Born into poverty in Manila, Carlito Ferrer says it was a stretch to think he would ever make it out of his home city. As a child, he sold vegetables, tupperware, slippers and other items at the markets to make a living.
"I sold bags for one cent each. Since I was six this was how I paid for school," he tells SBS. The resourceful Ferrer is now in his late 50s and runs one of the most popular Filipino food stores in Sydney with his wife, Aleli Pedro Ferrer. But it wasn’t without struggle.
Landing in Australia, Ferrer battled through a failed marriage and butchery business, eventually deciding to return to the Philippines. Later on, in a new marriage, he gave Sydney another crack, working and saving hard with his wife, Aleli, once arriving. Aleli would cook for friends and family — her dishes were faithful to traditional Filipino cuisine and people kept coming back for more.
Six months ago, Panlasang Pinoy (Tagalog for "Filipino taste") opened in Kogarah, showcasing Aleli's dishes. It’s small and homely with karaoke blaring in the corner and a constant stream of diners and customers going in and out, but Panlasang Pinoy is truly the best place in Sydney for authentic Filipino food and off-the-shelf products.
Filipino cuisine covers a lot of ground: pork, beef, seafood, vegetables and ice cream, using ingredients in creative ways, unseen in most other cuisines. The Ferrer's nine-year-old daughter, Camille, enjoys hanging around the restaurant when not at school, meeting customers and learning about the food. "People really love the sisig, pancit and adobo," she says.
Folks come from far and wide for sisig here: it's diced and seasoned pork liver and ears and it's very moorish. There’s also the adobo, the national dish, comprised of meat and vegetables in spiced soup.
"My favourite is the dinuguan ," Camille says of the pork offal in pig's blood. Then there’s the balut: it’s a boiled, semi-developed bird embryo, which Camille’s younger brother Charles eats like candy.
Other options include the afritada (a chicken and vegetable stew), pancit (noodles), and crispy pata (a giant lump of pork crackling).
The barbecue is constantly firing, grilling up street-style snacks like tilapia, baboy (pig's intestine), inihaw (vegetable-stuffed squid) and hotdogs.
Wash everything down with bukajuice (coconut water) or C-2 (apple green tea). And hang around for the dessert — in this hypercoloured bowl, you'll taste taro, avocado and cheese-flavoured ice cream, all commonly eaten in the Philippines. There’s also the halo-halo (“all mixed up” in Tagalog) which is a grand-looking sundae with green leaf jelly and taro ice cream.
Head over on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday night and join the all-you-can-eat-buffet — it’s the best way to try as much of this underexposed cuisine as possible. If you’re lucky, you’ll get live music or karaoke while you eat.
Mon - Wed, 8am to 9pm; Thur - Sun, 8am to 10pm.
26 Regent Street, Kogarah, NSW
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