By Tara Yap
Of Asian cuisines, Filipino food may not be as revered as Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, or Korean. But for the past two years, Filipino food is gaining popularity in Washington, D.C., the capital of the United States.
Purple Patch, a Filipino fusion restaurant and bar of co-owned by self-taught chef Patrice Cleary, whose mother hails from Bicol and an American father with Irish ancestry, has changed the way Filipino food is perceived in the American capital.
Even celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and countless of NBA players have gone through the doors of Purple Patch to savor Filipino cuisine.
Patrice may have been detached from the Philippines for most of her life and cannot speak Tagalog, but it is through cooking and serving Filipino food that links her to her mother’s homeland.
“As long as you can cook Filipino food, you will always speak the language of love,” Patrice gleefully says.
Patrice’s menu has an array of staple Filipino dishes that not only fit the taste buds of Filipinos who miss the flavors of home, but also Americans and foreigners.
There’s chicken adobo, bicol express, laing, pork sinigang, sizzling sisig, lechon kawali, pancit bihon, pancit canton, escabeche, and lumpia (aptly named Mama Alice’s Lumpia, which is named after her mother).
Once in a while, Patrice would even make all-time Filipino dessert halo-halo and top it with Magnolia ice cream.
With no formal culinary training, Patrice’s cooking stays true to the recipes of her Filipina mother who lives in Texas.
“It’s remembering flavors, remembering ingredients that my mother taught me at a young age and translating that into my cooking. It wasn’t Googling a recipe,” she says.
It’s not only the Filipino food, but younger professionals also come to Purple Patch for an ice cold bottle of San Miguel Beer.
Of Philippines and Filipinos
With a Philippine flag draped in one of the restaurant’s doors, Purple Patch is one of those places that rightfully put the Philippines and Filipinos in the vocabulary of local residents, diplomats and visitors to the American capital.
“They just don’t come because they’re curious about Filipino food, but they share stories. They talk about being in the Peace Corps, being in the military or their neighbor is a Filipino,” Patrice delightfully tells Filipino journalists.