Bridging cultures through Filipino and Mexican cuisine

Chefs explore the differences and similarities found in the dishes of the two countries.

By Kristen CabreraMay 4, 2023 2:01 pm,

The similarities between Filipino and Mexican culture are vast – after all, both countries were colonized by Spain.

During this Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, taco journalist Mando Rayo just had to talk about the possibilities of what can happen when two cultures combine to make something delicious. He spoke with a couple of Filipino chefs on an episode of Tacos of Texas podcast called, cheekily, “The Filipino Guey.”

“I mean, you know, they do say Filipinos are the ‘Mexicans of Asia,’ Rayo said. “So, I mean, it’s just naturally there. And sometimes, you know, like when we’re among community, whether you’re in Alief neighborhood in Houston or just different parts of Texas, it’s also kind of hard to tell us apart. Until you start talking to us, you know what I mean?”

Isabel Protomartir was one of the Filipino chefs featured on Mando Rayo’s podcast Tacos of Texas. Screenshot by Kristen Cabrera / Texas Standard

In the episode, Isabel Protomartir echoed Mando’s sentiment when thinking of her own upbringing in Houston.

“The language was the first similarity, I think, that I came across most because I came here speaking Tagalog,” Protomartir told Rayo. “And I was like, wait, like ‘shoes’ was the same. Saying ‘how are you?’ is the same. So much of the food is the same. But there are those, like, small differences. Like growing up with my neighbors – I had Mexican neighbors, Salvadoran neighbors – like, we all did the same thing, but just a little bit differently. So it was like a home away from home. It was very cool.

It was in the food that more of those similarities and differences became pronounced.

“Like Mexican food, you know, we really look at that corn base, the tortillas, a lot of products made from maize,” Rayo said. “But then, you know, obviously Filipino being part of the Asian diaspora, they use a lot of rice, right?”

Filipino chef Ralph Xavier Delgala made a similar observation on Rayo’s podcast, noting as an example the lack of a direct corollary to tacos or burritos, but offering up different versions of Filipino “vessel” foods and how a Filipino version of the Mexican counterpart might come together.


[We have] the siopao which is more from the Chinese side, but empanadas is probably the closest vessel that we have,” Delgala said. “Everything would be good in a burrito and just like we’re just substituting some of those ingredients. So it’s like instead of pastor, we’d probably do more like a tocino, which is actually a similar style cut of pork or we’ll do like a tapa or like sisig.”

While the thought of Filipino-Mexican fusion cuisine might not be totally new, Rayo says, the process of creating them is still one that helps to celebrate both cultures.

“It’s just learning about them and actually showing the love and showcasing how our cultures come together, especially here in Texas,” Rayo said.

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