CARROLL GARDENS — When Yana Gilbuena moved to New York, she couldn’t find a restaurant that truly represented the flavors of the Philippines.
As a hobby, she started cooking Filipino food for her friends — a decision that led her to plan a yearlong culinary adventure promoting her native cuisine.
In March, Gilbuena, 30, will launch the The SALO Project, in which she will travel to 50 states in 50 weeks and host underground pop-up dinners featuring traditional Filipino dishes.
Beyond typical dishes like Adobong baboy (braised pork with adobo sauce), spring roll-like Lumpia and Filipino leche flan, Gilbuena is hoping to spread awareness about her homeland’s cuisine and culture.
“There are so many other dishes that people don't know about," she said.
But before she embarks on her journey, Gilbuena is hosting a local dinner in Carroll Gardens on Jan. 26 — one of many she has organized in Brooklyn and California over the past year.
Using simple ingredients and family recipes, Gilbuena will be cooking dishes from three main regions in the Philippines: Luzon, Mindanao and Visayas, where she is from.
The five-course meal will include Ensaladang Rabanos at Dilis (a radish salad with anchovies), Sisig, (crispy pigs' ears and belly with soy and lime), and Maja Blanca (a coconut and corn pudding).
Gilbuena likes to keep things authentic. Diners must use their hands instead of utensils and eat on platter-sized banana leaves in lieu of plates. "I love the fact that it’s simple," she said.
The main ingredients, in varying ratios, are always soy sauce, vinegar and sugar. "That’s what I want to show the rest of the 50 states."
Last year, Gilbuena said goodbye to her apartment in Greenpoint and left her job as a P.R. marketing manager to start planning the 50-week culinary trip to both big and small cities.
Backpack and knife collection in hand, Gilbuena and filmmaker Cassandra Sicre will couch surf across the country, creating a documentary of their journey along the way.
A portion from the proceeds of each dinner, priced at $50, will be donated to the contingency relief plan for the victims of Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines in November and killed thousands of people.
To help cover the expenses of her trip, she’s launched an Indiegogo campaign to help raise $35,000.
The word “SALO” comes from Gilbuena’s native language of Tagalog and is a derivative of “Salu-salo,” meaning big party or gathering.
"In the Philippines, if you like something,” she said, “you repeat it."
For more information on the SALO dinner in Carroll Gardens, visit the website.