Jennifer Aranas

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An accomplished chef, restaurateur, and teacher, Jennifer Aranas was the chef owner of the nationally acclaimed Rambutan Restaurant, Chicago’s first fine-dining Filipino eatery.  Aranas started Rambutan with her husband in 1998, after leaving behind her career as a real estate accounting manager, to offer upscale Filipino dining to the Filipino community and to introduce the delicious flavors of her native cuisine to a new audience.  Since selling Rambutan in 2002, Jennifer spends her time as a food writer and a cooking instructor.  She lives with her husband and two children in Chicago.

Jennifer Aranas, bridges the continental gap between the exotic and the familiar by bringing Filipino cuisine from her ancestral homeland into the American kitchen.  With contagious warmth she takes readers on a gastronomic journey, expertly navigating through the bustling Asian market, demystifying foreign ingredients, and translating over 100 native recipes into friendly American fare that will inspire you to jump right into the kitchen.
           
Aranas shares an intimate collection of recipes that established her reputation as a respected chef, restaurateur, and teacher.  Complex flavors and easy style describe the wide range of traditional favorites featured here from crispy Lumpia eggrolls and hearty Paella, to Pancit noodles and sweet Halo-Halo sundaes.  Highlighted alongside national staples are innovative interpretations of native recipes like Jicama & Green Papaya Salad, Sweet Potato & Plantain Mash, and Ambrosia Shortcake.  Having served thousands of customers in her Filipino-American restaurant, Aranas thoroughly understands the American palate and the tantalizing combination of flavors that make Filipino cuisine satisfying and memorable.

The Filipino-American Kitchen starts the exploration of this delicious cuisine by walking readers down a chronological timeline that explains how centuries of Chinese traders, European colonization, and American occupation transformed the original Malay food into modern Filipino cuisine. The Philippines’ rich history includes influences from Spain, Mexico, Japan, and the United States to make the Islands a true culinary crossroads of East and West.

Cooking starts with The Basics chapter which outlines the building blocks of Filipino cuisine revealing the flavor essentials that set this food apart from its Asian neighbors. 

The recipe chapters cover everything from Appetizers to Desserts.  Included are uncomplicated, easy-to-prepare recipes perfect for the time-challenged cook as well as more ambitious dishes that will impress your guests at festive gatherings and elegant celebrations.  Guiding you through the recipes are helpful preparation tips and serving hints along with suggested variations that allow you to make these dishes your own.

The Grocery Store chapter carefully walks readers through the Asian market, taking the mystery out of choosing, storing, and cooking common Filipino ingredients.   Aranas guides you through the aisles of noodles, condiments, and produce to give you confidence as you prepare for the recipes ahead.
           
The Filipino-American Kitchen is a unique cookbook that brings the culinary traditions of the Philippines into your home while revealing a new side of Filipino cuisine.  Whether you are familiar with Filipino food or new to its flavors, you need not go further than your own kitchen to enjoy and share mouth-watering Filipino dishes that are sure to become family favorites.

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Recognition For Rambutan Restaurant
Listed as one of Chicago’s Best New Restaurants; Chicago Magazine 1998

Food & Wine, June 2001: “The Next Asian Cuisine” featuring Rambutan Restaurant

Zagat Rated 2002; 26 out of 30 points – highest rated Asian restaurant in Chicago

Jennifer Aranas listed as one of Chicago’s Up –And-Coming Chefs
– Chicago Tribune, December 2001

Cooking Light Magazine, August 2002: Best Ethnic Meal in Chicago

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Praise for The Filipino-American Kitchen and for Rambutan Restaurant

“Chicago lost a great restaurant when Jennifer closed Rambutan.  The food was authentically Filipino, delicious, and modern.  The Filipino-American Kitchen brings back the great memories we all have of her restaurant as she generously shares her talents and culture with us.”

Paul Kahan, Executive Chef / Partner: Blackbird, avec

“The Filipino-American Kitchen is a detailed, carefully written, labor of love.  The amount of information and care that was taken to write this book reflects Jennifer’s generous, intense spirit.  The exciting flavors and visually enticing food that she prepares is a gift.  This book is great exposure to Filipino food and a pleasure from which to cook.”

Sarah Stegner Nambiar, Chef / Owner:  Prairie Grass Cafe 

“Jennifer’s cooking is a delight; every dish makes you feel as though you took an exotic journey through the Philippines and then somehow landed comfortably back in your own home.”

Shelley L. Young, Chef / Founder, The Chopping Block Cooking Schools

“Relocated to roomier Wicker Park digs, this up-and-coming tapas-style Filipino restaurant is among the best deals in town for exquisite, hand-crafted eats; it’s worth seeking out for nontraditional dining and old-fashioned value.”

Zagat Survey Chicago 2002, 26 out of 30 points (highest rated Asian restaurant along with Arun and Mirai Sushi)

“Since we wrote about Rambutan last December, chef Jennifer Aranas and her partner (in life as well as in business), Cesar Casillas, have reorganized the Filipino menu into ‘starters’ and ‘main attractions.’  Yet their mission at this gold sponge-painted, ten-table gem remains the same: to familiarize novices with cuisine that blends Spanish and Chinese influences by offering small portions – think tapas or dim sum ($4.50-$7).  Some of our Filipino friends have sniffed that the food here isn’t authentic, but that’s not the point.  Like many talented chefs, Aranas forges a unique style that elevates the specialties of her homeland and, in the process, makes them more approachable for Americans.  Camarones at gata, sautéed tiger shrimp ringing roasted garlic-coconut mashed potatoes in creamy coconut milk, typifies her imaginative preparations.  Kare-Kare (oxtail stew) comes in a lighter-than-usual peanut sauce that allows the flavors of the oxtail and vegetables to shine.  Pancit, here a mix of egg and rice noodles, benefits from julienne shiitakes along with the other vegetables, chicken, and sausage.  Guisado sitao, green beans glazed with caramelized hoisin sauce, is a must.  Traditional openers such a lumpia Shanghai (skinny little egg rolls) and gingered pork shumai (dainty open-topped dumplings) come prettily arranged and sauced.  Desserts, especially the individual warm chocolate truffle cake and the leche flan partially encased in spun sugar, would pass muster at a fancy restaurant.  So would the service.  BYOB.”

Chicago Magazine, Best New Restaurants, May 1999

“After opening to considerable acclaim on the far North Side and rapidly outgrowing its 26-seat home, this rising star has a new location with more than double the space, an outdoor patio, and a liquor license.  The menu is still set up tapas-style; all dishes are small and cost between $6 and $13.  Sunday brunch is served a la dim sum, allowing you to sample many tastes without spending lavishly.  AE, D, DC, MC, V.  Closed Sun. No lunch.”

New York Times Restaurant, May 2001

 



The Filipino-American Kitchen