Kwento Kwentuhan

Mag Kamayan Tayong Lahat

A new trend has captured the way we eat, for Filipino-Americans and others. It’s the best, “hands down!”

Liza of “A Maui Blog”

Kamayan is a Filipino word that translates “by hand.” Recently the term Kamayan refers to a Filipino Feast in which you eat a variety of food at a communal table, without utensils. You eat without the use of forks, knives or spoons.

A typical Kamayan meal features a table covered in smooth, waxy banana leaves as a natural substitute for plates and placemats. What’s on the leaves is a spread of Filipino dishes, fruits and vegetables, including fried fish, chicken barbecue, chopped lechon, fried lumpia, shrimp, squid, roasted vegetables such as eggplant and okra, and fruit such as mangoes. Usually in the middle of all this yummy food is rice and pancit noodles but those can be spread on the side too. And not to forget the sauces in small containers spread around (patis, vinegar with sili, lechon sauce and atchara). The arrangement of the spread varies but is always an “Instagram Worthy” photo.

The Kamayan dinner they offer at Originz at the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center is a great introduction if you’ve never tried it.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

For some non-Filipinos, Kamayan may look savage or unsanitary but if you do your research about using hands when eating you will find there are many health benefits to this practice or tradition of eating with your bare hands. I will not discuss in detail all those benefits here because that is not what the focus of this article is about, but let me mention a few general benefits: 1) Kamayan bonds people—connects and build relationships with family and friends (friends old and new). I mentioned Instagram earlier—but the truth is you can only do social media before you start eating because once you start eating, you can’t touch your phone anymore. The focus will be on the food and the people around you. 2) Kamayan is a sensory experience—your eyes enjoy the colorful arrays of food, the various food flavors are a feast on your palette, you smell the aroma of the dish, and yes, you feel the texture of the food as well. 3) Kamayan makes eating more fun—people are more relaxed and the atmosphere is conducive to laughter during kwento-kwentuhan (conversation and storytelling).

Kamayan dinner shown here was hosted by our Fil-Am Voice Asst. Editor, Alfredo Evangelista and his wife Bessy.
Photo: Alfredo Evangelista

Now the question is, Where can we experience Kamayan on Maui? For many Fililpino families, it happens in their home during special celebrations or a weekend family gathering. The good news is there are now some restaurants on Maui who offer Kamayan: Star Noodle @star.noodle with Chef Abby Ferrer @abby_ferrer on the Westside and Originz Maui @originzmaui in the Queen Ka‘ahumanu Center in Kahului.

If you are not familiar with Kamayan, here are some basic guidelines:

1. This should go without saying but wash your hands.
2. Try to eat mostly with one hand, keeping the second hand clean for drinking.
3. When taking food, use your fingers to pinch the food into a clump at your fingertips (don’t let it settle onto your palm).
4. After taking a bit of ulam (the meat or vegetables) and rice with your fingers and thumb, use your thumb to push the food into your mouth.
5. Have fun!

Ready for a Kamayan dinner? Let’s go!

Liza Pierce of A Maui Blog is an Interactive Media Strategist in Hawai‘i. She started blogging in 2006 and she loves talking story online and spreading aloha around the world. She’s lived on Maui since 1994 and considers Maui her home. A wife, a mother, a friend…and so much more. She loves Jesus; Maui Sunsets Catcher; Crazy About Rainbow; End Alzheimer’s Advocate. Her life is full and exciting here on the island of Maui.
Liza is currently the Interactive Media Strategist with Wailea Realty Corp.