pineda, “You’re not supposed to finish; it’s not a contest.”
My father told me kamayan is also referred to as “Boodle Fight”. Where does the term come from?
The terms Boodle Fight and Kamayan describe the same thing. The word kamayan comes from the Tagalog word kamay, which means hand. So kamayan’s direct translation is “to use your hands”. Boodle Fight is the term that was used to describe a meal the US military had when stationed in the Philippines. The food was placed in the center, and everyone would eat with their hands.
How do you set up the feast? Do you put down proteins, vegetables, fruit and garnish a certain way or in a particular order?
There is a method to the madness. First, we set up all the banana leaves on the table. And, depending on the size of the party, we will either plate the kamayan inside the kitchen or directly put the food on the table. We always lay down the rice first. But each of us has our own style of plating. There is no specific order in which we lay out the food.
Please elaborate on the three sauces offered during the meal, as well as what they pair well with.
Although there are a plethora of sauces and different sauce combinations, we start off the kamayan with three main saues: spiced vinegar (suka), Mang Tomas (all purpose dipping sauce) and sweet chili sauce. All sauces go well with anything you choose; that’s why we picked them. Filipino food is generally on the saltier side, so the acid from the vinegar and the sweet from the Mang Tomas and sweet chili really balance everything out.
What do folks tend to ask about kamayan? Is there a most requested protein? What’s been the largest group to request it?
Ironically, folks tend to ask if they’re supposed to eat with their hands or use utensils. The most requested protein would probably have to be either lechon kawali (deep fried pork belly) or whole head on shrimp. I think the largest party was a group of 28 guests.
When was the last time you sat down and participated in a kamayan? What are your favorite things to eat?
About a few weeks ago, a few of the staff and I made a kamayan and ate it for lunch. My favorite items to eat during the feast would probably be the grilled liempo (pork belly) and the lechon kawali. I’ve got a thing for pork.
Reservations and a credit card hold for Kamayan are required. What else should first-timers know about the dinner? For example, is it weekends only?
This is a hands-on experience where we plate an eight-course meal all at once. You are more than welcome to have a Kamayan on a weekday or weekend, depending on availability. Reservations must be made 72-hours in advance. This three-day period allows parties to make any adjustments before their reservation day. All reservations are made online through our website. There is a set Kamayan menu to choose from; however, we try our best to accommodate any special requests for items that may not be on the menu list.
If you read to the end, I’m here to remind you of their anniversary celebration tomorrow! They’ve also got a contest on Instagram for a chance to have your very own Kamayan meal for four. From someone who has experienced it, enter already!
MFK by Aysee is located at 2620 W. La Palma Ave., Anaheim, (657) 337-5288; www.MFKaysee.com.
A contributing writer for OC Weekly, Anne Marie freelances for multiple online and print publications, and guest judges for culinary competitions. A Bay Area transplant, she graduated with a degree in Hospitality Management from Cal Poly Pomona. Find her on Instagram as brekkiefan.