Maharlika, Dekalb Market
138 Willoughby Street
Filipino Street Food, ModernizedThe foods of my Filipino childhood were a heady mix of sour and savory, herbaceous and heavy, often on the same fork. The vinegary, umami-inducing chicken adobo--rich in soy sauce, onion and bay leaf--found its way to the dinner table once a week, while my mother's crispy, satisfying lumpia was the ultimate crowd-pleaser, reserved for parties, birthdays and holidays.
Filipino food, as a whole, is wholly unlike most cuisines but at the same time, a delicious crucible of all. You'll find Indian in the peanut butter curry, kare-kare. Pansit hearkens to Chinese and Malay noodle dishes. And then you'll find both Spanish and American flavors in kitchens and street vendors country-wide.
At Maharlika, the Brooklyn off-shoot of an East Village Restaurant by the same name, you'll find these flavors and then some in small, blink-and-you'll miss plates. While its older sister offers contemporary interpretations of "Pinoy" (the word Filipinos used to identify themselves) dishes, the Dekalb Market location is more laid back but no less delicious. Serving up street foods like BBQ pork, chicken and longanisa sausage, Maharlika offers each item on its own, with a bun or atop a bed of the Filipino staple, garlic rice. Prices top off at $9 depending on your combinations, but the flavors will remain. The snapping chew of the longanisa with pickled carrots and the garlicky rice is enough to induce a need second helping, washed down with a lemonade-like calamansi juice. Ah! Just like Mom's.