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Dumplings And Filipino Cuisine Unite At Top Chef Alum's Latest Pop-Up

By Kristine Sherred in Food on Jan 27, 2016 3:16PM

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One of nine dumpling offerings at Maddy's BAGO: The Philippines 2.0 pop-up dinner on Jan. 31 - ukoy, a shrimp and sweet potato fritter served with a vinegar dipping sauce. (Photo: Caitlin Preminger for Filipino Kitchen)

Since opening and shortly thereafter closing her Filipino-focused Lincoln Square restaurant Laughing Bird in 2014, Top Chef alum Chrissy Camba has stayed true to her promise of pop-ups—mostly in dough form and rarely focused on her native cuisine. That's about to change, with a new pop-up coming on Jan. 31.

Named after her late bunny friend, Maddy’s Dumpling House hosted a number of dinners in 2015, including a few at Ampersand, the kitchen and dining space adjoined to Kinmont. Sarahlynn Pablo of Filipino Kitchen featured Camba’s Christmas pop-up there last year, which initiated a relationship that led Camba to cook at both the October and December Kultura Festivals.

On Sunday, January 31, Camba realigns with her heritage alongside Filipino Kitchen for BAGO - The Philippines 2.0 (bago means new in Tagalog) inside the private event space above Salero. Camba invited Filipino Kitchen to be her guest chef for this aptly themed evening - “I’m pretty sure I squealed!” exclaimed Pablo - featuring a starter course of nine dumplings for each guest, plus a family-style entree course with three offerings and dessert.

From a pocketed version of chicken adobo (the national dish of the Philippines) to an empanada stuffed with crispy pork and dinuguan (a blend of pig meat, offal and blood spiked with chilis and vinegar endearingly deemed “chocolate” stew), the dumplings lean toward Filipino comfort food, albeit all wrapped up in single bites. The casings, however, touch other regions. Mom’s Spaghetti, traditionally an imperialized mash-up of banana ketchup, spaghetti noodles, cheddar cheese, and hot dog (yes, hot dog!), gets a facelift with short rib and a Shanghai-style casing.

Camba returned from her most recent trip to the Philippines with an invigorated perspective on the cuisine and a desire to revitalize the lesser-known dishes. “I ate things with which I was familiar and some that I hadn’t ever heard,” she says. “The latter intrigued me.”

For the family-style entree round, Camba and co-chef Adam Wendt of Bangers & Lace whip up more Filipino classics: the stir-fried egg noodle dish pancit basil patong with vegetables, shrimp, beef and pork; the breakfast-anytime staple of longanisa, a sweet, garlic-studded sausage, with garlic rice and a fried egg; and bringhe, a sort-of paella with coconut milk, chicken, chorizo, and vegetables (and usually raisins). Salads come as sides, including a salmon kinilaw (ceviche) and pinakbet, here a mixture of salted pork, eggplant, okra and chiles.

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Bringhe, a Pampanga regional dish akin to the Spanish paella, combines coconut milk, malagkit (sticky rice) and patis (fish sauce) cooked in a pan lined with banana leaves. (Photo: Caitlin Preminger for Filipino Kitchen)

To build the menu, Pablo hauled her vast Filipino cookbook collection to Camba’s, including a new pastry book that inspired the ice cream sandwich guests will surely relish for dessert.

“While I was in the Philippines, I grew fond of having ice cream sandwiches for a mid-afternoon snack,” explains Pablo. “We listened for the bread peddler in the morning, signaling his presence to the neighborhood with a bike horn. In the afternoon, I headed to a sari-sari [bodega] and picked out ice cream. I always looked through [each flavor] - jackfruit, mango, chocolate - but I always got ube, Mom’s favorite.”

Ube, or purple yam, might seem an odd flavor of ice cream; it is also mixed with queso. Camba will have warm homemade pan de sal ready for equally homemade ube and queso ice cream to sandwich between the buns.

“Chefs create dishes based on memories and experiences,” Camba contends. “Filipino food will always be in my heart. It’s just a matter of how it projects itself into what I’m making, straightforward or subtle.”

Will this pop-up echo Camba’s next brick-and-mortar venture? Despite a year lapse since her last Filipino-centric menu, Camba says it could become “more of a focal point in a future restaurant.”

Space is limited. Tickets and the full menu for the $55 BYO dinner are available here.