Fil-Am chefs on dishes to bring to the Thanksgiving table 

IT’S Thanksgiving next week and for many Filipino American families, it means preparing a table spread of both traditional holiday and Filipino dishes. It’s not uncommon to see a turkey coexisting alongside a lechon or mashed sweet potatoes with pancit. For this issue, we asked several Fil-Am chefs around the country what they’d bring to a Thanksgiving boodle fight — a “kamayan” dining experience that forgoes utensils and dishes in favor of our hands and banana leaves.

The ulam and rice are evenly placed on leaves on a long table so diners can grab and partake in a ritual rooted in camaraderie and unity, which aligns with what we think of in a Thanksgiving meal as well.  

Jappy Diago Afzelius, Tsismis (New York)

“I would contribute Inihaw ribs, Laing, beef tapa, pork tocino, Pritong Bangus, Kinilaw na tuna. These are dishes that I hold close to my heart because I grew up eating them either at home with my family or out at restaurants with my friends.”

Ria Dolly Barbosa, Executive Chef of Paramount Coffee Project (Los Angeles)

I would contribute my pan de sal! It came to be an unintentional labor of love. I was testing it for about a year when I got it to where I wanted it to be. My Lola was not well while I was testing and I’d give her each updated version to try. By the time I got it where I wanted it to be, she already left this plane, but I like to think that she’d be proud of it. I used it as the base for my fried chicken sandwich during my year-long pop-up WILD at Canelé back in 2014-2015. I haven’t made it much these days but whenever I do, I always think of her.”

Carlo Lamagna, Magna (Portland, OR)

“I would definitely do inihaw na pusit and liempo.  With a boodle fight, it should be about the ease of eating as well as flavor. Anything saucy doesn’t make sense. Plus the grilled flavor of the squid adds an outdoor, flame quality and the crispy liempo for texture.”

Romy Dorotan, Purple Yam (Brooklyn, NYC)

“Sorry, I really don’t like kamayan/boodle fight.  And sorry again, I really don’t like turkey. I would recommend lechon pork belly (bone in, skin on) crispy skin (malutong) and very moist,  Mang Tomas-style gravy, atsara, pancit, laing, rice… maybe apple cider salabat. Champorado for dessert.”

Cheryl Baun & Paulo Mendoza, Karenderya (Nyack, NY)

“Definitely daing na bangus because we always eat it with hands anyway, and it’s one of our go-to comfort foods.  Also we thought ribs and chicken wings would be fun, too, because they are the quintessential pulutan, adding to the communal feel of a kamayan feast.”

King Phojanakong, Kuma Inn (NYC)

Pinoy Thanksgiving – yesssss!!! Bourbon honey-glazed ham, turkey and/or chicken inasal, prime rib roast, whole grilled branzino, pancit bihon, garlic rice, sautéed baby bok choy, roasted Brussels sprouts with apple and bacon, chorizo wild mushroom stuffing and a couple of pumpkin buko pies. It’s our Thanksgiving Day menu here at home in NYC. If it was a little warmer out or we were back home in the Philippines I’d set up the long table and banana leaves. These dishes are all so special and celebratory. A true melting pot of flavors from the Philippines to here. And everyone from bunso to lola are happy.”

Nicole Ponseca, author of “I Am a Filipino: And This Is How We Cook” and founder of Jeepney & Maharlika (NYC)

“I think mini-bibingka or kare-kare. What better way to enjoy the oxtails!”

Queenie Peña Bañez, Asin (Caldwell, NJ)

“Definitely crispy pata and Aristocrat-style barbecue chicken. Those are two classic dishes that many Filipinos just love.”

Yana Gilbuena, Salo Series (Nationwide)

“I’ve made a turkey embutido before with a cranberry sweet and sour sauce. I think it’s a very FILIPINIZED dish. As for Thanksgiving memories, I never celebrated Thanksgiving growing up but in my early twenties after I moved to the U.S., I started attending some and eventually hosting a lot. My favorite dish was the actual roast turkey because I had one Thanksgiving where my friend donated one but didn’t tell me it was frozen and we had five hours before the dinner. We massaged the whole frozen turkey under a warm water bath until it thawed and I was about to cook it. That was definitely very memorable.”

Ralph Degala, MasterChef contestant Season 9 and YouTube personality (Los Angeles)

“I would contribute some lechon manok/chicken Inasal to the noodle fight! Whenever we go back to the Philippines, one thing I must absolutely get there is the local Inasal or lechon manok from Sr. Andoks. The combination of the slow-cooked chicken, homemade Mang Tomas sauce and rice always brings back memories of me eating with family after a long day of basketball or playing in the province.” 

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