Chatting With Chef-Owner of Irenia Ryan Garlitos

Photo by Priscilla Iezzi

Chef-owner of Irenia in Santa Ana, on how his grandmother’s Filipino cooking inspired his culinary career.


EARLIEST FOOD MEMORY
Watching my grandma Irenia make longanisa (Filipino sausage) by hand in the backyard of our Yorba Linda home.

A HIDDEN O.C. GEM
Tanakaya in Tustin. I order the cold soba noodles with vegetables every time I visit.

PRIMARY INSPIRATIONS FOR COOKING FILIPINO CUISINE
The underrepresentation in modern restaurants of the food and flavors I grew up eating at home

FAVORITE INGREDIENTS
Acidity is important to a well-balanced dish. Vinegar or citrus, depending on what you are cooking, are good ways to achieve that balance.

DREAM FOODIE TRIP
San Sebastián because it’s a small city with a high concentration of quality food. I have always had a fascination with Spanish cuisine because there actually is a strong Spanish influence in Filipino food. Or Singapore, because there is a unique blend of cultures there and as a result, a high density of good, interesting food. 

Favorite dish to prepare for my loved ones
Any kind of soup or stew. A lot of the Filipino food I grew up eating was soups or stews, so I associate those types of dishes with home, with comfort. Soup is the most comforting thing to eat, in my opinion.

Favorite home-cooked meal
My dad’s pork sinigang

Current food obsession
Finding ways to cook with every part of an ingredient to minimize food waste

Favorite dish to prepare
Currently, our braised lamb kaldereta

A dish I’m proud of
Our dinuguan, because everyone told me that no one would order it. Traditionally it is a dish made using pork offal and/or meat stewed in pork blood. Our interpretation of the dish uses confit pork shoulder, pork blood sauce, shallots, Anaheim peppers and radish.

What I love about Santa Ana
The diversity of the clientele, and the support we’ve been shown by the neighborhood’s small business community.

Tips for home cooks
Taste continuously because every time you add a new ingredient or move into a new step of your cooking process, it changes the dish. You need to taste it in every stage to be sure you like the way it’s developing.


Irenia
400 N. Broadway
Santa Ana
657-245-3466
ireniarestaurant.com
★★★1/2

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