Words: Shamim de Brún
Fresh off the back of announcing their residency in Warehouse Food Market Bahay are back at with the publication of their new book MASARAP. It is the eighth book in the Blasta Books series and is the final one of the 2023 slate.
Chef Richie Castillo and his partner Alex O’Neill are set to captivate the nation with their latest creation. Bahay, a pop-up restaurant that introduces diners to the diverse flavours of Filipino cuisine, is now taking its culinary journey to the pages of a cookbook. “MASARAP,” which means “tasty” in Tagalog, offers a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Filipino food. It blends centuries of influences and cultural diversity with an Irish twist.
Richie Castillo, who was born and raised in Dublin to an Irish mother and a Filipino father, draws inspiration from his mixed heritage. After a decade of working in kitchens across the globe, he sought a way to express his culinary creativity on his terms. Encouraged by his partner Alex, the duo birthed Bahay, named after the Tagalog word for “house” or “home.” Their mission is not only to introduce people to Filipino flavours using Irish ingredients but also to celebrate Irish-Filipino culture through food, music, and art in unique spaces and venues across Ireland.
The cookbook, MASARAP, is an embodiment of Richie’s journey. It delves into the Filipino pantry, exploring the historical influences of settlement, colonization, trade, and migration on the Filipino food landscape. The cookbook offers an array of recipes that showcase the essence of Filipino cuisine, characterized by the powerful trinity of taste – salty, sour, and sweet. From beloved childhood classics like adobo, sinigang, and kare-kare to inventive creations like banana ketchup-glazed wings and Filly cheesesteak, MASARAP promises to be a unique exploration of Filipino food seen through an Irish cultural lens.
Alex O’Neill, brings her own creative flair to the venture. With a background in IT and a passion for exploring art, language, and culture, she saw the potential in the online space to market Bahay and share the incredible Filipino flavours Richie was exploring.
Blasta Books 2023 is a venture that redefines traditional cookbook publishing with its fresh and accessible approach to food culture. Blasta Books, an imprint of Nine Bean Rows Books, has quickly gained recognition for prioritizing new and unpublished voices in Ireland’s food landscape, allowing for a more inclusive representation of the country’s diverse cuisine.
The first series of Blasta Books, launched in 2022, has received widespread acclaim, with all four books winning Cookbook of the Year at the 2021 Irish Food Writing Awards. Kris+in Jensen, the publisher, was also honoured with the Outstanding Achievement Award for her work in promoting Irish food and food writing. The Blasta Books series aims to provide a more inclusive snapshot of Ireland’s modern and diverse food culture, championing voices that have been underrepresented in the culinary world.
As the culinary world eagerly anticipates the release of MASARAP, it is not just a cookbook but a cultural celebration that offers a unique lens into the flavours of the Philippines, enriched by Irish influences. This book serves as a testament to the creativity, diversity, and inclusivity of the culinary world, highlighting the power of blending cultures and ingredients to create something truly special.
Elsewhere on Char: Bahay Announce Residency