There’s something really special happening in the Dallas food scene, specifically pertaining to Asian cuisine. If you caught my momo/dumpling making blog with the guys from Momo Shack Dumplings, I’m writing this series to feature Asian Americans that are changing the Asian food scene in Dallas.
The purpose of this series to talk to the people behind the food and get hands on with their process… see what it’s like to cook and create from their POV. Food is more than a beautiful photo; food is an expression of a culture, an interesting story, a fond memory, and peek into the lives of the very people are whipping up these magical dishes. Today, I’m excited to feature Anna Swann, chef and owner of ULAM, a filipino pop up concept.
You can stay in the know of her pop ups by following her on Instagram. Be vigilant! Her tickets sell out quickly.
We became quick friends through Instagram and I enjoyed or quippy exchanges over our love for food and workouts. After visiting one of Anna’s pop ups hosted at a local brewery, I quickly realized I needed more of her cooking in my life.
We met up one Saturday morning for her to teach me how to make her popular filipino-inspired adobo fried chicken with fried rice. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she moved to Dallas in 2006 to attend UNT and currently works full time at Fossil. ULAM is a passion project and side hustle that has gained momentum and popularity over the past year. I’m here to support her all the way.
If you’re not familiar, adobo is a filipino cooking process that involves marinating protein, seafood or vegetables in a vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorn mixture until it is time to cook. Filipino cuisine in Dallas is pretty few and far in between. So I was excited to try it for myself for the first time.
To quote Swann, “Filipino food has this way of taking pretty simple/not too out there ingredients, with the end result being layers of flavor and deliciousness. There’s influence from many countries due to colonialism, trade or just being neighbors. It hits the salty, sweet, sour notes on the palette. Adobo is a great example of that.”
When she told me we were making adobo fried chicken, I cried happy tears. Fried chicken is my love language. First we started with a simple fried rice. We used day old rice, cranked up the heat and mixed it in using some of the adobo marinade to tied into the dish for later.
Next, we moved on to the chicken. The pieces had been soaking in the marinade overnight, so all we had to do was coat it in flour mixed with different seasonings, and get ready to fry them till crispy.
Following her journey has been really cool. As we waited for the chicken to fry, we talked about growing up Asian American and what that meant to us when it came to food and our families. Swann said that cooking was a way to pay homage to her family and her culture. Her “expression” of the adobo recipe is something that she believes her “lola” or grandmother in Tagalog would be proud to eat.
Swann is a charismatic ball of energy and you can see that in her cooking. I’ve enjoyed seeing at other Asian food pop ups, both serving and cultivating this community and eating her way through it – one tasty dish at a time. You can also find in tow at her pop ups, her husband Spencer. She gushes over his overwhelming support managing customers at her events so that she can do her thing. Swann says he’s embraced her culture and food with no judgement and it means the world to have a partner that can do that.
So where can you try her cooking? Coming up this fall, you can find her at Hagfest on September 22th at Four Corners to support fellow foodie and chef, Reyna Duong of Sandwich Hag. In October, she’ll also be part the Mid-Autumn Moon Fest on October 5th from 8-11pm at Sandwich Hag’s brick and mortar location in the Cedars. I’ll be there!
What’s next for Swann? In addition to pop ups, she’s looking to expand into catering and private dinners. A distant, but probably not too distant goal, a restaurant where she can serve a menu of delicious filipino dishes.
With Dallas being named the 2019 Restaurant City of the Year by Bon Appetit, I believe that has to do with the expansion of Asian cuisine in Dallas being led by young professionals and millennials doing exactly what Swann is doing – sharing good, wholesome food made with love.