Filipino Cuisine has been flourishing in the UAE for the past years with traditional and innovative restaurants serving Pinoy/Filipino favorites to its mostly Filipino clientele. Personally, and as a Filipino myself, I dream of having our dishes be recognized internationally and by other nationalities with the likes of Thai, Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian cuisines. I believe the secret to reaching this dream is to have Filipino restaurants serve much beloved homegrown food the way there are served back in the Philippines – with a heart, authentic tastes, and within the context of Filipino culture. That’s why I was so happy when Max’s Restaurant, an almost 80 year old food institution back in the Philippines, opened its doors to the people of the UAE!
From its humble start as a cafe frequented by American soldiers post World War 2, Max’s Restaurant has gone to conquer the palates of every Filipino back home, and now in the wider world including MAX’S RESTAURANT DUBAI! To be honest, at first I was skeptic if Max’s Restaurant Dubai could uphold the quality & taste of the Max’s in the Philippines, especially the restaurant’s signature fried chicken recipe (Yes, Max’s Restaurant’s catchphrase is “The House That Fried Chicken Built” – its fried chicken being the crowning glory of its ever expanding menu). And to my delight, I can confidently say that Max’s Restaurant is one of the best Filipino restaurants in Dubai, or rather one of the best Filipino restaurants in the UAE that would definitely serve you Filipino dishes at par with their counterparts back in their home/Philippines!
I know that Filipinos would know their local food. That’s why I entitled this blog post Filipino Cuisine 101 for you guys out there who are wondering what Filipino Cuisine is like through the dishes we were served and available at Max’s Restaurant Menu in Al Ghurair Mall so as to give you a glimpse of what Filipino Cuisine is all about!
First on the list is Bulalo, a much loved light soup originating from the Southern Part of the Philippine’s largest island, Luzon! It’s made by slowly boiling beef shanks & marrow, most of the time with yellow corn, to the point that the meat becomes so soft and the fat has melted into the broth! Filipinos love eating this dish anytime of the day but we do especially enjoy it tasty warmth during the cool and rainy months of the monsoon season! The marrow is the priced piece, being mixed with rice for that added rich and fatty (very sinful but who cares right?) flavor!
Originating from my home province in Central Luzon, Pampanga, Kare-Kare is a must when it comes to most Filipino Fiestas/Festivals. It is my personal favorite and is masterfully cooked by my wife at home (lucky me!). Kare-Kare is a type of stew made of oxtails, calves feet, beef stew meat, and occasionally offal or tripe in rich flavorful peanut sauce! We love adding vegetables in this awesome concoction such as cabbage, green beans etc.! The secret to a great kare-kare is the tender off-the-bone meat, and the peanut sauce made from grinding roasted peanuts, garlic and onions (sometimes, peanut butter is also mixed in)! Kare-Kare is enjoyed in every spoonful by eating it with a dash of bagoong (sauteed Filipino shrimp paste spiced with chili)! Now I’m getting hungry!
Max’s Signature Fried Chicken
Frying is one of our most favorite ways of cooking and Max’s Restaurant has taken this to a whole new level with their signature fried chicken that is loved by the Filipino palate! Born as a recipe of Maximo Gimenez’s (Max’s Restaurants founder) niece, this crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the inside perfectly seasoned chicken is a must try! The success of Max’s Restaurant was mainly because of this signature dish!
Being an archipelago or a group of islands, its is no wonder that the Philippines has an insatiable appetite for seafood! One of this is mussels that we usually cook in a broth and there are numerous versions of it! Max’s Restaurant Dubai has it prepared with lemongrass, ginger, cherry tomatoes, green chilies and sweet basil leaves! I love the briny taste of mussels and the broth it’s serve in at Max’s give justice to our version of this seafood fare!
Alimasag (Blue Sea Crab)
Unlike some other countries, we eat crabs until there’s no meat left (pincers, legs, body, fat and all)! Blue Sea Crab is especially abundant in our seas and is the favorite of my sister and brother (even my wife though she has a mild allergy to seafood)! Again there are lots of ways of cooking this back at home from boiling etc.! Max’s Restaurant Dubai with their seafood specials has it prepared quick fried and then tossed in their spicy black pepper sauce!
Sugpo (Tiger Prawns)
In continuation of Max’s Restaurant’s seafood specials are its version of Sugpo, better known as Tiger Prawns. True to the influence of our neighbor, China, to our cuisine, these meaty fruits of the sea are fried in a wok and then drizzled with sweet, chili, oyster sauce!
Known in the West as Grouper, in the Middle East as hammour, back in the Philippines, we know it by the name Lapu-Lapu. Why it was named after the first Filipino Hero (the guy who made sure that Ferdinand Magellan, the first person to circumnavigate the world, won’t be going back to his Mother Spain), I do not know, but it is a definite Filipino favorite! Max’s Restaurant Dubai made sure that it treated this glorious fish that way it should be – beautifully presented, deep-fried and crispy, lathered with sweet and sour sauce, mango, pineapple and mixed peppers!
Pusit means Squirt in Kapampangan (my third language which is a dialect of the Philippines), and I do get why squids are named as such back home. It is one of my favorite seafood and was prepared by Max’s Restaurant Dubai, the way Filipinos love it best, GRILLED! We love stuffing our squids and the stuffing for this one was chopped shrimps, tomatoes and onions.
We love anything on a sizzling plate or skillet and tofu, though not widely prepared as such back home, is one of those ingredients! Max’s version was quite tasty and creamy – I loved it!
Ube-Lechen Flan Smoothie
Ube or purple yam is one of our traditional ingredients for sweets known as halaya. Leche flan, widely known internationally as creme caramel, is a traditional dessert brought in by the Spanish during the 300 year colonization of the Philippines (one of the few good things colonization does I guess). Mix the two together in a smoothie and you get an awesome refreshing drink that stays true to its traditional Filipino roots! I want one right now!!!
Desserts included Buko Pandan which is an all-time Filipino favorite made from young coconut meat, milk, and gelatin flavored with Pandan (a tropical screwpine widely used for cooking in South East Asia). Ube Creme Decadence and Leche Flan were also in the dessert platter (for the explanation of what Ube and Lechen Flan are, see the above smoothie, LOL!)
Overall, the Filipino food served at Max’s Restaurant Dubai is one of the most authentic and the best you can get here in the Emirate and in the country! If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to try a new type of cuisine, I invite you to try Filipino Food: not only because I’m a Filipino, but also because it’s really great!
Kainan na! (It’s eating time!!!)
*Max’s Restaurant is located at Al Ghurair Mall in Al Rigga, Deira Dubai
Phone Number: 04 2891342
Opening Times: 9am to 12 Midnight
*Food is best shared with great company! Thanks for the fun night guys: Ion of BOYDUBAI , Myla and Ricky of FindMeABreak , Lady and Ed of ladyandhersweetescapes, Sheila and Alvin of ABANDME, Carla and Ferald of myyellowbells, Joy of TheThriftTrip, Dennen and Vonn of janesarabia!