Chef Jojo Hernandez worked as a sous chef at The Florida Yacht Club for years. He went and literally took to the streets – in a new food truck. He follows his passion by sharing Filipino flavors and culture.
I’ve hunted Abstract Filipino Essence so many times that I’ve worked my way through the entire menu. From Oakleaf to Mandarin and Baymeadows to Downtown, Abstract’s bright green and yellow packaging is hard to miss (and shouldn’t be missed!).
The chef’s skewered fish balls ($ 6) are coated in a hearty sauce and served with a crispy coleslaw and a tangy vinegar-based dip sauce. These fried balls are a Filipino street food favorite.
Beginners should try the no-hassle, calming chicken pancit ($ 10) served with Lumpia. The mix of canton and rice noodles mixes with fresh sautéed vegetables, seasoned chicken and a light soy stock. The Lumpia – fried sticks filled with minced meat, beef and vegetables – are dipped in the accompanying sweet chili sauce. I enjoy saving some of the dish and eating it cold the next day.
For the adventurous? The Chicken Tocino Bowl ($ 12) with crispy Brussels sprouts, rice, pickled jicama, and diced, marinated chicken thighs is packed with flavor and texture. Crispy from the jicama and crispness from the rice-meets-Brussels mixture.
My other favorite is the pork belly sisig ($ 13), a whopping serving of steamed white rice topped with sizzling chunks of diced pork belly, red onion relish, and a perfectly runny egg yolk fried egg. A mixture of shredded pickled vegetables and raisins served on the side adds the right seasoning to the dish. A few tiny strips of pepper add a bit of heat, but not too much.
My husband loves Aidas BBQ pork sticks ($ 12). These are marinated pieces of pork that are served on a skewer with steamed rice and vegetable pancit.
For dessert? The ube macapuno cake ($ 5) is a platter of fluffy purple ube heaven (a purple sweet potato) ice cream. Get this or the crispy turon ($ 5): fried, wrapped chunks of caramelized sweet plantains that are hugged in a coconut and caramel sauce and dusted with ube powder and rice flakes for a touch of color and crispness. New to the dessert line-up are Filipino “ice candies” ($ 1.50) – these reminded me of a mix of popsicles, frozen ice slushee, and push pop. With Filipino offerings like Ube, Buko (coconut), and Lanka (jackfruit), they’re a great way to experience new flavors.
Caron Streibich is a passionate gourmet who rates life restaurants every two weeks. Follow her culinary adventures at facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.
ABSTRACT FILIPINO ESSENCE
Locations vary. (Follow Abstract Filipino Essence on Instagram or Facebook for weekly locations)
Type of Cuisine: Filipino.
Opening times: vary.