Brothers bring Filipino food to London’s once scariest place
LONDON — Things are heating up in the kitchen when I arrive at Filishack, a street food truck owned by British-Filipino brothers Justice and Jonathan Cacho, 27 and 20 years old respectively, on a Friday afternoon in Peckham Square.
“We’re running a bit late today,” Justice says cheerfully, turning marinated chicken pieces over on a smoking grill. “There was an electrical problem with the trailer earlier. All good now though.”
Situated just outside Peckham Library, in a lively public square shared with a few other food carts, the young brothers have carved out a loyal tribe of regular customers in the area, thanks to their consistently good food and exclusivity as the first and only Filipino food joint in Peckham.
On their chalkboard menu, Filishack offers customers the choice of either Grilled Chicken (their top seller) or Braised Beef Adobo, in the form of a rice box (£5), salad box (£5) or burrito (£4-5).
Their grilled chicken, inspired by inasal, is marinated in lemongrass, ginger, garlic, soy sauce and vinegar; their adobo beef is braised in soy sauce, peppercorn, vinegar, garlic and bay leaf, with a dash of coconut milk.
“The food is really, really good here,” says Annaliza, a Filipina woman on her lunch break, who orders a rice box for herself and her son. “It’s the only place we eat from around Peckham because it’s clean and delicious. It tastes like home.”
Tessie, an African woman enjoying a pre-gym lunch, is another Filishack regular: “I come here regularly, though not as regularly as I would like. I always get the rice and chicken, no salad. It’s amazing.”
Word of mouth success
The brothers credit their success to serving consistently high quality food.
“Our food is simple and good,” says Justice. “Our marketing [comparatively] is weak. We’re completely built on word of mouth. We rely on hard work and focus on giving good food to people.”
“People travel from Bermondsey and London Bridge just for our food. We even get one guy that drives here from Woolwich.”
“That’s without marketing, too. People like a change, compared to McDonald’s, Subway and Jamaican food on offer around here.”
“We also get lots of bodybuilders coming to us,” adds Jonathan. “They always order extra meat or extra chicken. We probably go through about 108 kilos of chicken per week.”
Located south of the River Thames, Peckham was infamously voted as one of London’s most dangerous areas to live in, known for drug-dealing, shootings and gang warfare.
The brothers grew up along Peckham’s Goldsmith Road, in a dangerous estate notoriously known as “yellow brick.”
“Peckham was properly rough back in the day,” says Justice. “You had to be street wise. You had to be able to survive. It’s completely different now. There’s a real sense of community here, from all walks of life. The ‘gangsters’ from before have families now, sometimes they even come and eat our food.”
These days, Peckham is known for its vibrance and diversity, drawing a hip and artistic crowd to its streets. As the borough continues to gentrify, house prices have started to soar.
“We love the small enterprises that have started around Peckham and how it brings our community together,” Justice previously told The Londonist magazine in an interview. “Peckham is not the new Shoreditch. Peckham is Peckham, and it’s people that make it great.”
Taking the leap
Before starting Filishack, Justice tried a variety of jobs, including working at a local money shop in Peckham, handling Western Union transactions.
Soon after, with no experience in the culinary industry, he joined a Japanese-Chinese street food enterprise and spent several years learning about the nature of the business before finally striking out on his own.
In 2015, Justice set up shop, running the food stall alone in Peckham before Jonathan, done with college, teamed up with his brother.
“Those were tough times,” recalls Justice. “Doing everything alone was hard work.”
When I ask what names they had come up with before settling on Filishack, the brothers laugh.
“We went through so many. Literally about a hundred,” says Jonathan. “One was ‘Rice Life.’”
Although the brothers only purchased their food truck in early 2016, they are ready to grow their enterprise.
“We’ve definitely got plans to expand,” says Justice. “We want a shop. Having a premises would make us more stable. The shop has to be here in Peckham, one hundred percent.
“We’ve never done something like a food festival before but we’d love to. We say yes to every opportunity.”
When quizzed about their favorite Filipino dish, Justice is quick on the ball: “I’m a sinigang guy. I love sinigang, I’ll eat it all day.”
Jonathan takes longer to decide. “That’s so hard to answer. My favorite is probably my mum’s lechon paksiw.”
The temperature is starting to drop now, and my fingers are numbing. I ask one final question: how would they describe Filipino food?
Justice pauses before giving his answer: “It makes me feel like I’m at home.”
Filishack is open Tuesday to Saturday, 12 — 5.30 p.m. Find it in Peckham Square, SE15 5RS (outside Peckham Library on the High Street side). Follow the food truck at facebook.com/filishack or @filishack on Twitter.
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