Eat with your hands at this family-style Filipino feast

(Photo courtesy of V.W. Photography)

A growing number of chefs from the Filipino diaspora are embracing their heritage by throwing kamayan-style dinner parties.

Kamayan is Tagalog for “by hand” and these convivial affairs are a communal celebration of the dining experience. They showcase the flavors, textures, colors — and all-too-often overlooked, the sensuality that goes into eating. Without the use of utensils, diners have an intimate way of connecting with the delicious lumpias, bistek beef heart skewers, coconut milk chicken adobo — and each other — all around a banana leaf-covered table.

Typically an affair that takes place in the home, we’re starting to see more of these communal meals taking place in restaurants and pop-ups across the country, including in Metro Detroit.

Thanks to the longtime venerable Sarap: A Filipino pop-up, Detroiters will get a chance to experience a kamayan-style dinner for themselves.

“Eating with your hands is a traditional way for Filipinos (to) eat at home, and this communal-style feast celebrates that tradition and pays homage to our roots,” says Dorothy Hernandez, co-owner of Sarap.

Sarap co-owner Dorothy Hernandez at work.

A fundraiser in support of the Michigan chapter of the Asian American Journalists Association Michigan chapter, the 100-person dinner will take place at 7 p.m., Oct. 7 at PizzaPlex, the Neopolitan pizzeria/community gathering space in Southwest Detroit. Tickets go for $50, but for an extra $10 guests can arrive an hour early for karaoke.

The feast happens to coincide with Filipino American History Month, but it’s also a delicious excuse to support AAJA, whose mission is to fight for more diverse, inclusive and culturally competent newsrooms that are more reflective of the communities they cover (hey, that’s right up Tostada Magazine’s alley). Proceeds will go toward helping the next generation of journalists via scholarships.

“It’s harder than ever to land a job in journalism, which is facing many challenges such as job cuts, dwindling revenue and general antipathy from the public, but it has never been more vital to prepare the next generation of journalists,” says Hernandez, who’s also a freelance journalist. “Scholarships like the ones AAJA Michigan provides can help students launch their careers and overcome barriers such as lack of income while doing unpaid internships. Many of our members have started off as students and are now doing great things in local media outlets such as my fellow members of the board.”

Tickets must be purchased in advance here (note, a small online processing fee is tacked onto each option).

Oh, and hey, if you’d like a peek at what a kamayan dinner is all about, check out this video below:


PizzaPlex is at 4458 West Vernor Highway.

(All photos courtesy of AAJA Michigan)

This article was made possible by the Detroit Journalism Engagement Fund, a project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan, that’s working to increase quality journalism and help better inform communities.

Serena Maria Daniels

Author: Serena Maria Daniels

Serena Maria Daniels is an award-winning journalist based in Detroit. She specializes in reporting on issues that intersect food, identity, and culture.

Find her one Twitter and Instagram @serenamaria36!

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