No sound bite can accurately answer the one question Filipinos get plenty: What is Filipino food? "The simplest way to put it is our food reflects our history.
Regionality plays a huge role in Filipino cooking, as it's a geographically separate country populated by dozens of ethnic groups. "Each island has their own flavor," says Gilbuena, who's originally from Iloilo City in the Western Visayas. But there are commonalities that inform the Filipino palate regardless of longitude and latitude.
"Bottom line, it's the boldness," says Nicole Ponseca, owner of Maharlika and Jeepneyin New York City's East Village. "It's the audaciousness of the ingredients."