In our final installment on the wonders and versatility of fish sauce, Jim chats with Carlo Lamagna of Portland’s beloved Filipino restaurant Manga Kusina about how he incorporates its deep umami flavors into his recipes.
Carlo Lamagna brought Filipino cooking to Portland. He might not have been the first to serve pancit and lumpia, but adding a few of his Filipino favorites to the menu when he was the chef at Clyde Common made diners look beyond the city’s more popular Thai and Vietnamese dishes.
Now at his own restaurant, Magna Kusina, Carlo cooks with the flavors of his childhood, including fish sauce. “Fish sauce, next to soy sauce, is a very important ingredient,” he says, adding that it provides both seasoning and umami. “Depending on the dish, fish sauce is used in varying degrees,“ explains Carlo. “Sometimes it is subtle and sometimes it’s the main flavor.”
Filipino food combines the island nation’s seafood tradition with elements from Chinese, Malaysian, Spanish, and American cooking. Sour, salty, and sweet get mixed together to create the audaciously bold flavors of Filipino classics like adobo, typically pork or chicken cooked in vinegar, or the fish sauce flavored vegetable stews like pinakbet and dinengdeng.
Carlo notes that “fish sauce can be intimidating” for first-time users, but he has some tips. “The pungent aroma and funky flavor in its pure form can throw even a seasoned cook off their game, so remember that a little can go a long way. Start with a salad dressing and work your way up, and try instead of salt.”
This Filipino take on chicken and rice from award-winning chef Carlo Lamagna demonstrates the umami-generating power of fish sauce.
The Baird family’s cherries are some of our favorites, and we’re excited to offer them for a limited time to our local customers. Sold on a pre-order basis, they are available in 1 pound increments for pick up at Wellspent Market. Be sure to get your orders in by Friday for pickup on Saturday or Sunday.