Bahay Kubo: Home of the Filipino Báhn Mì
First-generation Filipina American Mona Gordina Tovera found a way to reach communities in Sacramento through her love for food and culture. Through the window of a bright yellow food truck known as Bahay Kubo, customers can enjoy Asian fusion food, connect with multicultural communities and experience the home of the Filipino Báhn Mì.
“It’s home for the unity of many communities joined by Filipino fusion food that all can enjoy. That is Bahay Kubo,” said Mona, owner and creator of the Filipino food truck. “By fusing American, Filipino, and other cuisines, we intrigue older and younger generations that may or may not know what Filipino cuisine is. It’s something different but still true to my Filipino roots.”
Mona started her food truck at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. But she wanted to make something more than just a food business. Inspired by her Filipino heritage, growing up around her parents’ cooking, and having over 21 years of experience in the culinary industry, she established Bahay Kubo as a space for new food experiences, innovation, and sharing who she is on a plate.
Bahay Kubo, also known as a Nipa Hut, is a square-shaped house native to the Philippines. As a symbol of Philippine culture and architecture, the structure is made of bamboo and nipa leaves that sit on stilts, providing shade in the summer and refuge during the rainy season.
“It is used as a place of gathering, feeding, and entertaining friends and family. I thought it was only fitting that we name our business Bahay Kubo since I started making food out of my house for friends and family,” Mona said.
Mona started creating dishes and posting on social media for family and friends after her job at Scott’s Seafood in Folsom — now known as Scott’s Seafood Roundhouse — had been closed for months.
“Somehow, food brought everyone together during the pandemic. With the amount of interest from the community, it motivated me to keep moving forward and renew the energy to build what I have been putting on the back burner,” Mona said.
Mona ran into several hurdles during the development of Bahay Kubo, such as renewing permits and licenses and other logistical difficulties for new business owners. With the help and support of her wife, Olga Gordina Tovera, Mona gained the resources and community connections needed to persevere.
“Mona and I share common cultural values of respecting your elders, family first above else, and the belief that good food brings the community together. I believe this is what ultimately made our relationship, marriage, and business so successful,” Olga said. “Between the two of us, we bring culinary, cultural, managerial, administrative, world, and people experience to the table.”
With Olga as Bahay Kubo’s social media manager, Mona could concentrate on the menu and bring to life what would soon be their most popular item: the “Filipino Báhn Mì,” a fusion sandwich that combines Mona’s love for Vietnamese cuisine and culinary passion for Filipino food.
“Filipino food is very versatile and varied in flavors. It’s a menagerie of many cultural influences and yields itself to interesting and new flavor combinations,” Mona said.
This signature sandwich includes ingredients from different types of cuisine, incorporating signature Filipino proteins such as chicken tocino and lechon kawali pork belly. Instead of pickled daikon and carrots, Bahay Kubo blends atchara (Filipino pickled papaya) and the usual ingredients found in a traditional Vietnamese bánh mì with their freshly baked bread.
Bahay Kubo’s menu offers other fusion sandwiches and dessert options, including turon and ube-cassava pie, pork adobo-loaded fries, and calamansinade.
“There is more work, learning, making mistakes, and improvements we could do. On our way of self-improvement and growth, we hope to keep making everyone’s bellies full and happy,” Mona said.
Mona and Olga have made new friends along their journey and have seen the beginning and growth of other Filipinx-owned businesses in Sacramento.
“Pineapple Bliss Botanicals, FrozenParadise Sac, Basa Builds, Basa Bakery, Blush by Mae, and the creation of our friend’s organization Pau Hana Events — our community is growing around us, and I’m proud to be a part of it,” Olga said.