Are you in the mood for Southeast Asian cuisine? Why not try some Filipino food? If you're unsure of where to go to sate your curiosity for Philippine cuisine, you may be surprised to know that aside from driving, a hop aboard the first car of the Jamaica, Queens-bound "J" train to the Woodhaven train stop brings you to such a venue—Mama Meena's Family Restaurant.
Mama Meena's Family Restaurant is located on 94-20 Jamaica Avenue, Woodhaven, NY
Since its 2008 opening and 2011 feature in an Eyewitness News "Neighborhood Eats" segment, flocks of patrons stream steadily into this cozy Filipino restaurant in Woodhaven, New York.
As you approach the venue, you'll notice yellow-and-white checkered curtains and a bright red awning bearing the restaurant's name—all of which hint to the family-type ambience you'll experience inside.
Visit Mama Meena's and begin your adventure exploring Philippine cuisine.
Dine amidst soft sconce lighting, warm yellow walls and enjoy your lunch or dinner entrees—which are all cooked to order by Mama Meena herself.
Its interior offers pleasant dining in a cozy setting.
An original painting by Filipino artist, Ernesto Avila depicts a typical Philippine harvest scene.
For those who are just beginning their exploration of Philippine cuisine, Chef Meena explains, "Filipino food basically is a melting pot of all those cultures that's been in our country." A blend of Japanese, Spanish and Malay influences, Filipino dishes also include flavors from India and China, among others.
She shares that for newbies, "usually on the appetizer side, we always recommend the Lumpia Shanghai. Lumpia Shanghai is ground pork with carrots and jicama, seasoned with salt and pepper and as a binder, you put eggs in it, and then you wrap it in a spring roll wrapper."
Lumpia Shanghai uses ingredients from various foreign influences, such as jicama (Spaniards) and spring roll wrapper (Chinese). Served with sweet chili sauce.
Similar to Lumpia Shanghai, Quikiam includes a secret ingredient and is wrapped in soya bean skin. Dip 'em in sweet chili sauce.
Daing na Bangus or marinated and deep-fried milkfish
Bulalo or beef shank soup with onions and veggies
More adventurous folks can opt for Crispy Pata or deep-fried pork hocks.
For vegetarian options, she reassures that ingredients like meat can be omitted. "Usually people buy the GSK or the Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa. Basically they always love it," she says. This particular dish contains Asian string beans and Asian pumpkin cooked in coconut milk sans shrimp (vegetarian). Or, try Lumpia Prito, a veggie version of Lumpia Shanghai—filled with jicama, sweet potato, carrots, tofu and string beans.
Vegetable-filled eggrolls accompanied by spicy vinegar and pepper.
Tortang Talong or eggplant omelet garnished with slices of tomatoes and lettuce.
A visit to Mama Meena's is not complete without dessert, so make sure you leave room for these sweets. Your choices include Mama's Leche Flan, or Turon a la Mode—which is plantain banana wrapped in spring roll wrapper, and topped with your choice of traditional Filipino brand ice cream flavors—such as purple yam, mango or coconut.
Turon a la Mode complemented by traditional Filipino mango ice cream.
Or perhaps you'd like to try another crowd pleaser—Halo-Halo, which literally translates to "Mix-Mix". This traditional Filipino concoction comprises of shaved ice, lots of milk and sweetened mung, white and garbanzo beans, plus sweetened banana and sweet potato.
A popular traditional Filipino dessert. Mama Meena's Halo-Halo includes her twist—shredded cantaloupe. The Special Halo-Halo is topped with scoops of Filipino brand ice cream.
Mama Meena shares, "There is an art to eating Halo-Halo. Instead of eating it from the top, you have to mix from the bottom up. So you incorporate everything."
After sampling the array of appetizers, entrees and dessert options, it's not a tall order to leave quite content—which makes Mama Meena happy. She wants her customers "to go out of the restaurant, rubbing their bellies."
And by offering generous portions of delicious homecooked-style fare within a relaxing venue, it's unsurprising that many of its first-time visitors have become regulars.