Global Grubbing: Dining Kamayan Style

Go ahead, wash your hands and dig in!

Last night we traveled to the Philippines with our Global Grubbing series. We had amazing food, great conversation, and a unique experience.

We ate like local Filipinos in a Kamayan dinner. The word Kamay is the Filipino word for hand, so in a Kamayan style dinner there are no eating utensils, you eat only with your hands!

Like I find in many cultures, people love to feed people and Filipinos are no different. The popular greeting, “Kumain ka na ba?” means “Have you eaten?”

“Kumain ka na ba?” means “Have you eaten?”

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Kathy getting ready to set the table!
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The first phase of setting the table.

(Now that I’ve had the experience of dining on banana leaves, I can’t help but think about what other foods I could serve this way!? If you are in Denver, you can grab some banana leaves at the Pacific Ocean Market, found in the refrigerated section.)

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Beautifully plating the banana leaves with the Kamayan dinner.

Our dinner last night was hosted at SAME Café, a 100% donation based café, giving people on the streets a chance to eat healthy, nutritious meals for whatever they can afford. Some people pay $1, some $10 or more. Others donate their time by doing dishes or other labor around the restaurant. SAME is celebrating their 10 year anniversary this year, which is truly remarkable in how much impact they’ve been able to have on the community.

SAME Cafe Owner, Libby, myself, and Kathy
SAME Cafe Owner, Libby, myself, and Kathy

Our evening began with a frozen pineapple-coconut drink (AKA a virgin Pina Colada), which everyone loved! Despite being in mid-winter (although we are experiencing some mild-temperatures), we brought ourselves to the warm tropics of the Philippines with a frozen beverage.

Guests spent the first half-hour mingling and getting to know one another, sharing stories of food, travel, people and culture.

Once we kicked off the evening, Kathy, our chef from the Taste of the Philippines shared how we eat—without utensils—and what was on our banana leaf plates in front of us. It’s customary to grab the food with your non-dominant hand and then eat with your dominant hand to avoid “double-dipping” into the spread of food.

It’s customary to grab the food with your non-dominant hand
and then eat with your dominant hand.

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“Here’s how you eat!” Getting our explanation of Kamayan style eating. 

Here’s what was on the menu:

* Lumpias (Filipino spring rolls) – Kathy’s specialty

* Chicken adobo – A Filipino favorite

* Pork pancit

* Manok sa Gata (GF) (Chicken in coconut milk)  – The crowd favorite!

* And of course… rice!

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Lumpias!
Left to Right: Chicken Adobe, Pork Pancit, Rice, Adobe, Pineapple, Pancit, Rice, and Chicken with Coconut Milk

Eating rice and noodle dishes with your hands is definitely a foreign experience for Americans. Most of us had no trouble diving into the food, however, I think we all struggled with remembering not to use our dominant hand to grab food from the middle! But none of that seemed to matter as we tasted the delicious flavors in front of us.

By far the crowd favorite was the Manok sa Gata (chicken with coconut milk) followed closely by the Chicken Adobo and Lumpias.

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I vowed not to use a napkin until I was done,
it seemed rather pointless!

Once the eating began it was hard to get a picture of the group, as our hands were covered in sauces and sticky goodness. I vowed not to use a napkin until I was done, it seemed rather pointless!

Once we completed our meal, Kathy shared about her personal journey of how she started her business after getting laid off from corporate America. Ironically, Kathy had never spent much time in the kitchen before. Her mother and sisters were the cooks of the family, not her. Committed to figuring it out and the path of self-employment, she opened a food cart on 16th Street Mall to share Filipino food with others. It wasn’t long before she had a natural following of customers who loved her flavors and likely her personal flare!

Go ahead, wash your hands and dig in!  Last night we traveled to the Philippines with our Global Grubbing series. We had amazing food, great conversation, and a unique experience.    We ate like local Filipinos in Kamayan dinner. The word Kamay is the Filipino word for hand, so in a Kamayan style dinner there are no eating utensils, you eat with your hands! Like I find in many cultures, people love to feed people and Filipinos are no different. The popular greeting, “Kumain ka na ba?” means “Have you eaten?” I know this all too well with my own Italian grandmother that within moments of arriving at her home, she offers you food!  Our dinner last night was hosted at SAME Café, a 100% donation based café, giving people on the streets a chance to eat healthy, nutritious meals for whatever they can afford. Some people pay $1, some $10 or more. Others donate their time by doing dishes or other labor around the restaurant. SAME is celebrating their 10 year anniversary this year, which is truly remarkable in how much impact they’ve been able to have on the community.  Our evening began with a frozen pineapple-coconut drink (aka a virgin Pina Colada). Despite being in mid-winter and experiencing some mild-temperatures, we brought ourselves to the warm tropics of the Philippines with a frozen beverage.  Guests spent the first half an hour mingling and get to know one another, sharing stories of food, travel, people and culture.  Once we kicked off the evening, Kathy, our chef from the Taste of the Philippines shared how we eat—without utensils—and what was on our banana leaf plates in front of us. It’s customary to grab the food with your non-dominant hand and then eat with your dominant hand to avoid “double-dipping” into the spread of food.  Here’s what was on the menu:  * Lumpias (Filipino spring rolls) – Kathy’s specialty  * Chicken adobo – A Filipino favorite  * Pork pancit 
 * Manok sa Gata (GF) (Chicken in coconut milk)  - The crowd favorite!  * And of course... rice! Eating rice and noodle dishes with your hands is definitely a foreign experience for Americans. Most of us had no trouble diving into the food, however, I think we all struggled with remembering not to use our dominant hand to grab food from the middle! But none of that seemed to matter as we tasted the delicious flavors in front of us.  By far the crowd favorite was the Manok sa Gata followed closely by the Chicken Adobo and Lumpias.  Once the eating began it was hard to get a picture of the group, as our hands were covered in sauces and sticky goodness. I vowed to not use a napkin until I was done, it seemed rather pointless!  Once we completed our meal, Kathy shared about her personal journey of how she started her business after getting laid off from corporate America. Ironically, Kathy had never spent much time in the kitchen before. Her mother and sisters were the cooks of the family, not her. Committed to figuring it out and self-employment, she opened a food cart on 16th Street Mall to share Filipino food with others. It wasn’t long before she had a natural following of customers who loved her flavors!
Kathy when sharing her food journey with us!

Have you ever traveled to the Philippines? Have you eaten a Kamayan style dinner? Do you have a favorite Filipino dish? I’d love to hear from you, please share in the comments below. 

Stay tuned… Kathy and I are already talking about another Kamayan dinner for the summer!

If you live in Denver, be sure to stop by Finn’s Manor to grab some of Kathy’s Filipino cuisine with a Taste of the Philippines, or check out her catering services for a private gathering!

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