We want to be in Woldy Reyes' kitchen ALL. DAY. LONG. Not only for his delicious food but just to be around that infectious energy.
Today he's talking about his cooking influences, Filipino heritage and sharing his modernized recipe of a traditional Filipino coconut rice cake called bibingka. Get ready to fall in love with Woldy!
Why did you choose to share this particular recipe?
I'm sharing my Bibingka recipe, which is a decadent Filipino coconut rice cake baked in banana leaves. My mom makes a version of this all the time and it’s traditionally served during the holidays. I modernized this recipe by baking it in a sheet pan which is the perfect way to feed an intimate crowd. Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to make Bibingkas into loaves for sale through a friend’s small cafe and boutique in NYC, Café Integral. This really excites me because people are now discovering what Filipino food is and that it’s delicious.
What is your history with food?
Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing cooks. Through my father and the women in my family - my mom, grandmother, Lola, and Titas (aunties) - I learned flavor. Being in the kitchen with Lola and watching her make Filipino food was where I was the happiest. Lola would share stories about her childhood and how she helped run the family restaurant.
I vividly remember how my father, who passed away almost twenty years ago, would cook and prepare for big family gatherings. My dad would make this delicious goat stew called Kalderetang Kambing. It all started with my brothers and I going with my father to a goat farm and selecting a goat to make the stew. He would pick one and then have the farmer take it to a barn and be butchered. My father used every part of the goat. He would use the meat to make the stew, which he would cook in our backyard for at least two or three days.
We had this outdoor pit where I would watch him make a fire and I still intensely remember the smell of fresh outdoor air and garlic, red onions and jalapeños being sautéed on the open fire. It was almost embarrassing for me to have this huge outdoor fire with the smell of wood burning and sizzling goat meat; I could only imagine what the neighbors were thinking. I appreciate and savor the memories of the meals I had growing up.
How does your Filipino American heritage influence your cooking?
The Filipino food that I grew up eating, and the neighboring cultures that I was raised around - Californian, Mexican, Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese - have deeply influenced me. I try to re-imagine and blend flavors of my heritage and contextualize them in a contemporary way. Food is a very personal experience and it should be special. My mantra is “eat with your eyes”. My goal for making a dish is that it’s colorful, intimate, and artful.
What's the first restaurant you will be eating at when this is all over?
The first restaurant that I’ll be eating at is Win Son, a Taiwanese American restaurant in East Williamsburg, Brooklyn. I can’t wait to eat and sit outside and enjoy their refreshing and crisp marinated cucumbers and chewy and spicy pan-griddled pork buns!
Woldy's Famous Sheet Tray Bibingka:
- 1 ¼ cup rice flour
- 1 ¼ cup glutinous rice flour
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup sugar
- Banana leaves (optional)
- 1 cup melted unsalted butter, reserve ½ cup for the holy sheet
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 1 ½ cup unsweetened coconut milk
- 1 cup sweetened condensed milk
- Place the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees.
- Wipe down the banana leaves with a dry kitchen towel and line it on a baking sheet. (Optional)
- Butter and brush ½ cup of unsalted butter onto the baking sheet.
- In a bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (rice flour, glutinous rice flour, baking powder, salt and sugar).
- In a separate bowl, whisk and combine the wet ingredients (butter, eggs, vanilla, unsweetened coconut milk and sweetened condensed milk).
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until fully incorporated.
- Spread the batter evenly over the baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes until a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
To learn about The Woldy Kusina Experience, including catering and a community-driven culinary offerings, head to WoldysKusina.com/menu.