So What’s a Kamayan Feast?
I found the best definition on line. It’s a Filipino feast in which you eat unimaginable amounts of food off banana leaves at a communal table without any utensils whatsoever. No spoons, forks, knives, chopsticks. Hands only.
Yes, Filipinos know how to eat with their bare hands—it’s a centuries old practice. Some say it makes the food taste better. The practice maybe primitive but, by golly, there are rules. Filipino kids get a stern rebuke for not eating with their hands correctly.
I watched as Bernie ceremoniously placed the calamansi kale salad in flattened circles down the center of the table. With a flourish, he added green, malungay noodles alongside the salad, capping it all off with a fried fish head. (BTW, that calamansi salad will make a kale lover out of you instantly.)
How to Eat with Your Hands
We were briefly schooled in the proper etiquette by Chef Malou Perez-Nievera, a native of the Philippines and former resident of California. First, hands must be clean. That was easily done when servers provided packets of wipes to each diner.
Next, take the food from the table with your left hand and place it on the banana leaf. Eat it with your right hand. Rice looked a bit challenging. No problem, she said. Just scoop it between your first two fingers and thumb to form a small ball. Curl fingers around the ball, lean forward and plop the whole wad in your mouth.
At the end of the meal, a server appeared with spoons for the dessert, that involved cake and rice. By then, I felt so accomplished with digital dining, I could have done without the utensil, but we all took one and reverted back to our everyday habits.
If you’re bored with ho-hum dining, tablecloths and other refinements, give this a try. A Kamayan Feast would make a great gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend or relative. Reservations for the monthly event can be made on line at Hiro Asian Kitchen. Cost: $55 per person (drinks and gratuity not included.)
Finger eating is fun and becoming increasingly popular on the Left Coast, where there are Kamayan restaurants that do this routinely. As one food writer observed, Kamayan could become the new Vietnamese.