When Melissa Miranda moved back to her hometown of Washington, D.C. after stints in NYC and Italy, she wasn’t planning to go to her Labor of Love cooking pop-up Musang holds permanent space. Its name, which means “wild cat” in Tagalog – the language of one of the largest ethnic groups in the Philippines – is a sort of ode to her father, after his early immigrant to America from Cavite’ proudly sporting a black Ford Mustang with a fallen “T”. He met his immigrant wife from Quezon City in Beacon Hill, a charming Asian-majority Seattle neighborhood, and Cat Hill stands today in a Spanish Colonial-style periwinkle house. The restaurant’s physical opening at 2020 is the result of four years of mission-driven work with Filipinx leaders, in which Miranda experimented with her parents’ traditional recipes (many never tried) write it down). There, the second-generation American chef — a James Beard Award semifinalist for the second year in a row — presented her own rendition of food, and she remembers watching her father fish, bones and dry herself.
Photo: Adam Gardula
However, unlike Filipino cooking which depends on island-specific ingredients, Miranda’s menu incorporates global Influences and seasonal vegetation. For example, her pinakbet has unexpected layers of texture, which is great for tagalog with bagoong alamang prawn paste Not typical for the English version (her parents’ preference) or the Ilocano version, which features delicious fermented fish. In fact, Miranda described her pinakbet
as more like gumbo than a mushy stew. “We break it down into a kabocha squash puree with tomato, onion and garlic,” she explains. In keeping with the history of both recipes, Miranda’s version does include okra, eggplant, and lentils, but they’re mashed and fried with sweet potatoes, while her bitter gourd is marinated in rice vinegar and Johnny’s salt , for decoration. “Then we actually dehydrate the shrimpbagoong and it turns a nice, bright pink color,” she laughs. “It’s great to see older Filipinos walk into the restaurant because they’re so surprised and excited.” Chris Ono’s Deconstructed California Roll
Photo: Katrina Frederick