June 20, 2024

Musings on Filipino cuisine in central Ohio

Pork sinigang, a sour and savory Filipino dish. Photo by Joy D. Ganaden.

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Food forms one of the most important aspects of a culture’s identity.

Filipino-Americans are one of the largest ethnicities in the United States, with the 2020 U.S. Census reporting 4,436,992 Filipino-Americans in the country. Most of the Filipino-American population is concentrated on the West Coast, with California boasting at least 1,741,613 Americans of Filipino descent.

At least 40,967 Filipino-Americans live in Ohio, according to the 2020 Census data. This can be further divided by the county level; Franklin County boasts the highest number of Filipino-Americans at 6,312, with Cuyahoga County following at 5,831. 

Arlene Bernales, a nursing aide who immigrated to Ohio in 2011 from the Philippines, notes the relatively small population of Filipinos in central Ohio means the Filipino community is not particularly tight-knit.

“Only when I go to church,” said Bernales, referring to how often she meets with other Filipinos in the Columbus area. “I’ll go with them going to the church.”

Bernales also notes she occasionally attends parties hosted by other Filipinos.

“Filipino food is very important for us,” Bernales said. “I prefer Filipino food over American food when it comes to parties.”

Social events form an important facet of Filipino culture, with attendees often encouraged to bring dishes.

When asked about her favorite Filipino foods, Bernales notes she’s quite fond of lechon kawali, a deep-fried pork belly dish. Other favorites include sinigang, a savory but sour pork soup dish, and chicken adobo, which has often erroneously been referred to as the national dish of the Philippines.

A photo of chicken adobo, a popular Filipino dish in which chicken is marinated in a mixture of vinegar and soy sauce. Photo by Marvin Wurr.

Despite not being considered the national dish, chicken adobo remains a popular staple of Filipino cuisine.

Some university students have expressed interest in trying out Filipino cuisine.

“Well, I would consider it, yeah,” said Alexander Norman, a sophomore history and education major. Norman said he has never experienced Filipino food before.

Similarly, Sammy Desta, a junior biology pre-vet major, expressed his unfamiliarity with Filipino cuisine.

“I certainly would [try Filipino food],” said Desta. “Just none of the pork dishes, for religious reasons.”

In addition to her favorite Filipino foods, Bernales recommends a few other Filipino dishes for prospective foodies. At the top of her list is lumpia, a Filipino variation of spring rolls noted for its thin and crunchy wrapping.

Another dish she recommends is pork menudo, a pork stew dish with potato, bell pepper and carrots.

Lastly, Bernales also recommends beef caldereta, a similar dish to the aforementioned menudo.

Despite the relatively small population of Filipino-Americans in central Ohio, a number of restaurants have popped up in the Columbus area in recent years, including Bonifacio, located at 1577 King Ave. near the University District. Another Filipino restaurant includes Kuya Ian’s Bistro, located at 6863 Flags Center Dr. near Westerville.


  • Marvin Wurr

    Marvin is a third-year English literature major. In his free time he enjoys hanging out with friends at bars and watching straight-to-DVD action flicks.

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