Pin Pin – Vancouver, BC

Pin Pin Restaurant
6113 Fraser Street
Vancouver, BC

(604) 322-3086

Filipino food has a bit of a PR problem. Not unlike many other cuisines, Filipino food revolves around family gatherings and religious feasts – not around restaurants. Essentially, it is “potluck” cuisine: the best food isn’t prepared by chefs, but by various aunties, grandmas, grandpas, uncles, dads…all with their own specialties. Filipino restaurant cuisine in the West has not evolved beyond the all-too-common buffets (“turo-turo”). Unfortunately for many non-Filipinos, buffets – where the food is of dubious freshness – are their entry into this cuisine . It really doesn’t come as a surprise that non-Filipinos find this food either: unappetizing, or mysterious.

Pin Pin is one of the rare restaurants that prepares their food fresh from the kitchen – no steam tables here. (So far, I know of three restaurants that do this here in the Vancouver area…there may be more.) Pin Pin labels itself as a Chinese-Filipino restaurant, and the menu has a Chinese section at the back. (As a matter of interest, Pin Pin is the name of one of the streets in Manila’s Chinatown – established in the 15th century, making it the world’s oldest.) I prefer to order the “straight” Filipino food, however.

Their specialty is “Crispy Pata” (pictured above) – an awkwardly named dish that draws from two of the Philippines’ historical colonial masters: the Americans (for the word “Crispy”) and Spaniards (for “Pata” – the Spanish word for foot). Crispy Pata is an ode to the Filipino love for all things porcine. It is a dangerously delicious dish made from a pre-boiled pork leg that is then deep fried until it is crispy. Though it sounds greasy and cholesterol-enhancing, the dish comes off as almost “light” – especially the skin which is crispy and airy.

The menu lists a very good survey of this highly regional cuisine with a good representations of classics from Luzon and the Visayas. Not unusually, they don’t list any food from the Muslim South (Mindanao) where the cuisine is akin to Malaysian and Indonesian food. The Filipino buffet classics are all there, like Pinakbet pictured above. Oddly missing (and perhaps understandable – considering its ubiquity as a home-cooked meal in Filipino households) is  the “National Dish” of Adobo.

If you are looking for an introduction to this cuisine, Pin Pin has some reasonably priced lunch specials that comes with rice and two dishes. Check them out if you are in this area.

Pinpin on Urbanspoon


16 thoughts on “Pin Pin – Vancouver, BC

    • Rekado’s didn’t strike a chord – Filipinos thought the food was bland and it didn’t really resonate with non-Filipinos. Making the it “fancy” is just counter to what Filipino food is all about.

      Perhaps it is time to take the attempts to mainstream Filipino food in a different direction…I think something like a JapaDog cart selling nothing but BBQ pork skewers downtown may succeed. (Who doesn’t love those?).

      Perhaps longaniza dogs too… 🙂

      • While I am not sure if City of Vancouver will allow any carts outside of hot dogs and chestnuts, for a skewer snack, there is Kushi Box. Not necessarily cheap, though… (Coincidentally, located in the soon-to-be open Japadog “restaurant”)

      • We’ve been throwing the idea of selling BBQ skewers for a long time around here, as well as various ideas to “mainstream” Filipino food and make it more acceptable to other ethnicities and Filipinos alike. I just really don’t know if there’s a critical mass that would buy the food. What I fear is we start out with something Filipino (albeit in this more “acceptable” form) and then start going into another direction. I still think it’s a good, workable idea though, and if anybody out there is willing. . .hmm, maybe we should talk.

        • It might be worthwhile experimenting with the idea at the Richmond Summer Night Market. It is skewer heaven and it runs only two-three days a week.

          I can imagine BBQ skewers served in a pandesal-like hotdog bun, for example. FiliDog 🙂

          No one has been able to crack the “mainstreaming” of Filipino food, it seems. Have a look at this thread on Chowhound’s Seattle board titled “Is Filipino Food Embarrasing?”

    • I read that post a few weeks ago…that Crispy Pata looks great! Definitely give it another try. H.Peter…how is the Filipino food scene in Calgary?

    • Thanks for that great read. The last line of the article:

      “Why hasn’t Filipino food assimilated?” asks Aglibot rhetorically. “Because it’s still assimilating.”

  1. Strangely enough, even after attending a few Filipino family weddings in North America where food galore was spread out, I didn’t get much of that same treatment when I visited the motherland (just Manila though). My local hosts would always be more interested in going out for Chinese or Japanese food – as if they felt in some weird way ashamed or really unsure I could handle the native cuisine. In addition to the sense that Filipino food is mysterious, I often feel that it has a perception of being unhealthy – perhaps another reason why it hasn’t been so readily accepted abroad.

  2. Chinese food was once perceived as unhealthy too…however we now know that it stems from in-authentic preparations (eg buffets and take-out food).

    Many Filipino dishes are certainly rich, but many are quite light. However the “light” food just does not fare so well in a buffet setting (sitting in hotel pans in steam tables for many hours) so we never see them outside small family gatherings.

    The “shame” Filipinos have for the cuisine is strange cultural quirk.

  3. But the common term TangRen Jie for a Chinatown (Tang Dynasty People Street) suggests earlier “Chinatowns” than that.

    PinPin recently doubled in size (width) taking over store next door.

    Packed on weekends.

    And the UrbanSpoon tags of Sunset/Punjabi market, misplace it. It is in
    South Hill, (Fraser and 46th ) the former main street of the Municipality of South Vancouver (their city hall at 4nd and Fraser)

    • You are most certainly right about older Chinatowns. It was the Spaniards who wanted the enforced segregation of the Chinese (mainly Fukien) in old Manila. From a European perspective, it was the oldest established Chinatown…but from an Asian perspective, I’m sure Chinatowns were established far earlier.

      I noticed the expansion at Pin Pin – they sometimes leave it closed on weekdays.

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