Lutong Pinoy is a humble eatery that means “cooking of the Philippines,” located in a nondescript strip mall in North Miami Beach.
It dishes up the culinary landscape of the Southeast Asian archipelago influenced by ancient Malaysian settlers, Chinese traders, 300 years of Spanish rule and a period of U.S. administration.
Owner Darren Mendoza is from Manila and works in IT programming for U.S. Medical Supply. He and his wife, Glenda, a nurse at the University of Miami Hospital, come in every day to oversee the kitchen. Darren helps cook on weekends, especially if there is a boodle fight. This is the brotherhood style of dining when Filipino soldiers of all ranks eat together using bare hands to secure a portion.
The boodle is replicated here with tables covered in banana leaves heaped with rice, spiced fried chicken, grilled fish, deep fried pork belly, lumpia (egg rolls), battered and fried shrimp, grilled eggplant with fermented shrimp paste, salted duck eggs, and ginger or tamarind soup.
The feast can be customized with anything on the menu from pancit (stir-fried rice noodles) to bopis (beef stewed in coconut milk with the heart and lungs). A vegetarian version also is offered.
Binalot brings rice steamed in a banana-leaf wrapper with a choice of adobo chicken, fried bangus (milkfish), longanisa (spicy pork sausage), sisig (grilled pork cheek and ears with onions and soy sauce) or thin slices of beef tenderloin. Kare kare, a soupy oxtail or vegetable peanut butter-based curry, comes with salty bagoong (shrimp paste) on the side to stir in, good with silog (garlic stir-fried rice).
End with halo halo, a mix of kaong (sugar palm seeds), soft coconut shreds, pineapple jelly and red beans over shaved ice topped with purple yam ice cream.
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.