Filipinos have a playful way with language and slang permeates everyday conversation. Most Filipino slang defies translation because you have to know how Filipinos think. Food words are oddly lyrical with strained neologisms. Deep fried chicken feet are “Adidas” (get it?). What about a grilled chicken head? Depending on the age of the speaker, it is either “Kojak” (the 1970’s cop show about a bald detective) or “Helmet”. A type of dried salt-fish eaten fried as a beer snack is called “Jeprox” which comes from the transposition of the syllables in the word “projects” (as in a poverty stricken, low-rent district). Don’t ask me to explain that one further because we will both end up confused.
That preamble leads us to today’s topic: “silog”. It’s a Filipino brunch dish similar to (and may have been influenced by) American bacon and eggs. Just like “frappuccino” is a combination of “frappe” and “cappuccino”, the word “silog” is a portmanteau derived from its two defining ingredients: garlic fried rice and fried eggs. “Si” comes from “sinangag”, which translates as garlic fried rice, while “log” is from “itlog”, or the Tagalog word for egg.
“Silog” is used as a suffix to describe different variants of this dish. For example: “Longsilog” is “longaniza” (Filipino sweet pork sausage) served with garlic fried rice and eggs. Similarly, “Tapsilog” uses “tapa”, or Filipino cured beef. “Chicksilog” is the fried chicken variant, and SPAMsilog is made with, you guessed it, SPAM. You get the idea.
In the Lower Mainland, you can find the stuff well represented at the popular Epic Grill Silogs restaurant (538 Ewen Avenue). Located in the rapidly developing Queensborough area of New Westminster in what was originally an old school Western-Chinese diner (most recently a Vietnamese pho joint). it was taken over a year and a half ago by a Filipino family that had previously run similarly-themed eateries in Winnipeg (a city with a large Filipino community) and Yellowknife. You can order silog in most Filipino restaurants here in town, but Epic is the only one that really specializes in it, which is surprising given the ubiquity of silog spots in other North American cities as diverse as Vancouver.
A black chalkboard menu lists over a dozen silogs ranging from tapsilog (the beef – probably the most popular kind) all the way to tinapsilog (from “tinapa”) which is made with smoked dried fish. The prices range from $7.95 for the SPAMsilog to $19.95 for the Epic two-silog combo. For the uninitiated, I suggest starting with either the longsilog or the tapsilog. Order yours with black coffee, and for that extra dose of authenticity, pour your coffee over the garlic rice as a sort of a Filipino red-eye gravy. On my last visit, my dining companion ordered a double pork silog with lechon (roast belly) and longaniza. I ordered a silog bangus (fried, vinegary milkfish) and pusit (dried squid), both of which satisfied. The portions are quite large so be sure to come hungry. For dessert we ordered a sans rival – a rich butter cream and meringue cashew dacquoise layer cake.
Filipino cuisine is undergoing some sort of coming of age with celebrity chefs like Anthony Bourdain lining up to declare it “the next big thing”. It has been the “next big thing” for at least a decade now. Here in Metro Vancouver, our choices have been mainly limited to cafeteria-reminiscent buffet restaurants called “turo-turo” (“point point”), making Epic Silog a notable development, possibly signalling a welcome diversification. Considering how our large, growing Filipino immigrant community is now in its third and fourth generations, perhaps the old school turo-turo buffet just doesn’t cut it anymore with young Canadianized Pinoys.
538 Ewen Ave. | New Westminster | 604-515-8922 | Website