Ellie Tiglao and her brother RJ of Kulinarya have been hosting their Pamangan! Filipino pop-up dinner series in the Boston area since August 2014. The dynamic duo of sibling chefs holds down a coast-to-coast collaboration: RJ lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and commutes to Boston once a month for each event.
“Collaborating with my sister and just working side by side with her on a dream we've had since we were children, it's definitely something that puts a smile on my face,” RJ said. “To see that others enjoy the food we've put our heart and soul into, the feeling is indescribable!”
Born of Ellie’s yearning for Filipino food as she knew it in the Bay Area, Pamangan!, which means “something to eat” in Kapampangan, promises “a tasty experience that remixes some of the flavors of the archipelago [Filipinos] call home,” according to its Facebook page.
“The mission of these dinners is... to bring awareness to a beautiful food culture that's been missing in Boston for all these years,” Ellie said. “Pamangan! is meant to come across as earnest and is developed in acknowledgement of the experience of being Filipino American.”
That meeting and mixing of cultures translates to an ever-changing menu.
“Every month is different with Pamangan!,” Ellie said. “When I think about what each multi-course dinner looks like, I start with the month. What's in season in New England that month?”
Recent answers to that question include baked and stuffed local mussels with shredded young corn and greens and seared sea scallops with long beans, eggplant and a kalabasa coconut milk mash.
“The menu development is a fairly collaborative process,” Ellie said. “I pitch an initial menu, which we refine together until we've got all the details. I always try and make sure we have at least one fairly traditional offering and at least one thing that challenges New England palates (often, they can be the same thing).”
Whence the passion for innovation in the kitchen?
“I feel like the fire we have for this culinary pursuit was sparked from our days growing up, watching our dad behind the kitchen and watching him enjoy every minute of it,” RJ said. “As a kid, we saw it as, ‘Oh, he looks like he's having so much fun. I want to try! I want to have fun too!’”
This spirit of enthusiasm has caught on among Pamangan! diners.
“Our first dinner sold out (and then some. We'd planned for 20 but got 28 instead),” Ellie wrote in an email to Filipino Kitchen. “Everyone has been incredibly welcoming and truly excited for our idea. They've pledged not only their attendance at events but also have offered to help in many ways (from a hand in the kitchen to marketing to financing). It's been a very heartwarming experience to have folks come through time and time again.”
The pair has its sights set on an eventual brick-and-mortar space or possibly a food truck. While the timeline for such an endeavor remains undetermined, Pamangan! will continue to gain steam.
“If there are mouths to feed, then the series is definitely not going anywhere,” RJ said.
Catch the next dinner in the series on May 9. The Spanish heritage-themed event will be held at 8 pm at The Democracy Center, 45 Mt. Auburn Street in Cambridge.
Bonus round for all the morning people! Check out Kulinarya's special Mother's Day brunch.