Kidney-Friendly Filipino Foods from Northern California

Laurie, Tracy, Mary, Jennifer H. and Jennifer C. are all DaVita renal dietitians residing in northern California cities of Vallejo, Hayward and Fairfield. They report that northern California has a wealth of cultures from around the globe, which is one of the reasons you can find nearly any kind of ethnic restaurant in their area — Mexican, Italian, Filipino, Chinese, American, Thai, Mediterranean and more. Renal dietitian, Mary, shares, “In my Vallejo unit, most of my teammates and about half of my patients are Filipino.” The dietitians decided to showcase some of the traditional Filipino dishes that patients enjoy. And, in order to make the recipes renal friendly for the dialysis diet, the dietitians modified the recipes to reduce potassium, phosphorus and sodium.

Jennifer H. says, “Something that may surprise people not from California is that in California we don’t all live by the beach, have blonde hair and go surfing everyday. (Sure, some of us do, but not all of us!)”

Northern California is distinctively different from southern California. Jennifer H. says, “People where I live have stickers on their cars that say NOR * CAL to distinguish they are from the northern part of California.” There are even differences in how Californians speak she says, “When people in southern California give you driving directions, they say, ‘You take THE 5 to THE 4-0-5.’ When they mean take Interstate 5 to Interstate 405. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is very funny to us.”

Jennifer C. reports, “Northern Californians are known for saying ‘hecka’, which isn’t the case in southern Californians. In my neighborhood you might hear someone say, ‘These lumpia are hecka good!’”

Mary shares about her northern California city. She says, “Vallejo is located northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. It is approximately 35 miles northeast of San Francisco and 60 miles southwest of Sacramento, the State capitol, and 20 miles northwest of the Napa Valley. Vallejo was founded in 1851 and named after General Mariano de Vallejo, who was a military officer before California became a State. Vallejo was incorporated into a city in 1867 and now has a population about 120,000.”

“Vallejo is a city of multicultural diversity, which began earlier in Vallejo than other northern California communities. Many Filipinos settled in the area in the 1920s after the war. The shipyard at Mare Island also attracted many people from all over the world to live in Vallejo. This made the city one of the most culturally diversified in northern California, states Mary.

Jennifer H. reports that “Hayward is located approximately 25 miles southeast of San Francisco and 90 minutes south of Sacramento.” In 1851, William Hayward made his way to "El Rancho San Lorenzo" and bought 40 acres of land spanning what is now downtown Hayward.  Many people referred to the town as "Hayward's Place" because of the then famous Hayward Hotel, and on September 18, 1928, the status of the community was changed to the "City of Hayward".

“The San Francisco, Alameda and Hayward Railroad helped draw hundreds of newcomers to the area — Mexican, Danish, German, Irish and Portuguese immigrants. In 1868, a strong earthquake leveled the railroad station, among other things, and this fault continues to play a major role in Hayward's history. Because of this railroad and others, along with the Hayward-San Mateo Bridge, built in 1929, Hayward had become the crossroads of the Bay Area.

By 1990, with a population of 121,000, Hayward became one of the top 15 most ethnically-diverse communities in the nation. It now boasts over 147,000 residents (and two DaVita clinics),” states Jennifer H.

Jennifer C. isn’t far from Vallejo and Hayward in Fairfield. She tells, “Fairfield is located northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area in Northern California. It is approximately 45 miles from both San Francisco and Sacramento. Fairfield was founded in 1859 by clipper ship captain Robert H. Waterman, and named after his hometown of Fairfield, Connecticut. Fairfield is home to Travis Air Force Base and the Jelly Belly® factory.”

Northern California has an abundance of fresh produce. Jennifer H., states, “In the summertime, our patients’ potassium levels skyrocket. We have so many fresh fruits and vegetables available. Most patients are eating low potassium ones, but they just eat way too many.” She adds, “I would also say that with so many different nationalities represented in the Bay Area, each ethnic group has their own vices. For example, our Spanish-speaking patients love beans, corn tortillas and salsas, while our Filipino patients are tempted by lychee fruit and other native dishes.”

Living in a locale made up of so many ethnicities has introduced the dietitians to many unique foods, and also presented challenges in helping patients control their sodium, potassium and phosphorus, while still enjoying their native specialties. By sharing these kidney-friendly Filipino recipes, the dietitians are helping Filipino dialysis patients understand how to modify their cooking to have a healthier version of these homeland favorites in their diet. Also, dialysis patients who have never tried Filipino food can have the opportunity to try something new that is modified for their renal diet.

Mary shares, “I always loved pancit, so when I was asked to come up with a Filipino recipe, I wanted to find a kidney-friendly pancit recipe that dialysis patients could enjoy. With the help of two of my teammates, Erma and Eugenia, who serve this recipe to their families, we perfected an easy pancit recipe. We hope you will enjoy it as much as we do.”