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Kain Na! Invites Its Readers To Share A Filipino Meal In Charming, Bite-sized Vignettes

It is not a cookbook, but it does entice one to cook. Authors Felice Sta. Maria and Bryan Koh, and young illustrator, Mariel Ylagan Garcia explain

RPD Publications recently launched Kain Na! An Illustrated Guide to Philippine Food by foremost Philippine food historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria and intrepid Philippine food writer Bryan Koh with illustrations by artist Mariel Ylagan Garcia. The title, Kain Na!, captures the charm of a favorite Filipino invitation to both stranger and friend—kain na or let’s eat, a warm and genuine invitation to sharing a meal that can be meager or abundant. It speaks of the Filipino soul.


The book features many of the food that Filipinos are familiar with as well as the lesser known regional dishes. It is divided into sections that reflect the way that Filipinos eat—Lútong Báhay (food cooked at home), Meryénda (snack), Lútong Kalsáda (street food), Pulútan (bar chow), Pang-Pistá (party food), Mga Sawsáwan (dips and sauces), among others. It is not a cookbook, but it does entice one to cook.


Sta. Maria, Koh, and Garcia belong to three different generations, an unexpected and unlikely match that worked out very well. Most prominent is Sta. Maria, the author of the award-winning book, The Governor-General’s Kitchen: Philippine Culinary Vignettes and Recipes, 1521-1935 (Anvil Publishing, 2006 and 2011), and more recently, What Kids Should Know About Philippine Food (Adarna Books, 2016). 

One book, three generations, from left, Mariel Ylagan Garcia, Bryan Koh, and Felice Sta. Maria

Sta. Maria takes the lead and describes their symbiosis, “I enjoy working with young people. They are young enough to be my son and granddaughter. It is their passion for better than the best results that strengthens our bond. They are both very competent. Mariel clearly adds her signature style to her art. Bryan has strong cooking skills and knows Philippine flavors as interpreted down to the grassroots.” She continues and reveals what just may be the secret to their teamwork, “Plus we three are always on or ahead of schedule. I’m used to working in teams like that.” 


Sta. Maria speaks highly of her collaborators, “Bryan is a charmer. His appreciation for Philippine food and culture is very real, very sincere. The two of us can dream Philippine food in our sleep then wake up hankering for the real thing. Mariel offers a very fresh and young interpretation of Philippine food as we know it today. I’m surprised she didn’t get chubby just thinking about all the dishes she had to illustrate according to a very rigid schedule.” 


Koh is just as enthusiastic about the collaboration. Hailing from Singapore, Bryan Koh has penned Milk Pigs & Violet Gold: Philippine Cookery, 0451 Mornings are for Mont Hin Gar: Burmese Food Stories, and Bekwoh: Stories & Recipes from Peninsula Malaysia’s East Coast. 

He shares, “Felice was generous with her time and always so encouraging about me writing about Filipino food. Mariel is such a talent. It was my first time meeting her at the launch, but when I saw the first drafts, I knew she was absolutely right for Kain Na!


Mariel Ylagan Garcia specializes in watercolor and oil painting. Most of her works are inspired by botanical and female figures. As the youngest member of the team, she infectiously gushes with all the excitement of youth, “Working with Felice and Bryan is a dream!!! I super adore Felice! I love her!!! The first time we met, I felt so comfy to talk about the things I love. Like yes, food, history and the most! my love for botanical stuff!!! There’s a small kilig feeling when she said we can get along well talking about those things! I was very excited also to meet Bryan! He was very nice… he always makes sure everyone is okay and enjoying the moment… because at all the meetings, I am always nervous and shaking because it’s my first launch… my anxiety is attacking me. The best thing I learned in the project is that if you want to achieve something, you have to be 100% committed and you have to be well disciplined. Skills will just follow.”


Sta. Maria and Koh aren’t strangers to each other. They’ve known each other for many years with Sta. Maria writing the foreword to his first book, Milk Pigs & Violet Gold: Philippine Cookery. Garcia, on the other hand, is the revelation and she rises admirably to the challenge.


Kain Na! is informative and comprehensive, a wonderful introduction to those unfamiliar with Philippine food and a heart-warming reminder to those who know Philippine food. 



Kain Na! is available at The Kitchen Bookstore