Chef Charles Olalia’s first pop-up centered around Filipino food was held at LA’s Papilles in 2015; it was also my first Filipino pop-up. The dinner was the first time I experienced Filipino food in a new way — something that was highly reminiscent of what I grew up with but completely turned on its head. If there’s any meal that lead to Halo Halo, it was this one.
I asked Olalia if he considered the food at his Los Angeles restaurant Ma’am Sir to be LA food or Filipino food; he says it’s LA food. “The true core of what we’re making is Filipino,” he explains. “But it’s influenced with what’s around us: the great burger culture of In-N-Out, the great produce of the markets and farms of California.” The dishes where this comes through the most are Ma’am Sir’s longganisa burger and shrimp and uni lumpia. LA has the most exciting Filipino food scene in America, and chef Olalia plays a huge role in that.