5 Filipino Foods Comedian James Roque Loves (And Would’ve Been Made Fun Of At School For)

James Roque
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Filipino-New Zealander comedian James Roque is bringing his highly-acclaimed one-man show 'Badong' to Melbourne International Comedy Festival for a limited run.


James has taken this show to New Zealand and all the way to Edinburgh. Plus, he's been a guessing panelist on 'The Masked Singer' NZ and had a televised stand-up special on NZ's TV3.

'Badong' explores James' upbringing as a Filipino-New Zealander and how he has navigated his culture by reclaiming his cultural identity in a western society.

In the spirit of the show's themes, before he hits the Melbourne stage, James has decided to list five of his favourite Filipino foods, which he would've been made fun of for if he brought them to school in the early 2000s.

“Look, growing up a brown kid in a mostly white country in the '90s/2000s was hard. It’s hard to believe now because we’ve all normalised multicultural and ethnic food, but back in the day when your parents packed you lunch with traditional ethnic food, you would get weird looks from all the white kids in your class. You’d get curious questions, the usual 'what the hell is that' and even the occasional 'are you eating dog?' (I’m looking at you, kid I won’t name from my year four class). Was it malicious? Probably not. Kids say wild stuff when they’re curious. But it didn’t mean it didn’t sting.

This is a super common experience that a lot of migrant kids go through, which is super frustrating because it means you couldn’t bring your favourite food to school in fear of getting absolutely roasted and bullied by everyone there. Flash forward to now, and it’s made even more frustrating by the fact that a lot of those same white kids probably love going to their favourite trendy Asian food spots.

On one hand, it’s great to see everyone else appreciating our food and our culture, but on the other hand every time I see a well-meaning white dude eating at an Asian fusion restaurant I want to walk inside, knock the food out of his chopsticks and scream 'NONE FOR YOU CHAD, REMEMBER WHEN YOU CALLED THIS FOOD WORMS AT LUNCH?! I WANT JUSTICE!'. Cue angry comments section.

Luckily, nowadays, I could care less about that and I love to show off my culture's food. Anyway – here are five Filipino foods that I love with all my heart, but was too scared to bring to school. . . And that you should definitely try if you haven’t.

Note: Obviously honorary mention to balut eggs – they didn’t make the cut only because you already know about them and also there are other ones I want to show off.”

Five

Taho. Sweet tapioca balls on a bed of silky tofu. This one is an absolute banger, but quite hard to find. The closest you’ll get is going to a MeetFresh and getting a similar dessert there. In the Philippines it’s sold by a guy holding a stick with two metal barrels containing the ingredients inside – one for the tofu, one for the caramel tapioca. Was it hygienic? Of course not. But was it delicious? Hell yeah. Fear rating: 6/10 – I assume the kids would’ve roasted me for the balls.

5 Taho KawalingPinoy
Taho - Image © Kawaling Pinoy

Four

Isaw. BBQ grilled pork or chicken intestine. This one goes hard too, and was sold out in the streets by an old Filipino grandma who has been standing there fanning the BBQ since the beginning of time. The chewiness and texture of isaw when cooked well just adds to it. Fear rating: 8/10 – okay, I’ll admit this one does look intimidating and slightly like worms. But it’s good!

4 Isaw SoSarapNYC
Isaw - Image © So Sarap NYC

Three

Pork Sisig. Sizzling pork on a hot plate with an egg. An absolute banger. This one is super popular and common at restaurants now and with good reason. The sizzle and texture of the pork bits mixing in with the bits of egg that’s still cooking is incredible. Fear rating: 6.5/10 – the egg is at least recognisable, but I can 100 per cent see the kids roasting me for the oily bits.

3 PorkSisig PanlasangPinoy
Pork Sisig - Image © Panlasang Pinoy

Two

Sarciado Isda. A whole ass fish with a delicious egg and tomato sauce over it, served on a bed of rice. My dad makes a killer rendition of this banger. An absolute childhood staple of mine. Fear rating: 7.5/10 – Bringing fish to school is always a risky move, but Filipino parents might just be wild enough to put the head of the fish (eyes and all) into your lunch box just to scare the other kids.

2 SarciadoIsda PanlasangPinoy
Sarciado Isda - Image © Panlasang Pinoy

One

Dinuguan. A meat stew with a gravy made with pig’s blood. I love dinuguan. But I’m not gonna lie, even to this day I’m a bit iffy about having my white friends try it. Those hangups sure are a bitch! Fear rating: 10/10 – I think I was always scared of the word ‘blood’, always made me think it was scary, which is wild because British people are out here eating blood puddings anyway. So now who’s the weirdos!?

Dinuguan Credit DriftStories
Dinuguan - Image © Drift Stories

“And that’s my list. Go out and try them all – and if you don’t like it, that’s okay, just don’t say it looks like worms because that is a real dick move.”

James Roque plays Campari House (Melbourne International Comedy Festival) 27 March-9 April.

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