We like big buns and we cannot lie… If there’s anything that hits the spot…
Boodle is one of my new favourite words. Apart from sounding amusing and kind of cute, the term comes from ‘food battle’. How awesome is that? My friends and I recently experienced our first ‘food battle’ last month at Kusina, Canberra’s only Filipino restaurant.
By way of background, boodle feasts started as a Filipino army tradition, as a means for officers and cadets to eat together regardless of rank. Food was spread over banana leaves or old newspapers and eaten with bare hands, or ‘kamayan’. The popularity of boodle feasts spread outside the military and now I’ve taken part in one, I can see why—they’re lots of tasty fun!
Once we found Kusina (we northsiders got a bit lost), we walked in to see the tables set with banana leaves at each place, along with finger bowls and little bowls of condiments (sweet chilli, soy, liver – sounds weird but it turned out to be our favourite – and some limes and chopped chilli).
You don’t get to choose what’s contained in your boodle feast, as the menu is already set—but you don’t know what it is til it arrives. This is good if you find it hard to make decisions (which often happens to me if there are lots of delicious-sounding things to choose from), but also because it makes for an exciting surprise. And even if you’ve been before, the menu changes each month, so you’ll still get a surprise.
We did, however, get to choose our drinks. One of the friends I went with is Filipino, so she gave us some recommendations. She and our other friend went for the calamansi juice, which turned out to be a refreshing and delicious lime juice. I chose the sago’t gulaman, which was more like a dessert, consisting of shaved ice, sago pearls and syrup. I found it to be a bit too sweet for my liking but one of my friends tried it and ended up ordering one for dessert later on.
While we were enjoying our drinks and a good chat, we kept glancing towards the kitchen, as we could smell the food and had purposely ‘starved’ ourselves that day so we could eat as much as possible. Our anticipation grew as the first boodle platters began appearing on the counter.
And then ours arrived. And it was spectacular. Laid out in a circle around a big mound of rice were prawns, papaya salad, eggplant salad, chicken, calamari, pork belly, pork ribs and a whole fish.
I don’t normally include photos of myself in my reviews, but I’m including this one just to show you how big this boodle feast really was (you can also see how excited I was…).
There’s actually a minimum of four people for the boodle feast, but we hadn’t been able to get a fourth on this occasion. While we had joked about that meaning there would be more food for us, I don’t think any of us expected how good a job we would end up doing in devouring the meal (evidence below). But the food was so good every time one of us thought we should stop, or paused for a bit, it didn’t last long til we were reaching out for more.
While all of it was delicious, my favourites were the chicken and the pork belly. As someone who isn’t very skilled at eating meat off the bone with a knife and fork, as is required in a lot of Western restaurants (I’m Chinese-Indonesian, we use a fork and spoon for most meals or eat meat off the bone with our hands), I also relished the unusual opportunity to eat with my hands in a restaurant, although I did find the rice a bit tricky.
I’d been told beforehand that there is an art to eating with your hands: use your fingertips to gather up the food and put in front of you on your ‘plate’ (the leaf in front of you), mix your condiments to taste, and use your thumb to guide the food along your fingertips until it slides into your mouth. If your palms are clean at the end of the meal, then you’ve done a good job. My palms were definitely clean at the end of the meal, but all of my fingers were covered in sauce, so I’m not sure how good a job I did! (I’m blaming it on the pork ribs and their deliciously sticky sauce)
While we were pretty stuffed after all the meat, rice and seafood, we still asked to have a look at the dessert menu. And of course we ended up ordering dessert. While one of my friends had the sago’t gulaman, my other friend convinced me to try the leche flan (ok, she didn’t have to try very hard), which she also ordered.
The leche flan turned out to be a kind of Filipino crème caramel, served with lemon sorbet. I was really glad I’d ordered it, as it was delicious. I never would have thought a custardy type dessert would go so well with the mild tartness of lemon sorbet, but it just worked (the Smurfs did not come with the dessert, one of my friends had brought them and I was just playing around. Yes, I totally act my age).
If you’re looking for a really fun meal out with friends/family, then the boodle feast at Kusina is the way to go. But they’re only on once a month (the last Sunday of each month), and are proving to be extremely popular. September is already booked out, but there are still some places available for October. If you want to be really organised, you can book for November or December. I’ve already booked in to go again, and I can’t wait.
If you want to read more about Kusina’s origins and regular menu, check out Alison Senti’s HerCanberra article here. Those with families might like to note that Kusina offers $7.50 kid’s meals including ice cream and a drink, and kids dine free before 7pm.
The place: Kusina
Where: Brierly Street, Weston Creek (near Cooleman Court)
When: Tuesday – Friday, 9am-9pm; Saturday 9am-9.30pm, Sunday 9am-2.30pm. Boodle feasts are at dinnertime on the last Sunday of every month, bookings essential (minimum four people).
Food: Filipino cuisine
Drinks: Wine, beer and traditional Filipino drinks
Contact: Call 02 6288 8461 or visit their Facebook page