On Misunderstanding and Molokhia

(*Thanks to Amir El-Abbady and Doha Salem for the inspiration behind this week’s meal).

My passport used to elicit the same effect on TSA agents that a benign cookie tin would to an immigrant child expecting something to munch on between meals.  As routine motion gave way to shock and confusion when confronted with a tin full of sewing supplies, agents opening my Filipino passport with slight boredom quickly raised their eyebrows when they saw all the Arabic writing in there due to my being raised in Saudi Arabia.  And despite my obviously Asian features (never mind whether I looked more Filipino or Chinese), I somehow was always selected for “random screening”.  These days I just flash my New York City ID to avoid any delays, but the questions and awkward confusion still ensue.


“Oh you grew up in Saudi Arabia?  Was it dangerous?” – No the biggest threat I faced was of utterly debilitating boredom.

“Wow!  You must speak Arabic really well!” – Actually seeing as there was a large, diverse population of Filipinos, Indians, and other Westerners who outnumbered the local population, I barely understand Arabic.

“Was it like…very oppressive coz you couldn’t like…drink like…alcohol and stuff?” – No homegirl but listening to you is oppressive enough an experience (not to mention having fewer vices also meant fewer distractions).

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A Random Hello – Filipino Fusion in Sunnyside, Queens

(Quick break from Busy Season Dinners for a bit of food porn.  Photo credits to William Panlilio and shout-out to Licelle Cobrador for hosting).

I wonder what compels a person to speak up and say “Hi!” to a stranger.  What in a person’s personality allows (or at least in my rather shy self…forces) them to reach out and touch another person’s day?  Another one of those philosophical questions that hit me when the right mixture of cooking aromas and alcohol (in this case, it was organic Calamansi Mojitos) is present.

A random encounter.

A random encounter.

If it wasn’t for my new friend Bianca striking up a conversation with me in the otherwise conversation-free American Embassy in Manila, I don’t think I would’ve wound up in a cozy apartment in Sunnyside, Queens, attempting (and ultimately failing) to recreate Pansit Palabok, a Filipino dish of rice noodles doused in shrimp gravy, and something I haven’t made in a year.



Coincidence led to coincidence and long-standing co-chef Ricky and I were making quick work of the shrimps in front of us, boiling them down into a stock, and cooking the noodles.

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