Spotlight: Inay's Kitchen
Even with the pin on my phone's Google Maps app indicating I had arrived at my destination, I had a hard time spotting Inay's Kitchen, a Filipino restaurant in Ocoee. Despite the open signs in the window, which were covered with bamboo matchstick blinds, I had a hard time identifying it as a restaurant.
Once I figured it out, I went inside and was greeted by a sign inside the door instructing me to proceed to the back of the space.
That's where you'll find the actual Kitchen, tended to by the actual Inay and a couple of other women.
The available dishes are on display behind glass in a steam table. Don't be intimidated by them; any of the ladies will be glad to explain what they are, but do pay special attention to the more authentic Filipino dishes. After all, there are darned few Filipino restaurants in the area, and you can get spaghetti at thousands of places around town (and yes, spaghetti is on Inay's menu).
But if you really want noodles, get the Pancit, which basically means noodles. Rice noodles, to be precise, served here sort of lo mein style, with sticks of carrots, chopped scallions and nubbins of chicken, coated with soy.
My main choice was the Bicol Express, an oddly named stew of pork with spicy chilies. Although it sounds like it might be a faster version of a regular Bicol, Bicol Express is named for the train service that runs from Manila to the region of Bicol, an area that's known for its spicy foods. BE is traditionally made with coconut milk and shrimp paste, giving it a slightly earthy taste to go with the hot notes. It's best eaten with white rice.
I also had the Lechon Kawali, which is almost identical to the more widely available chicharrones, or pork rinds. What distinguishes the Filipino version is the dipping sauce served with them. It looks like a gravy but is vinegar based and made with pork liver paste (find it in the pork liver paste aisle of your local Publix). I found that the Kawali, with crisped skin and good hunks of fatty epidermis, were just fine without any sauce.
Better than a sauce, a bottle of San Miguel, the Filipino pilsner style beer, is a perfect accompaniment to all the food.
The restaurant opened in February but Inay has been cooking Filipino food for several years as a caterer, including a stint following the NASCAR circuit. I assume the drivers were better at finding Inay's Kitchen than I was.