In 2019, Ethan Leung was a person of Seattle’s “next incredibly hot chefs,” a sous at the sizzling Ben Paris within a modern new downtown hotel. A number of a long time previously, he had bailed from the monetarily safe entire world of his family’s desires: engineering. Monotonous, he known as it. Soul-draining. In cooking, he discovered issues that drew him to breakdancing—creativity, self-expression, camaraderie. He acquired the fundamentals on YouTube and on the occupation. At Ben Paris, he was a rising expertise headed for the prescriptive foods planet path.
But Ethan, who holds a diploma in physics, and his wife Geri, a tech-earth digital marketing professional, had other thoughts. For the duration of the pandemic, the Leungs exam-drove a Seattle pop-up referred to as Baon Kainan, melding their moms’s Filipino cooking, breakdancing philosophy, some cheffy procedures, and a like of American quickly food stuff. Client responses ranged from “amazing” to “why won’t this flavor standard?” In a city like Seattle, with a large, founded Filipino group, they puzzled in which their personal model in shape.
A single diner improved every thing: Richard Le, the Vietnamese-American food explorer and chef of Portland food cart Matta. Le, a b-boy like Ethan, visited Baon Kainan previous summertime on the recommendation of mutual mates in their breaking crews.
As Le tells it, “Filipino food is one particular of my top five cuisines. I’ve had all these dishes right before, but not like this. I was blown absent by his presentations, but it was the minimal matters. Like the cucumber tomato salad with tiny lime jellies in there. I stated, ‘Yo, what the fuck is this? Bro, what are you performing? You want to open up your possess business enterprise.’”
Le created the scenario: Portland, with its supportive foodstuff cart group and nascent Filipino food stuff scene, was the put for Baon Kainan (pronounced BAH-ohn cah-e-nahn). “Baon” interprets to food stuff you’d acquire on a journey, or for lunch or to do the job “kainan” usually means eatery. Following a handful of very well-acquired pop-ups at Matta, the pair moved to Portland in April. Baon Kainan designs to open August 7, measures absent from Matta at Metalwood Salvage, 4311 NE Prescott St. Opening hrs will be Thursday–Monday, 4 pm to 7 pm.
The cart’s tagline? “Not your tita’s cooking”—no disrespect to the aunties supposed.
“We want to explain to our story by way of foodstuff,” claims Geri. Ethan was born in the Philippines prior to going to Washington. Geri grew up feeding on Italian foodstuff in Italy. Southern food is also element of her story, too, immediately after her household moved to the South. And both equally are affected by their mom’s traditional cooking. “What you ate at tita’s social gathering, you will never locate it listed here,” Geri claims. “But it will remind you.”
My initially taste of Baon Kainan was a dish of kare kare for the duration of a spring pop-up. As an alternative of the standard oxtails stewed in peanut sauce, to be eaten with bites of rice, Ethan conjured a form of Filipino poutine, heaping peanut-sauced braised small ribs around french fries sided by stay-wire wallops of bagoong (shrimp paste) and pickled chiles. I wolfed it in my vehicle with abandon.
Kare kare appears to be to be a spotlight of the menu together with chicken (or mushroom) adobo and dinuguan (pork belly in pork blood stew). I am eager to check out the Filipino spaghetti flashing handmade banana ketchup, a condiment ordinarily bottled. In the meantime, I am praying that tomato and cucumber salad—a Filipino side dish essential—will nevertheless have those lime green jellies that transfixed Le. “It’s a cheffy contact,” confides Ethan.
Desserts could be the cart’s sweet location. The couple’s karioka are a treat—subtle, delicately deep-fried coconut rice balls that leap to lifestyle when plunged into the thick, coconut caramel glaze. Also in the operates: turon, a burro banana and jackfruit lumpia glazed with banana caramel sauce, and bibingka, a coconut rice cake baked in banana leaves and topped with a Baon Kainan twist of coconut crumble.
And when it settles in, Baon Kainan hopes to bust out a brunch menu: biscuits and longganisa sausage gravy to breakfast sandwiches on Geri’s cart-manufactured pandesal rolls, backed by mayo, American cheese, and a fried egg. The strategy also incorporates a common Filipino breakfast and champorado, a full-on chocolate rice porridge.
In the long run, they hope Baon Kainan will be about something additional than meals, as the restaurant entire world appears to be like for new styles of imagining and becoming and a route forward.
“Unfortunately,” states Ethan, “terrible truths [in the industry and beyond] have took place and will continue on. I’ve faced not acquiring compensated the similar volume as cooks with the similar working experience, faced some racist responses and discrimination. My individuality is really reserved it is challenging for me to communicate up. Now, with Baon Kainan, we have a voice.”
Abide by Baon Kainan on Instagram @baonkainan