The First Philippine Food Festival in Paris

During my almost two-year stay here in Paris, I have been asked several times if there are Filipino restaurants in the area. Many times, those who inquired are fellow Filipinos who are visiting Paris for a few days. And my answer? None.

Although, I am quick to add that there is one Filipina chef, Erica Paredes, who organizes dinners for small groups—Baguettes & Berets. There are also several Filipino caterers whom you may get  touch with should you want Filipino dishes at your party, and that there are many Pinoy stores in the area.

I also add that if you are craving for pancit, lumpia, adobo, sisig, pinakbet, menudo, laing, dinuguan, sinigang, and other delectable Pinoy dishes, as well as halo-halo, saba con hielo, kalamay, sapin-sapin, leche flan, biko, suman, puto and other Pinoy kakanin, there’s this yearly Pista sa Paris held usually in the first weekend of July (also a belated Philippine Independence Day celebration). On this day, you will have your fill of Filipino food all day long. I mention too that Pinoy food can usually be bought at the entrance of two churches in Paris, which are frequented by Filipinos (St. Joseph Church on Avenue Hoche (near the Arc de Triomphe) and St. Bernadette Chapel in Auteuil).

So, I was so happy to learn of the Philippine Food Festival last 06 October 2019 in Paris, which was mentioned in several articles as the first ever Philippine Food Festival in Paris. Held at Le Pointe Ephemere in the 10th arrondissement in Paris, the event was organized by La Petite Manille, an association of young Filipino-French that aims to promote the Philippine culture in France.

Cooking demo with the ubiquitous kawali (Philippine wok) in Filipino homes.

I went there with a fellow Foreign Service Officer and was delighted to see the long queue from the mini-bridge to the riverside all the way to the event venue. (Okay, I’ll be honest. I was both glad and frustrated about that because it was past 3PM, my companion and I were famished after our museum visit, and we thought, we could quickly grab a bite. Haha!)

We finally were able to enter the venue and saw the huge crowd that came. There was hardly room to move around but we were able to buy our tokens and parted ways to go to our selected food stalls. I went to several before I made my choice–rice and bulalo for 10 euros. But because of the large number of people, their bowls ran out and I was served my bulalo in a disposable glass. The rice was already cold too. I didn’t mind. I was too hungry. I found my way to the common dining area, with several wooden tables and benches. After a few minutes, I saw my companion and waved at her. She ordered rice and either afritada or mechada (I tell you, until now, I still get confused between the two) plus a dessert of yema cake. After eating, I wanted to buy drinks but the queue was too long so after 10 minutes, I ended up just having the free carafe d’eau served available at the counter.

Bulalo in a disposable glass. 😀

We both still had extra tokens (10 euros for me and 7 for my companion) and we looked around for other goodies that we can bring home. I saw the stall selling barbecue and cassava cake and waited for my turn. But they were both so crowded that after fifteen minutes, I barely moved from my spot and got free “barbecue perfume.” I then went to the sari-sari store, hoping to buy Pinoy noodles, biscuits and chichiriyas (chips) instead, but to my dismay, they didn’t accept tokens in the store, only cash. I inched my way to the token booth to inquire if I can return my tokens but was told that I cannot. So, I bought two mangoes for the price of 10 euros (oh my!) after chatting animatedly with the seller and watching her cook food in a large kawali.

What can I say about the Philippine Food Festival? I think that the event was a huge success. Many people flocked to the area, the atmosphere was festive, there was wide array of Filipino food offered, and there was even a milk tea stall with rock concert long line. The event also included a free program showcasing Filipino dance and songs.

I was thinking however that a more spacious venue would have made the event better. The visitors could view all the different stalls from the middle, mothers with babies in strollers wouldn’t have a hard time moving around, it wouldn’t take hours to order food that you really wanted to sample, and you could eat in  a relaxed atmosphere.

That was why, I wasn’t surprised when I saw a comment in an online Parisian ladies’ group that the event was a logistics disaster. (The one who commented, a European, mentioned that she loves Filipino food but that the space was too crowded.) I personally wouldn’t call it a “disaster” since I enjoyed the food and was glad about the event’s success but I hope the organizers would implement some improvements in managing the event the next time they hold another food festival.

I haven’t seen any information yet of a Philippine Food Festival in Paris this year, but I sure look forward to it!

For more details, you may read the following articles:

Les Philippines, ce pays dont vous rêviez sans le savoir

Food Festival Philippin au Point Ephémère à Paris

Le premier festival de food philippin débarque à Paris

Author’s Note: I discovered, a few weeks after publishing this article, that there’s actually an eatery in Paris that serves Filipino food. (https://www.bobiparis.com/) I am going to check it out soon. 🙂 01/03/2020

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