OG Asian Fusion Brunch: A Reflection of Chinese Cuisine in the Philippines

Diners enjoying OG Asian Fusion Brunch, a cannabis-infused private brunch. (Monica Lo)

When Chef Yana Gilbuena asks you to host a cannabis-infused private brunch to explore the parallels between traditional Chinese and Filipino cuisine—you jump on it! Yana, a nomadic Filipina chef, took her pop-up feasts to all fifty states in fifty weeks, an impressive feat in order to share her kamayan-style dinners, a style of dining where you eat with your hands. I first learned how to eat with my hands at one of her dinners and, throughout the years, we’ve bonded over our love of good food, travel, and of course, cannabis.

Food is a tie that binds us together, and magic happens when we trade ideas and get inspired by one another. Coming from a Taiwanese-Chinese American heritage, I’ve enjoyed many of Chef Yana’s meals and found various similarities in the ingredients and flavor profiles used in both our cuisines. After this discovery, all the pieces seemed to fall into place for our OG Asian Fusion brunch collaboration to be born. Our good friends from Pot d’Huile (also a Filipino-run company) graciously hopped on as our CBD olive oil sponsor, and Real Oyster Cult shipped succulent, farm fresh Kaipara oysters for this private event.

Succulent, farm fresh Kaipara oysters from Real Oyster Cult.
Succulent, farm fresh Kaipara oysters from Real Oyster Cult. (Monica Lo)

Chef Yana comes from Iloilo City on Panay Island in the Philippines. She explains, “It’s one of the oldest port cities and many Chinese immigrants passed through there.” Foreign trade with the Chinese began in the 11th century in the Philippines and the influences are quite evident in the cuisine.

Chef Yana Gilbuena serving guests on banana leaves.
Chef Yana Gilbuena serving guests on banana leaves. (Monica Lo)

As Asians, our historical connection with the cannabis plant is strong. Did you know, the first-ever recorded medical cannabis use came from China, and hemp was first discovered in what is now modern-day Taiwan? My people! What an honor it is to combine my passion for food and cannabis with my ancestry.

The first course: a humble chop suey.
The first course: a humble chop suey. (Monica Lo)

Our first course started with a humble chop suey. For both the Chinese and Filipinos, this dish repurposes meat and other food scraps in a quick and easy stir-fry. My parents didn’t have much money when they immigrated to this country so they had to be frugal. We grew up in a zero-waste household out of necessity, and this was a dish that gave new life to leftover ingredients.

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For Chef Yana, it's also a part of her childhood. “Chop suey was always a staple growing up. This dish reminded me of how, as immigrants, we take a piece of home with us in the form of food, wherever we go,” says Yana. Her mixed vegetable chop suey, chock full of wood ear mushrooms and quail eggs, was served in a large prawn cracker that’s been flash fried. It was a beautiful dish for the ‘gram, and it was a hit with our guests.

Spicy Sichuan wontons filled with shrimp and pork, and tossed in a bright red chili oil, black vinegar, and topped with fresh aromatics.
Spicy Sichuan wontons filled with shrimp and pork, and tossed in a bright red chili oil, black vinegar, and topped with fresh aromatics. (Monica Lo)

With our next course, we nibbled on a treat that has a special place in my heart. Growing up, my family and I would make and freeze hundreds of dumplings each weekend so we’d have something to snack on after school. It's a childhood memory that I will forever cherish. My favorite version of the dumpling comes from the Sichuan province in China, where my grandfather was born. The spicy Sichuan wonton is filled with shrimp and pork, then tossed in a bright red chili oil, black vinegar and topped with fresh aromatics. I served this dish with little bottles of medicated sesame oil on the side for people to dose themselves. Below is a recipe for this cannabis-infused sesame oil, made safely and discreetly with a sous vide machine.

From Chef Yana, the pancit molo, much like a Filipino-style wonton soup, originated from her hometown on Panay Island, where many Chinese immigrants passed through. While our brunch guests gushed over the rich, 24-hour roasted chicken bone broth full of fried garlic flavors, I hid in the corner of the kitchen guzzling bowls of this broth in between serving courses.

Al fresco dining with some of the guests.
Al fresco dining with some of the guests. (Monica Lo)

For the final course, we really pigged out—literally. I made a traditional red-braised pork belly (hong shao rou), which is often referred to as Chairman Mao’s favorite dish. The pork belly is slow-braised with chunks of ginger, two different kinds of soy sauce, and star anise. Over time, the pork belly takes on a deep red color and a rich, savory flavor. This dish is served with lightly steamed bok choy, soy-braised eggs and rice to cut the fat. For this same pork course, Chef Yana served humba, a dish made with similar ingredients but with salted black beans, palm sugar and grilled pineapple added—a tasty evolution of the OG recipe.

For more information on cannabis-infused cooking using the sous vide method, please check out my blog, Sous Weed. If you’re interested in Chef Yana Gilbuena’s exciting culinary adventures, you can pre-order her upcoming cookbook, No Forks Given.

Want to make your own cannabis-infused sesame oil? See the recipe below for the one I served with my Sichuan wontons.

Please Note: The amount of cannabis specified in this recipe is a loose suggestion; the actual amount you use should be modified based on the strength of your infusion and the potency you desire. Dosing homemade cannabis-infusions can be tricky, so the best way to test for potency is to start with one portion of a serving, in this case, one teaspoon, and wait up to two hours for full effects. Then you can make an informed decision on whether to consume more. Always dose carefully, listen to your body, and never drive under the influence of cannabis.

Sous Vide Cannabis-Infused Sesame Oil

An infused sesame oil was served with the wontons.
An infused sesame oil was served with the wontons. (Monica Lo)

Makes 8 oz, Servings: 48
Ingredients:
• 8 oz toasted sesame oil
• 4 g high-CBD cannabis flower

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Directions:
1. Pour the toasted sesame oil into a quart-sized, freezer-safe zip-sealed bag.
2. Roughly crumble the high-CBD cannabis flower with your hands. Add the cannabis flower into the bag of oil. Gently push all the air out of the bag and seal.
3. Next, set your sous vide water bath temperature to 85ºC (185ºF).
4. Once the sous vide water bath has reached its temperature, submerge the bag in the water bath. Sous vide for 4 hours to infuse.
5. After 4 hours, remove the bag from water bath and strain out the cannabis using a cheesecloth over a mason jar. Discard the cannabis flower and allow the infused toasted sesame oil to cool.
6. Store the mason jar of infused oil in a cool dark place when you’re not using it. I love this infused sesame oil on Sichuan wontons but it’s also great in noodles, salad dressings, and stir-frys as well.

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