Maui Pinoy Pleasure Plates

Vince Bagoyo

If you happen to be craving authentic Filipino comfort food to remind you of the Homeland, Maui is now the home of many excellent Filipino restaurants that will reward your cravings in so many ways. Too often we hear from our Filipino friends and families how they miss their Lola/Lolos’ home-cooked Filipino dishes. It’s been over three years since our Nanang passed away and oh, how we miss our favorite dishes like pinakbet, balatong (monggo beans), sinigang (shrimp and/or fish soup), not to mention our favorite Filipino dessert sinuman (sweet mochi rice). Every time our three daughters come to visit Maui from the mainland one of their first stops is a Filipino take-out restaurant to get their fix of pinakbet, adobo pusit (squid) and a side order of halo-halo. Funny thing is I find myself, doing the same thing; looking for Filipino dishes that brings back memories of our Nanang’s home-cooked meals.

Many have said that Spanish colonization and Chinese merchants were the early influence in Filipino cuisine and the uniqueness of traditional Filipino food was inspired by the melding of Spanish and Asian cultures. Common stews like kare-kare oxtail stew with locally grown mixed vegetables and flavored with creamy peanut butter and alamang (shrimp paste) or pork adobo are given the Filipino treatment by improvising with local ingredients, such as palm vinegar, a spoonful of brown sugar, or a startling amount of garlic. The results are complex flavor profiles ranging from sour, to sweet, to salty resulting one powerful kick to the taste buds.

Those who are unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine will be introduced to new flavors and for those who are craving a taste of every region in the Philippines, memories will be brought back. The beauty of Filipino cuisine is that it allows room for improvisation, much like its culinary history. We are so fortunate to have our own Filipino chefs who have opened restaurants on Maui and are introducing Filipino cuisines into the mainstream of our island’s culinary experiences. In this first issue of Maui Fil-Am Voice, we profile two chef-owned Maui Filipino restaurants that have caught the eyes and palates of foodies like myself. These Filipino chefs are updating Filipino dishes from traditional to contemporary creating an undeniable buzz in Maui’s food scene.

At Tante’s Island Cuisine, try their Bangus, Kare Kare, and Seafood Combo with Shrimp and Mussels—a wonderful sforzando for any connoisseur’s palate!

Tante’s Restaurant

opened over fours ago by chef-owner, Tante Urban, a well-known and respected entrepreneur within the culinary circles in the of State Hawai‘i. He has been in the culinary business since 1968 and was inspired by his father to enter to culinary school at Hilo Community College. According to Tante, it is his destiny to be in the restaurant business and his passion is to experiment with and perfect Filipino dishes that will challenge the palates of local residents and visitors alike.

Located at the heart of Central Maui, Tante’s is a favorite of many local residents. Willie K, a world renowned singer and composer, along with his wife Debbie, is a frequent visitor to the restaurant and his favorite dish is Tante’s signature dish: Sari-Sari. According to Willie K—this dish is very special to him because “it reminds me of my childhood growing up in Waimanalo in the island of O‘ahu, surrounded with Filipino Tatas and Nanas who always shared this special sari-sari dish, is simply amazing and unforgettable.” What makes this dish unique and special are the ingredients that Tante uses. Fresh locally-grown vegetables like okra, pumpkin, long beans, green peas, and squash (Tabungaw), tempered with alamang sauce bring its unique flavor will make you go back to Tante’s Restaurant again and again just like Willie K.

Tante’s Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner every day with a wide menu selection that melds Hawaiian, American, and Filipino dishes and flavors. And yes it is reasonably-priced. Be prepared to be personally greeted by chef-owner Tante and his very warm hospitality that makes you feel you are a part of his family!

Joey’s Kitchen features their Pancit, Shrimp Lumpia, and Adobo Fried Rice—this gem can be found at the Whaler’s Village in Kä‘anapali.

Joey’s Kitchen

is creating lots of buzz in the West Maui culinary scene. Joey Macadangdang recently opened his second restaurant located at Näpili Shopping Center. His first restaurant opened over a year ago at the heart of Whaler’s Village in Kä‘anapali Resort and is frequented by mainland visitors and local residents alike. Joey did not go to any culinary school; he learned his craft in the kitchen starting as a dishwasher, moving up to a busboy until he was offered to be a cook helper at Roy’s. Ultimately he reached a pinnacle in his culinary career becoming Roy’s executive chef for 20 years. He first learned to cook at home at a young age, reading lots of cook books. He has always had the passion to be in the culinary arts and loves to experiment and perfect traditional cuisine by infusing Asian, Chinese and Hawaiian flavors and herbs. Joey’s dishes are one of kind with amazing aromas and a sophistication that will make you want more.

Joey’s signature Filipino dishes, at the Whalers Village location are the pork adobo fried rice, pancit, and lumpia. These dishes represent the heart of Filipino cuisine and are often served at many local restaurants, parties, and special occasions. These three signature dishes by Joey’s Kitchen are the ultimate comfort food, brought by the Sakadas who immigrated to Hawai‘i during the plantation era. What make these dishes special are ingredients that you will find in many Filipino dishes; namely, fresh ginger, garlic, sugarcane vinegar, and locally-grown fresh vegetables. To add aroma and flavor to the dishes—patis (fish sauce) is a must! These three Filipino dishes personalized by Joey’s culinary creativity have exciting layered flavor, a homey feel, and familiar spices that always bring back memories of the homeland. If you want to experience “five star” dishes at a “one star” price—you must try Joey’s Kitchen at Whaler’s Village or Näpili Shopping Center. You will be amazed at the freshness and the quality of each dish. Joey’s advice to young Filipinos who wish to enter the culinary profession? Be humble; learn and study hard to perfect your dishes, read lots of culinary books; and listen to your customers…

Vince Bagoyo, Jr. is the President/Owner of V. Bagoyo Development Group. AHe was graduated from Chaminade University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts majoring in Political Science and Business Administration. He earned a Masters of Public Administration (Government Finance) from California State University, Long Beach. Bagoyo has served in government in a variety of positions including Councilman (1991 to 1992), Director, Department of Housing and Human Concerns, and Director, Department of Water Supply. He was previously President of Lanai Holdings and Water Company and Vice President of Lanai Company. He is currently the Vice President of the Maui Memorial Medical Center Foundation and was the Chairperson of the Maui Filipino Centennial Celebration Coordinating Council. His wife Jennifer is an RN at Maui Memorial Hospital.