A Pan-Asian Alliance


Filipino food is the most Westernized in Asia. It is strongly influenced by Spain and the United States, yet Asian enough to seem exotic. Here in Southern California, the ingredients for Filipino food are readily available. And there are reasonably priced restaurants where one can try the food.

Harder to find here are Filipino cookbooks. This frustrates Fe Luz Suarez, who has run the Filipino restaurant Nipa Hut in Southern California for 29 years, first in Los Angeles and now in Gardena.

So Suarez joined Southland cooking teacher, Mabel Fong Low, to produce a cookbook called “Woks and Pans” that includes several Filipino recipes. Low, who teaches Oriental cookery for North Orange County Community College and Chinese cooking for Downey Adult School, once had Suarez as a student. Their book is a congenial blend of Filipino food and Low’s pan-Asian repertoire of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Thai and Hawaiian dishes.


Practicality is a hallmark of their style. As a teacher, Low knows how to present recipes simply and clearly. And Suarez is a no-nonsense, lightning-fast cook who took over the shopping and cooking for her family at the age of 9.

“Woks and Pans” offers a broad spectrum of Filipino dishes from lumpia (egg rolls) to mango cake. The recipes reflect regional cooking styles, gleaned from other chefs and Suarez’s relatives and friends. Ironically, Suarez has never been to the Philippines, though her parents came from the islands.

Readers unfamiliar with Filipino cooking may be surprised to learn that carne asada is not the grilled beef served in Mexican restaurants, but a saucy composition of steak strips simmered with meat stock, soy sauce and lemon. Kilawin is like ceviche , only strongly flavored with ginger. Suarez’s cocido , a boiled dinner that combines meats, beans and vegetables, is pure Spanish, but other dishes bridge East and West, and some reflect the Chinese influence on Filipino cookery.

Low’s contributions range from Chinese won-ton soup and Mongolian beef to Japanese teriyaki, Hawaiian lau lau pork, Indonesian fried rice with shrimp, Thai chicken and Korean spinach salad. Low has also written a book on Chinese food, “Chinese Cooking for Today’s Living.”

You may order “Woks and Pans,” a 212-page spiral-bound book, by sending $12.95 plus $2.84 for tax, postage and handling to: Mabel Fong Low, P.O. Box 922, Cerritos 90701; or to Fe Luz Suarez at Nipa Hut, 15326 S. Vermont Ave., Gardena 92047.

Or you can purchase it at the restaurant. The following dishes from the book are also on the Nipa Hut menu.

ISDA KILAWIN (Marinated Raw Fish)

1 1/2 cups sliced fresh tuna or sea bass

1 cup cider vinegar

Juice of 3/4 lemon

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 inches ginger root, peeled and shredded

1 onion, sliced

2 green onions, minced

1/3 head lettuce, shredded

Soy sauce

Sliced hot chiles

Lemon wedges

Place fish slices in bowl. Add vinegar and let stand 3 to 4 minutes. Drain.

Add lemon juice, salt, pepper, ginger, onion and 1 green onion. Mix lightly by hand. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, place lettuce on platter or in shallow bowl. Place fish in mound on lettuce. Sprinkle with remaining green onion and soy sauce to taste. Garnish with sliced peppers and lemon wedges. Makes 2 to 4 servings.

GUINISA (Mixed Vegetables and Meat in Soy Sauce)

1/2 pound top sirloin steak

1 pound green beans

1 bunch broccoli

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1/4 cup water

2 tablespoons oil

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon sugar

1/2 to 3/4 cup stock or water

Trim fat from meat and cut in 1-inch strips. Cut off ends of green beans and cut beans in 2-inch lengths. Rinse, drain and set aside.

Cut broccoli in 2-inch pieces. Rinse. Mix cornstarch and water and set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan. Add onion and garlic and cook until golden. Add soy sauce, salt, sugar and stock. Add green beans and broccoli. Cover and cook 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in skillet until very hot. Add meat, small amount at time, until all has been added. Cook until browned. Add to vegetable mixture and mix lightly. Add cornstarch and water and bring to boil. Do not overcook. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

CARNE ASADA (Beef in Lemon Sauce)

1 pound top sirloin steak

2 tablespoons oil

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 large onion, sliced

1 lemon, cut in 3 wedges

1 1/2 cups meat stock or water


1 tablespoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons water

1 green onion, minced

Cut steak in thin strips 3 inches long. Heat oil in large skillet. Add meat, small amount at time. Add garlic and saute with meat 2 minutes. Mix in soy sauce. Add onion and cook 1 minute. Squeeze lemon over mixture and add wedges to skillet. Add stock and mix.

Season to taste with salt. Discard lemon. Mix cornstarch and water. Stir into mixture and cook, stirring until sauce thickens. Garnish with green onion. Serve with rice. Makes 4 servings.