By Kevin Collison
Chrissy Nucum helped her mother, aunt and grandmother prepare meals growing up in Manila, but it took persistence to wrangle the recipes for her new West Bottoms restaurant, KC Pinoy.
“My grandmother was the cook in the house and keeper of the recipes,” she said. “In 2013, she visited the States and stopped by in Kansas City for a month.
“I told her, you’ve got to write your recipes down. When you die, who will cook all the food?”
Her lobbying worked, and now Nucum has inherited her grandmother’s mantle as the cook in the family.
She sends a jar of one of her grandmother’s specialties, a pickled papaya concotion called “atsara” back to her family in New Jersey each year.
And after enjoying success running a food truck for three years, Nucum now has her own place in space formerly occupied by West Bottoms Kitchen at 1623 Genessee across from the Livestock Exchange Building.
Nucum moved to the U.S. in 2000 after graduating from the University of the Philippines with a psychology degree.
She said earning a living cooking was part of her “strategic escape plan from corporate life.” Before launching the food truck venture, Nucum had worked nine years for an Internet security firm.
She began searching for a fixed venue as the cost of renting a kitchen for the food truck began escalating. After considering the new Parlor in the East Crossroads, her broker told her about the West Bottoms opportunity in July.
“This fell in my lap,” she said. “I wasn’t looking at the West Bottoms…I think it’s a great group of misfits.
“You have Voltaire, the Golden Ox, Stockyards Brewing and Rockstar here. All small businesses, no chains. It feels like everybody is rooting for you to be successful.”
The name Pinoy comes from a nickname coined for Filipinos by American soldiers stationed there. The GI’s considered it a derogatory term, but younger Filipinos adopted it as their own.
Filipino food has its roots in Spanish colonial times, with generous contributions from the nation’s sizable Chinese population and a dash from its Indian immigrants. Vinegar is the most dominant flavor along with soy sauce, garlic and ginger.
“It’s usually a mix of sweet and salty,” Nucum said.
One of her more popular dishes is Adobong Manuk, chicken thighs stewed in vinegar, soy sauce and spices. She described it as the unofficial national dish of the Philippines and a gateway to her nation’s culinary life.
Another regional delicacy is Sisig, a dish with improvisational roots. Filipinos noticed the American military cooks were throwing out the pig heads.
Rather than let them go to waste, they boiled, grilled and chopped the meat into little pieces. The pork is combined with a soy and calamansi sauce topped with an egg and served on a sizzling platter.
The KC Pinoy hours are Wednesdays through Fridays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and 4- to 8 p.m. Saturday hours are 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Nucum plans to start Sunday brunch in January from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
She also hopes to continue the food truck operation.
“We’re doing the restaurant full time and will try to do the truck,” Nucum said. “I still don’t know how, but I have three months to figure it out.”
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