As we look back on the many libations offered for Oktoberfest, the Tex-Mex fare we had consumed to celebrate the latter half of Hispanic Heritage Month, and families getting their treats ready for Halloween, it might be worthwhile to note that October is also Filipino American History Month. This designation commemorates the landing of the first Filipinos in California in 1587. You’re not reading the numbers wrong. This is 33 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock. Filipinos were actually the first Asians to arrive in America. In the modern century, waves of Filipino migrants to Maryland initially came in as laborers, but by the latter part of the 1900s, professionals particularly in the field of nursing have settled here. In the early 2000s, Filipinos were hired as public school teachers. Fort Washington, south of the county, was where one would have to go to find Filipino eats and grocery stores. But as the population grew, Filipino-centric establishments have been sprouting in many different parts of the county.
One of them is in Beltsville, home to Manila Mart. This family-owned establishment has seen rapid growth over the years. Its old location was mainly a mini-store selling Philippine products and goodies, but at its new location on Garrett Avenue, it has since expanded to include an eat-in area with the food laid out in glass-protected food warmers where patrons can view the day’s specialties and point to their choice of viand to go with a generous helping of rice. If you are unfamiliar with Filipino cuisine, go for the Filipino-style barbecue. It is grilled pork or chicken on a stick traditionally marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, and sugar. It’s best to go during lunchtime because they run out by the end of the day. Another must-try is the lumpia shanghai—fried spring roll filled with ground pork or beef, which you may dip into their special tamarind sauce (or paired with sweet chili sauce). This dish is cooked fresh, so call ahead of time to place your order for pick-up. The grocery store is well-stocked on all things from the Philippines—bags of dried mangoes, frozen packs of Filipino breakfast sausages called longganisa (follow the directions on the package; you can’t go wrong!), and bottles of all-purpose sauce called Mang Tomas, which is a perfect enhancer of any roasted meat (try it with any store-bought rotisserie chicken).
So before you stuff yourself with your child’s trick-or-treat haul, make room for a stick of barbecue and a plate of lumpia. We’re sure this won’t be the last time you’ll haunt Manila Mart for treats!
Manila Mart Grocery & Carryout
5023 Garrett Avenue,
Beltsville, MD 20705
Closed on Mondays
Lynn Topel has lived and worked as a public school teacher in Maryland since 2005. She has since married and is raising two young children. You can check out her blogs in http://the-mama-travels.com/.