Austin chef Paul Qui spent his first 10 years in Manila before his family moved to Virginia. “When I was a kid in the Philippines I ate really good Filipino food every day,” the winner of Top Chef Season 9 says, “and as an occasional treat my parents would take me to McDonald’s and KFC.” But when he came to the States, that ratio was pretty much reversed: Since Qui’s parents worked a lot, he lived on a steady diet of fast food, with only the occasional dish of home-cooked adobo or dinuguan as a special treat. Qui’s version of the vegetable stew known as pakbet—also called pinakbet—is an example of the kind of food Filipinos eat at home. He starts by frying pork belly in a heavy pot, then removes it and cooks shrimp paste until it’s fragrant, along with other aromatics. Finally, vegetables are added and cooked until tender.
What to buy: Used as both a condiment and a cooking ingredient, Filipino sautéed shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) is pungent and salty. Kamayan, available in most Filipino markets, is a reliable brand.