If you were worried I’d exhausted nearly every ‘new’ thing there is to eat in Richmond, you can relax. Yesterday, for the first time ever, I had the opportunity to order “pig face.”
Of course, we have the resourceful world of Filipino cuisine to thank for that one, specifically Kumare Restaurant on Park Road. I met up there yesterday with James, a friend who’s in town for a few days.
I don’t know many people up for ordering pig face, but fortunately James is one of them. For three years, he was the cook for the “Tour D’Afrique,” a bike race that travels from Cairo to Cape Town over four months. Yes, you did read that correctly – they cycle north to south across the entire continent, and it is A BIG ONE. I was stunned by how long it took to travel around South Africa, so my brain nearly imploded with the thought of travelling the whole length of Africa. James cooked for the cyclists along the way, sourcing his fruit, vegetables, and meat each day in the cities and villages where they stopped, a feat that makes my tree-planting camp job look like three months at a day spa. That, combined with his other travels and the fact he’s a chef, meant he was not only willing to try pig face and dinuguan (pork blood stew), but actually requested them.
Kumare is a large, stylish space with one of the better websites I’ve come across in Richmond. They serve traditional Filipino dishes, a few Thai-inspired meals, and have a small bakery at the front. I wanted to order most of the menu, but since there were only two of us we settled on four dishes, all of which were unintentionally meat-heavy. We tried the BBQ chicken skewers ($7.50), beef kare kare ($12), dinuguan ($8.50), and sizzling sisig, aka “crispy pork face with onions, ginger, and an egg” ($9.50).
The chicken skewers were tasty – vibrantly red, mostly thigh meat, and each a pretty substantial size.
The more favoured option was the dinuguan, or pork blood stew. I sampled this at Cucina Manila, but wanted another taste. It’s very dark and rich, and while this may be a rather unappealing way to say it, doesn’t taste ‘bloody’ at all.
For our third dish, we chose between the chicken adobo (a classic Filipino dish) and the pig face, but of course curiousity won out and we went with the latter. They promised the sisig would be sizzling, and sizzling it most certainly was; it was so aggressively hot it verged on dangerous – do not stick your face near this thing when it arrives at your table!
Once it had stopped spitting oil, James mixed in the raw egg cracked on top. It cooked quickly with the bits of meat, ear, etc. (emphasis on the etc.) and was a nice addition. The texture of this dish was utterly indescribable – one bite was chewy, one bite was soft, one bite was confusingly hard…… James stared thoughtfully at his fork at one point and said “I’m just trying to figure out what part of the face I’m about to eat.” Along with the textural adventures it offered, the sisig flavours were by far the best on the table. It was perfectly seasoned, rich from the onion and ginger, and I found myself scooping up seconds of it before anything else. I can now legitimately call myself a nose-to-tail eater.
Of course, we were incredibly full after four courses of meat, but there was simply no way we could go to Kumare and not have dessert. James had his first ever bowl of halo halo, and I (unsurprisingly) opted for the very tall, very purple ube macapuno cake. Ube is a dark purple yam that’s very popular in Filipino desserts, much like taro is within Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines. When I googled macapuno, the first definition that came up was “A mutant of the coconut.”
So let me just say, my bright purple mutant coconut cake was DELICIOUS.
It was pretty good – moist, not too sweet, and creamy. The macapuno (which is the soft endosperm of the coconut and a delicacy in the Philippines, you can find a good explanation here) was in syrupy, candied strips on top of the cake, and the ube had a difficult to define flavour. Elusive as it was, I liked it. James easily polished off his halo halo, which was a more manageable size than the one at Little Ongpin, and had a gorgeous little slice of leche flan in it.
The dessert menu at Kumare is extensive, so I think I’ll go back and try a few more, then share them in future posts – after all, how often does one come across coconut pie, cassava cake, and banana bread all in one place?
Filipino food is growing on me – pig face, pork blood, mutant coconuts and all. Thanks for being such a willing eater, James!
Cash and cards accepted
Vegetarian options available