June is Filipino Heritage Month in Canada, and there is no better way to kick-off the celebration than to make a list of your next food trip destination when in Lloydminster City.
Food has become a big cultural contribution of the Philippine Islands to the world. From the world-famous adobo, ilokano pinakbet, sinigang and tinola; down to the street-famous-gut-wrenching, balut, odox, betamax or isaw, the culinary art and kitchen mastery of the Filipinos have put the Philippines in the mainstream gourmet map. Move over Gordon Ramsey.
One thing unique about Filipino food is the measurement of spices and ingredients that only a skillful kitchen ninja can do. This is called, honest measurement. No cups and odd fractions involved but only the chef's or cook's taste buds. Yup, Filipinos do not need Michelin stars because turo-turos (small, inexpensive pop-up fast food) do not need validation from anyone whose taste bud has been fed by the small-portioned-big-presentation European meal preparers sophistically crowned with a toque instead of a humble hairnet.
Filipino food is as authentic as they come. They are the products of honest cooking and labor of love. Ask any Filipino around and you will be surprised that they have got more kitchen skills than Manny Pacquiao has boxing offense in his already stacked southpaw arsenal.
The in flock of Filipino immigrants in Canada has created promising opportunities and opened pathways for Pinoy entrepreneurs to contribute to the economy of the great white north. While Chinese cuisine remains to be a debatable runaway winner in the Asian Kitchen competition, Lloydminster City has witnessed the rise of Filipino-owned food empires that seriously pose great competition against the generic western chains of cut-up potatoes and round-cut AAA beef.
Here are five places to visit when in Lloydminster.
Cusina Grill Express. Located in downtown Lloydminster, this restaurant, catering services and retail store is a one-stop shop for all your Asian essential needs. Cusina (literally means, kitchen) has the most extensive line of Filipino dishes among the resto in Lloydminster, and its homecooked catering style reminds you of your chatty Filipino uncle who chugs a bottle of Ginebra kuatro kantos while cooking for your grandpa's 80th birthday; ending up making twice the portion as the number of invited guests.
Umami Cuisine. Up a little bit north on Highway 17 is where this restaurant sitted. Although the meal offering is a fusion between Turkish (donair), western (burger) and Asian cuisines, this place is busy with market traffic coming mostly from the industrial area. This small food hub has made donair its main staple in most of its food lines; from donair hamburger, donair philly burger, donair poutine and all other food that donair could possibly go with.
Their jumbo donair eating challenge could be someone's claim to fame by consuming the biggest in-store made donair within the shortest amount of time. It's like watching your Tiya (auntie) speed-eating her turkey on Thanksgiving Day so she could leave early before someone notices she gained weight.
Pac N Go. Located at Harvest to Home on 70, behind Walmart is a pop-up dine-in and grab-and-go food store open every Tuesday from 11am to 6pm. This restaurant is a playground for simple appetite satisfaction as it offers Asian appetizers like pork rolls, siomai (meat-stuffed bun) and loaded barbeque skewers with rice. In a cold day, their beef noodle soup is not only good for the soul but also good for the colds. It soothes like the way your church-going, rosary-wielding lola (grandma) makes sure you got your back rubbed with Vicks Vaporub when you were young and sick.
Takoyaki Boy. You must be thinking, is this a Filipino resto? Scroll up and take a look at this blog's title again. Filipino resto? No! Filipino-owned? Yup!
So what exactly is takoyaki? They are Japanese snacks octopus balls made of wheat flour-based batter typically filled with minced or diced octopus and other spices. If you are craving Japanese snacks and some quick grubs without using a katana to pull a fruit ninja move, this place is for you.
Their mocktails could instantly be your summertime favorite too.
Rice Craving Asian Cuisine. The name speaks for itself. Filipino Food 101. Rice is the Philippines main product, and it is the main staple in every Filipino family kitchen table. Rice is in every Filipino's DNA.
From breakfast to midnight snack, rice is a royalty to every meal. Have you heard of the famous "silog" breakfast combos, like tosilog, longsilog, chiksilog, to name a few? If not, you do not need to consult Chef Google to know them. Just head down to RC on 50th Avenue and a crew of friendly Filipinos will be happy to show you. They might even let you in to their kitchen to show you how it is done. Just ask them politely. Filipinos don't bite. Of course, the meals are renamed in English to be more appropriate to the Canadian market.
While fruit smoothie is the easy go-to refreshment in the warmer days of summer, try the ultimate Filipino thirst-quencher-dessert mix, halo-halo and its variations (con yelos) and experience the authentic Filipino fiesta all in a scoop.
Lloydminster is a unique place sandwiched (no pun intended) between the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. There is a good joke that it is the worse geographical location to live in Canada because it always gets caught in between when Alberta sucks and Saskatchewan blows. Joking aside, Filipinos remained to be in strong numbers in the city as reflected in the 2016 National Census topping the list of visible minority immigrants with 2,440.
In the past years, the participation of Filipino-Canadians in many aspects of the community, civil service and economy is very limited with only few Filipino businesses in town and with the limited opportunities of employment due to the mismatch in educational systems that most Filipino immigrants have. Philippine-educated and licensed engineers, teachers, nurses, accountants and doctors could not practice their professions in Canada due the educational system loopholes. Although there are ways to navigate the Canadian labour system through its Economic Class, other professional immigrants could do and have done it at cost by either going through accreditation or going back to a Canadian higher education institution.
The door got kicked open for more opportunities in August 2011 when Apple Limjuico, M.D. becomes the first Filipino practicing physician in Lloydminster. This was the time where there is an emerging Filipino market demand in different industries including petroleum and energy, health and safety, hospitality, construction, insurance and financial management, skill and trade, among others.
The SARS-COV-2 pandemic that started in 2020 has re-ignited the creativity of Filipino-Canadians who, instead of giving up when they lost their jobs in the middle of the virus attack, made their homes the bases of their small businesses in preparing easy homecooked meals, pastries, and baked good products to sell. This skill-innovation has resulted to the birth of food places and many ecommerce businesses now becoming known in Lloydminster.
This is the ingenuity of the Filipino race! This is not Filipino resiliency as overused narrative by the media. Everyone is inherently resilient but not ingenious. And this is part of the rich Filipino heritage.
As the City of Lloydminster continues to welcome immigrants from all corners of the world, Filipino-Canadians have gradually become great contributors to its economy not only as proud burger-flippers and coffee-brewers but as community leaders and entrepreneurs - small business owners who help keep both the money and employment within the city; and most importantly, who are proud to call Lloydminster, home.