There’s a burger truck in western Sydney called Mate Burger. On hearing the name, you probably wouldn't expect anything more than a bacon-stuffed cheeseburger, fries and a Coke from it, right? How about a longanisa (Filipino-style sausage) burger with pickled papaya, egg, tomato and a potato bun?
“It’s inspired by my heritage and my travels,” says Henry Paraan, Mate Burger’s owner. He’s an ex financial planner who’s moved into hospitality to explore his family’s food and culture. “Filipino food is good, but in terms of presentation it's not there yet,” he says. “That's why I came up with this. I want people in western Sydney to experience Filipino food in a nice way.”
Mate Burger combines Filipino ingredients with American burger culture. Along with longanisa, burgers are also stacked with Filipino dishes like lechon (slow-cooked suckling pig marinated in lemongrass and soy), pork adobo (a tart vinegar-and-garlic marinade) and tocino (bacon-like cured and boiled pork belly). Fries are loaded with similar ingredients as well as Paraan’s version of sisig (fried pork head). “We use diced pork belly and tofu. There are no brains or pig ears,” he says.
While most other new burger joints sell shakes or maybe frozen custard, Paraan has made his own ice kendy (essentially Filipino ice blocks). They come in short Calippo-like sleeves in flavours such as coconut and avocado; taro and jackfruit; and calamansi lime and mango. “You find them on the street [in the Philippines]. People will be serving them out of Eskies,” Paraan says.
Because Paraan doesn’t want to alienate burger conservatives, he’s also doing classic American cheeseburgers and regular fries. His ultimate aim, though, is to share Filipino flavours in the area where he grew up. To do this he’s employed a large swathe of his and his wife’s family. “All the recipes are from my mum, but modified,” he says. Inside the truck’s kitchen, Paraan works right next to his mother-in-law Verma Cayabyab, his wife Roseann and her brother Rom Zamora.