James Meehan is on a mission. He wants everyone to eat more Filipino food. He and his wife Regina are the founders of Hoy Pinoy (that's "hey Filipino" to you), a Melbourne-based street vendor specialising in skewered meats cooked over charcoal (mangrove and branch for a consistent slow burn), Filipino style.
"There's not a lot of Filipino food in Australia," says Meehan, who launched Hoy Pinoy at the Victoria Markets in August 2013. But the pair are here to change all that, bringing their flavour to Sydney's inaugural Lunar Markets, kicking off Thursday evening in Pyrmont Bay Park. Out of 20 stalls, they'll be the only one serving Filipino food.
Best known for their signature skewers - barbecued chicken (Inihaw na Manok) in a traditional soy glaze and pork belly (Inihaw na Baboy) in a banana ketchup glaze - Meehan also revealed he'll be coming back later in the year with a whole pig on a spit. "We like our food to reflect what you get on the streets - we glaze our meats just before barbecuing then serve it to the customers directly - just like you'd experience it over there."
Meehan says there's a big culture of street eating in the Philippines. While there are regular large family feasts and get-togethers (and in fact many of the flavours the Meehans use in their cooking are straight from Regina's family playbook), casual day-to-day eating is conducted from street vendors and micro-businesses. "We know how good Filo food is," says Meehan. "And we love that we get to serve the product straight from the barbecues just how you would do in the Philippines from street vendors."
Perhaps it's because it's such a rarity in Australia that Hoy Pinoy is such a hit wherever they choose to set up shop for the day. Or perhaps it's the lechon cebu - a whole roasted pig and the lechon kuali - that's slow-braised then deep-fried pork belly cooked over charcoal. Maybe it's purely the smoke from those branch and mangrove charcoals permeating the air that brings people in. "We believe the show of seeing your food cooked is all part of the experience."
Can Hoy Pinoy set the scene for a Filipino push?
The Lunar Markets, presented by the Star, will run in Pyrmont Bay Park from February 12-22. Open Mon-Wed 5pm-9pm; Thu-Fri 5pm-10pm; Sat 4pm-10pm; Sun 4pm-9pm. lunarmarkets.com.au