I’m always excited when I receive something in the mail, but I must admit that I was even more over-the-moon when I realized it was a little taster box from Fila Manila Filipino Kitchen! Inspired by my most recent dive into Filipino cuisine at Mineral, I’ve been looking to expand my palate a bit further, and lucky for me, Fila Manila was able to help me do that.
A melting pot of Chinese, Indian, Spanish, and American influences, Filipino food is a delicate balance of salty, sweet, and sour flavors found in key ingredients like coconut vinegar, fermented fish sauce, calamansi citrus, and ube, to name a few. While I’ve only ever really tasted adobo and lumpia, there are so many unique dishes that the culture boasts like pancit (noodles), kare-kare (peanut stew), and leche flan…and that just scratches the surface! Luckily, brands like Fila Manila exist to help us dig deeper.
Brought to life in 2020, founder Jake Deleon saw a lack of Filipino cuisine in supermarkets and wanted to change that. Creating the first simmer sauce prototype, Fila Manila Filipino Kitchen was quickly launched (during the pandemic, I might add!) and within a year it was a number one seller on Amazon. Unsurprisingly, it soon caught the eye of big retailers like Whole Foods.
Making a splash in the American market, there’s no sign of Fila Manila slowing down. According to an article in Food Business News, the brand even has plans to venture into a range of diverse products like snacks, frozen desserts, and ube goodies—which, to be honest, I can’t wait for! In the meantime, here’s what I sampled and how I used these goodies:
I’m obsessed with this iconic sauce. It combines tamari, garlic, vinegar, soy and spices to create a savoury simmer sauce. Winner of the Nexty Award for Best New Condiment 2021, it’s best reduced while cooking protein and veggies—I loved it with tofu, broccoli and carrots. It’s also a great marinade for barbecued chicken thighs!
What do you do when there’s a shortage of tomatoes but an abundance of bananas? Make banana ketchup, of course! Another staple condiment in Filipino cuisine, this actually had a surprising kick of heat. That said, I liked it a lot. For as much as it gave off a banana flavour, it still had that acidity that’s synonymous with ketchup. I used this to jazz up fully-loaded hotdogs. I even added some to mayonnaise to create a tangy dipping sauce for crispy potato wedges.
A riff on the peanut-based Filipino stew, this simmer sauce and marinade is made with roasted peanuts, garlic and spices. Fila Manila recommends adding it to your favourite veggies and protein and cooking until the sauce has reduced. It can also add some depth to steamed rice and stir-fry dishes—which is exactly how I’ve been using it. I love the rich nuttiness and overall depth of flavour.
One of the great things about Fila Manila Filipino Kitchen is that all products are vegan, gluten-free and void of any artificial colours, flavours and sweeteners. There’s a focus on quality ingredients and that's pretty admirable.
Given that the sauces are so versatile, this also creates approachability. It’s easy for newbies to embrace Filipino flavours since you can add as much or as little of the sauces as you’d like. Use them as marinades, to simmer foods, add them to other sauces…the options are plentiful!
Currently, the entire line of Fila Manila products are only available in the US at retailers like Whole Foods, Mom’s Organic Market, Amazon and directly through Fila Manila’s website—Canadians, keep your fingers crossed!
Final Verdict: RECOMMENDED