Two years ago, Erwin Joaquin, chef and owner of Big E’s Hawaiian Grinds, switched up his family’s annual holiday dinner from a more traditional potluck to a multilayered Filipino kamayan feast that’s almost too vibrant to be true.
This massive spread, which is meant to be eaten with the hands, involves covering communal tables with banana leaves and piling on a seemingly endless assortment of edibles and condiments.
The feast is built on a foundation of 40 cups of cooked jasmine rice – spread over three separate tables – covered with food items that Joaquin assigns to different family members to prepare, such as smoked short ribs, fried chicken, fried milkfish, kare-kare (a peanut-based oxtail stew) and ginataang alimasag (traditionally crabs cooked in coconut milk, done here with shrimp instead). Garnishes include green onions and fried garlic chips.
Each participating household usually brings a signature dish: Joaquin’s father-in-law, for example, contributes the fried milkfish (which takes two days to make), and his mother does the kare-kare (a nontraditional addition to the spread).
Colourful piles of portioned condiments, such as ginger-soy vinegar, shrimp paste, papaya slaw, mango salad and salted egg with tomatoes, sit in front of each diner.
It takes the family around 45 minutes to assemble this 25-person feast.