Instant Success: This Cookbook Brings Filipino Flavor To Your Instant Pot

Pati Navalta Poblete | May 18, 2020 | Food & Drink

A Filipino cookbook geared toward the time-saving appliance continues to grow in popularity.

Pancit_Palabok.jpgPancit palabok is a traditional Filipino dish with rice noodles and shrimp- or chicken-based sauce

Andrew Zimmern of Bizarre Foods fame once made a bold statement: Filipino food was going to be the next big thing. “I want to go on record—this is not something that’s hot now somewhere and will get hot everywhere else,” he said at the time. “It’s just starting. Filipinos combined the best of all of that with Spanish technique. The Spanish were a colonial power there for 500 years, and they left behind adobo and cooking in vinegar—techniques that, applied to those tropical Asian ingredients, are miraculous.”

That was in 2012. And while the cuisine has gained some popularity, it has yet to become as popular as other Asian cuisines, such as Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Vietnamese. Perhaps it’s because people in America still don’t know that much about its complex flavor profiles based on unfamiliar ingredients. Or perhaps it just seems too complicated and intimidating to even take on—even for Filipino Americans who grew up eating traditional dishes made by their parents and grandparents.

These are challenges that The Filipino Instant Pot Cookbook ($25, Rocketships & Wonderment) seeks to address. Since the book’s release in December 2019, its predominantly Bay Area-based authors have witnessed a surge of interest in Filipino cuisine and the cookbook’s accessible and convenient approach to it. The book has remained a bestseller on Amazon since its release.

Its team of authors include husband-and-wife teams Jorell Domingo and Tisha Gonda Domingo and Jeannie E. Celestial and Art Swenson, and longtime friends Rome Roque-Nido and Jaymar Cabebe. Dianne Que, Cabebe’s wife, assisted with design and translations.

“Readers seem to resonate with our narratives of being home cooks, reclaiming their Filipino history and culture through delicious, wholesome food,” says Celestial. “Our book takes the guesswork out of ingredients and cooking methods, creating a convenient reference book for Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike.”

The story of how the book came together is somewhat reflective of the book’s recipes— each author contributing something different yet essential for a successful outcome. All had been toying with the idea of creating a forum for Filipino recipes. Jorell and Tisha created a Facebook group, Filipino Instant Pot Recipes Community, in February 2018 in search of more Filipino recipes (to date, the group now has nearly 60,000 members). It wasn’t until Celestial connected all the dots that the idea and implementation of the book came together.

The cookbook offers 75 recipes, ranging from the more popular dishes, such as pancit (noodles) and adobo (vinegar-based stew), to lesser-known regional dishes, such as sinigang (tamarind-based soup) and Bicol Express (spicy pork stew in coconut milk). While the flavors are classic, the authors (all second-generation Filipino Americans born to parents who immigrated in the 1960s and ’70s) have made adjustments based on diet and time restrictions.

All recipes, for example, are created specifically for the Instant Pot, a programmable pressure and multicooker, with the goal of cutting back cooking time. Recipes are also categorized in the index to accommodate a variety of diets, including dairy-free, gluten-free, nut-free, keto, vegan, vegetarian and “weeknight dinner,” comprised of soups and sautees.

Interspersed throughout the book are stories from the authors on what the recipes mean to them, how they originated and their childhood memories of the dish.

If you’ve ever wondered about Filipino cuisine and the stories behind the dishes, this book allows you to re-create a variety of flavors that were carried over from one generation to the next, from six different families. This is not just a book of recipes, this is a book about the Filipino experience.

Filipino_Spices.jpgThe cookbook includes substitutions for traditional ingredients, including turmeric in place of soy sauce for chicken adobo.

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Photography by: Nancy Cho