Authentic Philippines cuisine on the North Side

October 15, 2010 (CHICAGO)

For fans of good cuisine, that just means a diverse menu.

With some seven thousand islands and more than 100 dialects, the Philippines has plenty of diversity. When you factor in European and Asian influences, it makes the cuisine even more complex.

As we continue our monthly series, My Country, My Cuisine, we pay a visit to a legendary restaurant near Lincolnwood with a friend who misses her mom's cooking.

When Vivian Ritter longs for a taste of her native Philippines, she heads to Little Quiapo in Pulaski Park, where they've been serving the dishes from back home for more than 30 years. The food has several influences.

"For one we were under a lot of occupations, being mainly Spanish," said Ritter.

Adobo is a popular Filipino dish.

"Well, this is actually our signature dish. When you say 'chicken adobo,' everybody knows it's coming from the Philippines and stuff, so this actually has the Spanish influence," said Ritter.

"This chicken is, actually, is sauteed with garlic, onion, vinegar, soy sauce and just a little bay leaf, and garnished with scallion," said Ritter.

Lumpia are essentially eggrolls - Shanghai-style, filled with beef or pork, they are a nod to Chinese influences. Rice noodles are another Asian influence.

"This is called pancit. Now pancit is called, we also have several different types of pancit. This one, particularly, is called bihon, pancit behon. Because it, this is made out of rice noodle," said Ritter.

They're tossed with Napa cabbage, celery, carrots, and sauteed chicken. Kare Kare is a hearty stew, containing tripe, oxtail and beef.

"So does this, does this kind of food remind you of growing up?" I asked.

"Yes. I haven't had this in a long time, my God. This is a treat," she said.

Chicken tocino is another treat, burnished red and caramelized.

The Philippines can also lay claim to the world's most bizarre dessert.

"Now all the different types of fruits and everything that's here, we could add on several different types - from garbanzo beans, to jackfruit," Ritter said.

"Sweet potato, coconut, corn..purple yam?" I wondered aloud.

"Yes. This is called ube," she said.

"But this whole dish is called 'Halo-Halo," I reminded her.

"How would you say, 'this is delicious'?" I asked.

"Masarap," she replied.

Little Quiapo also has an extensive lunch buffet, if you have a hard time making up your mind.

Little Quiapo
6259 N. McCormick Ave.

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