There are two things you’ll definitely find in all the tiny island towns of The Philippines: pork and karaoke. Sizzling Fillo might look a little dated, but it serves only the most popular and delicious Filipino staples, these included.
“If you go to different parts of the Philippines, it can really vary, but this is authentic food that all Filipinos will recognise,” says co-owner Ann Calayag.
Try crispy pata, an intimidating mound of fatty pork-leg chunks, all with luscious centres and layers of skin that audibly snap. Head chef Nina Cruz says it’s the house specialty. “We boil it for five hours or so, then we air dry it overnight and deep fry it the next day.” It’s served with a dipping sauce made from a mixture of common Filipino seasonings, vinegar, garlic and soy. Although commonly served in restaurants in the Philippines, it’s usually reserved for special occasions. At Sizzling Fillo it’s on almost every table.
The karaoke, open all day on Saturday or by special request, is both a vestige of Cruz and Calayag’s memories of the Philippines and the shopfront’s history. “People know that there is a Filipino restaurant here. We are the eighth owner, we wanted to keep the name – we used to frequent this place every week.” The karaoke tradition has been going on for more than eight years. “It’s just part of the eating experience, someone has to sing.”
One of the most common foods in the home and in restaurants in the Philippines is chicken adobo; chicken thighs and drumsticks steeped and then boiled in vinegar, garlic, onions and soy. It’s often referred to as the country’s national dish, and although the name adobo comes from the Spanish word to marinate, the process of soaking meat in vinegar-based sauces is one of the Philippines’ most authentic indigenous techniques.
Vinegar is central to most dishes in the Philippines, either for preserving, as a marinade or as a tabletop condiment alongside soy and banana sauce. The banana sauce, made with pureed bananas, vinegar, sugar and spices, looks and tastes remarkably like ketchup. Calayag says, like vinegar and soy, it can be poured over almost anything, but it’s particularly good with their charcoal barbequed pork skewers or their sizzling plates.
The sizzling plates are salty, sour and intensely savoury. Tapa, cured meat crisply grilled with carrot strands, is usually eaten for breakfast with rice. Sisig, a mixture of raw egg yolk, pork head meat, crackling and spices is a common beer accompaniment. They’re both ubiquitous in the Philippines for good reason; they’re so basically enjoyable, and a perfect match for the human palate.
36 Railway Street, Lidcombe
(02) 9649 7939
Sat to Sun 11.30am–9pm
Local Knowledge is a weekly Broadsheet series shining a light on the unassuming, authentic Sydney restaurants that are worthy of appreciation beyond the neighbourhoods they serve.