Learning about food at Masarap Filipino pop-up

By JESSE WU | January 31, 2019

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COURTESY OF JESSE WU

Masarap’s menu, served in front of Fadensonnen during the pop-up event.

For the first time since November’s pop-up Night Market at Baltimore Center Stage, Masarap hosted a pop-up event. On the evenings of Jan. 25 and 26, they were slinging Filipino fare in a food truck outside of Fadensonnen. Chef Rey Eugenio, who has worked many years in the culinary industry as a managing and consulting chef, is the head of the operation.

Fadensonnen, which opened its doors last November, is a two-part operation. A bar upstairs serves a rotating selection of wine and sake. A tap room downstairs serves beers from around the world.

Although all the items on the drink menu are interesting, one item in particular stands out: the Brooklyn Kura. This craft sake is produced in Brooklyn, N.Y. using entirely American ingredients. It is a junmai ginjo sake, meaning that a certain amount of the rice grain has been milled down. The polished core used to make the final sake is 40 to 60 percent of the original rice weight. Its fruity aromas deliver more of a punch than its subtler Japanese cousins in the junmai ginjo category, and it has earned its spot among the most fascinating beverages of today’s age.

Fadensonnen is a project of drink guru Lane Harlan, owner of Remington’s Clavel and W.C. Harlan. The wine bar adds a new dimension to Baltimore’s food and drink scene in another low-key setting. I circled the block a few times before I found the plain white food truck and the black door marked with “wine bar.”

Delightful aromas emanated from this plain white food truck, drawing me in. Chef Rey Eugenio was in there, cooking up inihaw, pork mami and torta bowls.

Inihaw are Filipino skewers grilled over an open coal flame. Chef Rey served chicken, pork and vegetarian options on a stick with a vinegar dipping sauce and jasmine rice.

When I first looked at the mami, it was reminiscent of the breakfasts my mother used to make me before school: a bowl of Chinese noodles with a soy sauce base and dressed with yesterday’s leftovers. But after a sip, I experienced a whole different sensation.

The warm and intensely savory pork noodle soup fills the sinuses, and the braised pork and soft-boiled egg only makes it better. It’s pure comfort in a bowl!

The torta bowl was a deconstructed version of a Filipino dish that is usually served as a beef omelet. Instead, scrambled eggs were sliced and draped over rice with seasoned beef and potato. The whole affair was topped with a fermented chili ketchup.

It took me back to all the breakfasts I had away from home, at white friends’ houses or summer camps. Yet the familiar Asian flavors brought it to a level I had never experienced before.

There’s something to be said about eating food you know nothing about. I didn’t have many Filipino friends growing up, and so I was never exposed to that cuisine. Yet every Filipino dish I try out seems like it tugs at an element of my Chinese upbringing, leaving me hungry for more.

Learning, in general, is scary. Reshaping thoughts takes a lot of effort. Learning about food is in some ways scarier. Questions are often repressed out of fear of looking stupid. We’ve all been to a restaurant where nothing on the menu means anything to us. But we are too afraid to ask questions, so we roll with an order, eat it and move on with our lives.

I think a part of what makes Chef Rey’s cooking special is that the flavors appeal to a wide range of tastes. The environment and methods of serving are chill (“no frills” as some would say), so it makes learning about and appreciating Filipino food easy.

I hope anyone reading this, whether a dining dilettante or a seasoned eater, can take a moment in their next experience eating out and ask one burning question, wherever it is.

Oh, and be on the lookout for Masarap Filipino’s next pop-up! And go visit Fadensonnen!

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