Filipino cuisine is one of Asia’s best-kept culinary secrets that remains largely off the radar for most foodies. “It’s the original fusion cuisine born out of 400 years of Spanish colonialism and years of trade with China, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia,” says Ariel del Rosario, owner of the Philippine-inspired restaurant Filistix. It’s said that Filipino cuisine is as much a lesson in geography as it is a discovery of new flavours.
“The flavour profile is a balance of savoury, sweet, salty, umami and a little bit funky with the use of ferments,” del Rosario says. “You’ll find a lot of fish sauce in the seasonings, as well as the popular fermented shrimp paste bagoong.” Any combination of these key flavours can be found in most Filipino dishes, from pancit palabok (rice noodles with pork and shrimp) to lechon sisig (roasted pork) to sinigang (sour soup).
Spanish-style braising and stewing techniques feature prominently in Filipino dishes. Order a pork adobo, the national dish of the Philippines (braised pork with vinegar and soy sauce), or the pacific coconut chicken, and taste a familiar kind of comfort food that will soothe any angst. Vegetables and fruits contribute to the complexity, with pineapple, coconut, jackfruit, tomatoes and bananas all finding spots on the menu. Citrus and vinegars, so useful in food preservation in warm climates, bring an acidic tinge. Rice is the go-to starch, but potatoes and lentils also show up.
Del Rosario and his business partner Roel Canafranca opened Filistix’s 30-seat downtown restaurant in 2019, after operating a well-loved food truck for 11 years and fast-food kiosks at the University of Alberta. For years, students and festival goers were familiar with Filipino flavours, but after the opening of the downtown restaurant, a wider audience was now singing the praises of Filipino cuisine.
For the past three years, Tomato magazine has named Filistix’s Fili Beef Bowl and the South Pacific Coconut Chicken Bowl as one of the Top 100 Things to Eat or Drink in Edmonton. Edify magazine has also bestowed top honours to this downtown gem.
Filistix also serves a unique-in-the-city brunch made up of “Silog Bowls,” which include garlic fried rice, a sunny-side-up fried egg, tomato salsa and atchara pickles (unripe papaya, carrots and peppers). Options include tapsilog (beef), bangsilog (milkfish), sisigsilog (pork) and the Filipino classic spamsilog made, you guessed it, from the canned classic.