Filipino cuisine has made brief appearances in Connecticut, but Kayumangi Authentic Philippines Cuisine & Groceries has demonstrated unusual staying power, holding court in a Wallingford strip mall for six years now. Owner Angie Macalalad hails from Pampanga, a province slightly north of Manila.
The front of the space is a market. My wife and daughter, missing their native goods, exclaim over SkyFlakes, Sunflower Crackers mango cream sandwiches, Barquilla chocolate wafer sticks, Otap puff cookies, polvoron and calamansi juice — and wind up leaving with quite a bit of loot.
But the rear of Kayumangi is a four-table, 16-seat restaurant. The two-sided menu offers sit-in and catered options. (Filipino backyard parties are notoriously good fun, with everything from ice-cold, sweetened cantaloupe juice to spaghetti made with ketchup to roast pig.) There are a handful of dishes in steam trays, including chicken adobo (the national dish with soy and vinegar); menudo (a pork stew with liver); dinuguan (rich stew of pig's blood and offal, not for everyone but delicious cooked with vinegar, garlic and pepper); pork caldareta (tomato-based stew); and sinigang na baboy (a pork soup soured with tamarind), and they taste exceptionally fresh.
But you can also get many items cooked to order. Our vegetarian daughter is in heaven with a vegetable pancit (noodle dish coming in many varieties) and vegetable lumpia (spring rolls). I order the Filipino-style barbecue chicken, receiving four very filling skewers of tender, juicy, well-marinated, not overly sweet, slightly charred chicken. My wife chooses the lechon kawali, seasoned, breaded and crisply fried pork belly served with liver sauce, but my wife always opts instead for spicy coconut vinegar. We wash our dinners down with well-chilled San Miguel Pale Pilsners.
For dessert, our daughter orders turon, basically a banana spring roll, but this one amplified with pieces of jackfruit. My wife orders halo-halo, which translates "mix-mix," a shaved ice dessert with a counterpart in every Southeast Asian country. Halo-halo comes loaded with assorted goodies, in this case banana, plantain, jackfruit, sweet beans, milk, vanilla ice cream and pinipig (kind of flaky Rice Krispies).
On the flat-screen TV, my wife finds her favorite Filipino soap, "Till I Met You," and learns things she shouldn't, as she's many episodes in arrears. But she's in heaven with the food. Known for being hypercritical, she pronounces: "Everything is so good. They have the touch!"
Kayumangi, 69 N. Turnpike Road, Wallingford, is open Monday through Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; 203-294-4694; facebook.com/kayumangict.