Chef: King Phojanakong | New York, NY
Finding Kuma Inn’s tucked-away location on the second floor of an unmarked Manhattan building is an adventure in itself, but visitors to the cozy restaurant are rewarded with some of the best Filipino-Thai food in the city. With a Filipino mother and a Thai father, chef King Phojanakong grew up eating both cuisines and now blends the two on a creative, ever-changing menu.
“When I opened Kuma Inn in 2003, there weren’t too many types of restaurants preparing this type of food, but I’ve never met a person who didn’t like adobo,” Phojanakong says.
He’s excited by the increasing visibility of Filipino food in the U.S., noting that ingredients like calamansi are becoming more accessible; Trader Joe’s is even carrying an ube ice cream.
“Filipino food has existed in the U.S. since the Filipino diaspora through workers and immigrants. It helps in this age of food, cooking, and social media that everyone is in search of ‘new’ flavors, but we also have to keep in mind that we’ve been here for years and Filipino food is not just a fad.”