Kabalen serves up some Capampangan classics

Community News & Features Dec 22, 2017 at 5:10 pm
JONALD Quinto, chef and owner of Kabalen

JONALD Quinto, chef and owner of Kabalen

By Irish Mae Silvestre

Most home cooks might be willing to forgo an ingredient or two but not Capampangan cooks, according to Jonald Quinto, chef and owner of Kabalen, a five-year old turo turo style restaurant that’s been holding its own in the Wilson and Bathurst area by serving up the best of Capampangan cuisine. Quinto dishes out on learning about the business from his parents, and the popularity of Filipino cuisine in Toronto and beyond.

What makes Capampangan food different?

Capampangans are well-known for cooking. We take pride in what we do so if we’re missing even one ingredient, we won’t start cooking until all the ingredients are complete. At Kabalen, we specialize in Capampangan cuisine, which is what we’ve been doing ever since I was a kid. I grew up with these dishes so I learned about it from my parents and grandparents. And whatever I’ve learned from them is what I’ve put into the restaurant. As a chef and owner you have to be that person who knows your background to ensure that you’re serving people [authentic] dishes and the best quality – it’s the traditional Capampangan home cooking.



Where did you learn the business of running a restaurant?

The first restaurant we had was Pampagueña, which is a family business that my parents have built up. We’ve had that business for almost 25 years now. As soon as I turned 29, I decided to open my own restaurant, Kabalen, which also [includes] Kabalen Pastry and Kabalen Lechon. I opened Kabalen with the help of my parents. They were very scared in the beginning… well, of course, who would take that risk, right? Especially in [the Wilson and Bathurst] area where there’s a lot of Filipino restaurants. But I have to be confident with the knowledge that I do have and in what I’m doing in order to compete with other restaurants.

What are your thoughts on Filipino cuisine going mainstream?

For me, you can twist any dish you want to twist and you can do whatever you want to change it up a little bit. But I want to keep it traditional with a modern style.

Is it becoming more popular outside the community?

I think so, yes! Of course, it doesn’t just have to be in Toronto; everywhere in the world, Filipinos are trying to introduce Filipino cuisine to the mainstream and other nationalities. We want it to grow and we want them to notice our food.
Where do you see this current popularity going in the future? What’s next?

We can expect a lot of things from others because every Filipino has different ideas but I think, as of now, it’s doing very well. Right now, we’re introducing kamayan, which I think is going to go very well.



What makes Filipino food so unique?

Because it’s simple but it’s flavorful. It’s simple dishes with simple ingredients but because of the way you cook it, it tastes better than other cuisines. It’s always flavorful. As for the flavors, it’s the sweetness and the sour and when you mix them together, that’s Filipino food. It tastes different; it’s not like Chinese, Vietnamese or Thai – we have our own flavor style.

What dishes do you have on offer for Christmas and New Year?

For Christmas and New Year, we always serve our specialty kare kare and sisig – they’re always the specials in our restaurant.

What’s your favorite Christmas dish?

Morcon. It reminds me of back home and my grandma. And another dish is kalamay which is a traditional sweet which reminds me of Christmas back home.

Kabalen Restaurant, 3778 Bathurst Street, Toronto, (647) 352-7222, www.kabalen.ca