A chef on the rise, AC Boral is known for crafting dishes from and inspired by his Filipino background. It’s an unexpected coincidence, though, that Filipino cuisine is also gaining the attention of the mainstream in recent years.
The chef, 29, reconciles this thoughtfully: “My goal is to make great food that happens to be Filipino, not to make great Filipino food.
In 2014, he started Rice & Shine, a pop-up, prix-fixe brunch that traveled the country — moving from San Diego to Chicago to Boston — before landing in Los Angeles.
“It was kind of a cool life, but it is also not sustainable,” he said. “So about a year and a half ago, I settled down in Long Beach,” he said.
With him, he brings an arsenal of Filipino flavors and cooking techniques showcased in the Long Beach iterations of Rice & Shine, the next of which will take place Sept. 10. In collaboration with Dine LBC, the the pop-ups occur in secret locations throughout the city and feature eight courses, most served family-style, with an option to add mimosas made with calamansi (a tart citrus fruit popular in the Philippines).
Whether or not diners are familiar with Filipino cuisine, Boral ensures they will feel at home at his table.
“I want people to see that one of the most important things about Filipino food is that you can’t separate it from the hospitality,” he said. “My fondest memories are of the pot on the stove that you serve yourself from. Or passing the ulam (main dish) plates back and forth across the table. That’s important to me.," he said.
At the same time, the chef includes a glossary with all the Filipino ingredients and techniques used in his dishes on the backs of the menus.
“The education is really important to me also,” he said. “For some reason, our cuisine is skipping the step where we teach people what Filipino food is — we just start doing our own riffs on it. That’s important because food is an expression, but I want to take it down a notch and say this is what this food is, before you leave my brunch not knowing what longanisa is, for example.”
“As Filipinos, we don’t even really know what our cuisine is,” he added. “It’s a product of colonialism and a product of the history of the Philippines.”
The colonialism and history Boral references has resulted in foods that blend influences from Spain, China, Southeast Asia and the U.S. — making Filipino cuisine somewhat difficult to define. The amalgam, however, has made it that much more intriguing for diners, and that much more fun for chefs like Boral who are redefining the food for a new generation.
“There’s no way I can cook as good as your mom, so I won’t even try,” he laughed, adding that his own father instilled a love of food and cooking in him. “My dad cooked all kinds of food, but with a heavy emphasis on Filipino food. And I’m American — I grew up eating McDonald’s and stuff. So there’s no way I can make what’s considered traditional Filipino food, because that’s not me. But this is what I want to show you.”
Take, for instance, one of Boral’s signature dishes: the longanisa scotch egg. It’s house-made longanisa wrapped over a soft-boiled egg covered in crispy rice and panko, all deep fried. While not a traditional Filipino recipe, Boral emphasizes that the longanisa is a component that any Filipino food fan will recognize.
“You’re going to eat it and you’re going to get the ‘longanisa burps’ — because it’s really longanisa,” Boral laughed.
He also sources ingredients from local Filipino establishments, turning to Gemmae Bake Shop on the West Side for pan de sal.
“It’s important to support those places — if you want Filipino food, you go to them,” he said. “I want to champion those local businesses, because Gemmae in particular is doing really good work.”
Other Boral favorites include the sisig chilaquiles — a brilliant marriage of iconic Mexican and Filipino staples — and the halo halo parfait, a spin on the colorful, multi-component Filipino dessert that translates from tagalog to “mix mix.”
“I always try to push myself and switch things out,” Boral said of the menu. “But there are non-negotiables (such as the chilaquiles, parfait and scotch egg) that have to be there.”
Boral’s mother is also a part of the operation, offering consultation and making sweets for the brunches.
“After me, my mom’s my next harshest critic,” he said. “She’s my mom. She gives me a lot of input, and I’m like, ‘Whatever mom!’ … But what happens is, I try her idea and I realize she’s right. She always says, ‘Mom knows best.’ And she does.”
The chef plans to do Rice & Shine brunches around Long Beach monthly, and has only recently began dreaming of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.
“As of the last month or so, I’ve come around to the idea,” he said. “I think I’m ready to take the next step, so I’m starting to look into it.”
For more information and tickets, visit riceandshinebrunch.com.