Melting pot

Multicultural flavors define Filipino fare

By Kerry J. Byrne
Filipino food is the original fusion fare.

“There are a lot of influences,” said Jervin Erasquin, chef-owner of JnJ Turo-Turo in Quincy, Greater Boston’s lone Filipino restaurant. “It’s part Spanish, American, Chinese, Thai and Malaysian.”

Beef, pork or fish (typically smoked and fried) is served at most meals. Garlic is used liberally. Many dishes are simmered or braised with soy sauce, vinegar, tomatoes or coconut milk. Filipino food tends to be more sweet than spicy. Even Filipino spaghetti, commonly made with tomato sauce and banana ketchup, is sweet compared to its Italian-American counterpart.

There are obvious geographic and historic reasons for the multicultural flavors. The Philippines is a nation of 7,000 Pacific islands near Southeast Asia. China is its largest mainland neighbor. Malaysia is its closest. It was occupied by Spain for three centuries and was a U.S. territory from 1898 to 1946.

The flavors and names of Filipino dishes are peppered with Spanish influence. Adobo is a traditional stew of pork simmered in soy sauce and vinegar. Adobo is also the Spanish word for marinade.

“There’s probably not a week that goes by that a Filipino family doesn’t have (adobo) for dinner,” said Sam Floro, who runs Filipino caterer Kakain Na (“Let’s Eat”) from her Lowell home.

At JnJ Turo-Turo, the most popular appetizer is lumpiang Shanghai, a Filipino version of spring rolls. Erasquin fills rice-paper wrappers with ground pork, potatoes, carrots and eggs, then deep fries them crispy and golden brown before serving them with honey sauce.

Massachusetts’ Filipino community is small, but that may soon change.

“It’s one of our fastest growing Asian-American subgroups,” said Richard Chu, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst who specializes in Filipino history.

Erasquin, who managed a Japanese restaurant in Manila, moved two years ago when his wife landed a nursing job at Massachusetts General. He opened Turo-Turo last summer.

It’s a simple storefront restaurant of six tables that mostly serves cafeteria-style dishes. It has no liquor license. He chose his location for practical reasons: It’s next to Sure Pinoy (another word for Filipino), the area’s only Filipino grocery. Together, they make their Quincy street corner the heart of the region’s Filipino culinary community – at least for now.

Erasquin hopes to open another restaurant near his home in Framingham.

Floro is looking to turn her home-catering business into a restaurant north of Boston. “With our history, we offer a taste for everyone,” she said.

JnJ Turo-Turo, 143 Water St., Quincy; 617-471-8876,
Sure Pinoy Food Mart, 145 Water St., Quincy; 617-328-8880,
Kakain Na,; 781-354-8457.

Find more like this: Food

  • U.N. Rights Council to Investigate Killings in Philippine Drug War
  • Philippines declares national alert after 456 die from dengue fever
  • Trying to save the stories of a Philippine culture, one scan at a time
  • Pinoy archaeologist brings new human species discovery to Australia
  • Philippines a slowly ageing society – PIDS study
  • Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7


  • Nickelodeon releases first look at rebooted classic kids program Blue’s Clues with Filipino-American host Joshua Dela Cruz
  • How Marvel’s first featured Pinoy superhero can save society
  • This play tells the urgent story of a Filipino comfort woman
  • Will ‘Sahaya’ be the first Pinoy series on Netflix?
  • Z-GIRLS, Z-BOYS with Pinoy members to debut in Korea
  • MORE...


  • My story, and the new story of Filipino immigration
  • An appreciation of Moro food can bring Pinoy Muslims and Christians closer, says this Muslim chef
  • Showcase of PH culture, heritage
  • US and Philippines: Friends, Partners, and Allies
  • A Transgender Paradox, and Platform, in the Philippines
  • MORE...


  • Northern Blossom Flower Farm: Atok’s floral carpet
  • Philippines records ‘all-time high’ 7.1M tourist arrivals in 2018
  • Philippines island Boracay reopens for test run following huge cleanup
  • Philippines closes ‘cesspool’ tourist island of Boracay
  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • MORE...


  • Filipino speed skater bags spot in 2020 Winter Youth Olympics
  • Pinoy gymnast Carlo Yulo earns historic qualification in worlds
  • Finding a way to bring the NBA to the Philippines
  • First Filipino table tennis Olympian Ian “Yanyan” Lariba dies at 23
  • Skateboarder Margielyn Didal wins 4th gold for Philippines
  • MORE...

    OFW News

  • Filipino maids’ dragon boat team makes splash in Hong Kong
  • DOLE suspends OFW deployment to Kuwait
  • Some OFWs turn to vlogging to beat loneliness, share life abroad
  • Overseas Filipino Bank to serve immigrants, workers
  • The ‘bagong bayani’ of the Philippines
  • MORE...


  • ‘Sordid Chapter’ Ends As Philippines Sends Back Canada’s Trash
  • Southeast Asia became dumping ground for plastic waste – study
  • Boracay Set to Ban Tourists for Six Months During Island ‘Rehabilitation’
  • Boracay: the good, bad and ugly sides to Philippine island for tourists
  • Luzon has greatest concentration of unique mammals
  • MORE...

    Pinoy Places
    and Faces