Makulít’s Filipino-American fast food mashup stands out early in new Lil’ America Cart Pod

“Chicky Bites… Shall we make them sticky?” I asked before ordering at Makulít.

“It should be sticky,” replied Xrysto Castillo.

One bite and I understand why.

“They’re probably my favorite thing on our menu,” says Castillo, co-owner and co-chef of Makulít, Lil’ America’s Filipino-American fast food cart. Owner of BIPOC and LBGTQ+. A crackling, peeled bite of mustard-fried chicken thigh ($12 non-sticky, $13 sticky) is tossed with Fresno peppers and scallions, coated in bird’s eye chili sauce, and served over soft rice. The dish is salty, with vinegar front and center.

“One of our neighbors calls it orange chicken. We say yes, yes,” says Mike Bautista, another co-chef and owner of Makulít it’s not. The soul of the glaze, as Bautista puts it, is finaden, a soy sauce-based condiment popular in Filipino cuisine. Added sugar like sweet and sour sauce. ”

Every dish on Makulít’s menu seems to be a challenge rooted in that balance. How can Castillo and Bautista imbue a fast-food staple with a Filipino flavor that most of their customers have never experienced?

“I knew there were people at all levels who had never had Filipino food,” says Bautista. “There are so many items that I have to explain, but in a familiar context that I have never heard before. We have American food.”

Poutine is an example of Macritt’s blending the familiar with the unfamiliar, a vast improvement over the appetizers found on many Portland menus. Topped with a punchy braised pork gravy instead of the standard beef sauce, the adobo version of the dish ($13) is an eye-catcher for first bites just to eat with others and enjoy the shared reaction. He’s one of the poppers. of joy. I’m someone who finds the classic poutine quite repetitive after the first few bites, given the additional salt and fat piled on top of the already salty base. Each one offers a bang of black pepper and a strong acidity that makes you want to plow through mountains of melting cheese curds and crunchy, soggy potatoes in an animalistic way. With this dish I “got” poutine.

“We want our food to bring us the best,” says Castillo. “One of the big things about him is how playful he is in the kitchen. Filipino food is very visible and picky. We don’t want to tone it down.”

“Fun is the only barometer we have,” says Bautista. “If I have an idea for an item and I think, ‘That’s fun,’ I try it.”

The most fun and playful dish is definitely the Big Bunso ($11). It looks like a traditional drive-in cheeseburger — toasted Franz buns, shredded icebergs, tomatoes, onions, and melted cheddar cheese beginning to crisp on the edges from contact with the griddle. But like the previous two dishes, the first bite went in a completely unexpected direction.

“It looks like regular fast food, but it’s not,” says Castillo with a laugh.

Longanisa sausage patties are chock-full of warm spices, while asala (a mix of pickled papaya, carrots, radishes and green peppers) kicks up the decibel level. The resulting flavor combo sits somewhere between burgers, meatloaf her sandwiches and banh mi.

Other dishes on the menu play a bit more old-school in their approach, like the Pancit Canton ($12). This is chewy fried noodles mixed with colorful, crispy charred snap peas, red cabbage and carrots. On a recent sunny afternoon, guests hopped in and out of the neighborhood Fracture Brewing on their Beer He flight, sitting in oversized lawn chairs and sitting in shareable, portable lumpias ($3 for $7, $6 for $6). $13). And a spiced vinegar dip.

“It’s an artistic expression,” says Bautista, who is also an illustrator and created the cart’s poppy pink and yellow logo. “We don’t think of ourselves as chefs. What do you have and how do you want to express yourself?

In my opinion everything is working.

EAT: Makulít, 1015 SE Stark St., @makulitpdx. Wednesday-Thursday noon-7pm, Friday-Saturday 4-9pm.

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