Musang Little Wildcats Cooking Classes Teach Kids About Filipinx Culture and Language Through Food

by Mark Van Streefkerk 

For Chef Melissa Miranda, Musang has always been more than a restaurant. The popular popup found a permanent home in North Beacon Hill at the beginning of this year, and through the crisis of COVID-19, pivoted to a community kitchen as well as restaurant, offering free or pay-what-you-can meals during the pandemic. Musang is one of seven restaurants and popups that form the Seattle Kitchen Collective, a grassroots collective of like-minded chefs who provide meals for community members who need them. Now through Little Wildcats cooking classes, Miranda, Chef Amelia Franada, and Chef Marizel Yuen are sharing Filipinx culture with the youngest in the community.  

“We’ve always said we were never truly just a restaurant space — we want it to be a community space. What better way to invest in the future than this?” Miranda said. “It’s really cool watching these kids learn about [Filipinx food], learn the names of the ingredients in Tagalog, and have it be a starting point of conversation for them and their parents and hopefully their grandparents as well.”

At the end of September, Miranda read the book Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore for Filipino Story Time Seattle. She also filmed an instructional video about how to make pancit, a Filipinx noodle dish with cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables. Filipino Story Time Seattle translated the video into Tagalog, and the event drew viewers from Oakland to Berlin. At the beginning of October, Musang started hosting Little Wildcats cooking classes for kids. After Governor Inslee’s announcement of a state-wide second lockdown, classes are transitioning to instruction online. 

The story of the Wildcats name is an homage to Miranda’s father, who immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s and came by the nickname Musang, which translates to “wildcat” from Tagalog. Back when Musang hosted in-person happenings, there would be up to three classes every Sunday, capped at six kids per class. The Parent and Me classes are for children aged three to six. A second class is for ages six to nine and another for kids 10 to 14. The first few classes centered around making a three-course Filipinx dinner. “The concept was to teach these kids food safety, knife skills, give them recipes, and they would do all the prep work, we would do the cooking, and at the end of the class the parents would actually join their kids for dinner,” Miranda explained. 

Other recipes taught in different classes included buko hand pies, pumpkin pies, pan de sal, and lumpia. And Musang currently offers a parol-making kit (a parol is a traditional Filipinx Christmas lantern). Families who enroll in the class can pick up a kit from Musang, complete with bamboo sticks, dowels, LED string lights, and tissue paper. Plans are also in the works for a how-to video that will accompany the kits. Later in December, Musang will offer holiday cookie decorating kits that include six cookies to decorate and assorted icing and sprinkles. 

Miranda, Franada, and Yuen are already in the brainstorming phase of programming for next year. “I think what we’re going to be doing in January and February, depending on how things pan out, is we’re going to focus more on individual recipes — Filipino classics. Chicken adobo, chicken afritada, all these dishes that a lot of people know and love but haven’t had the opportunity to learn,” Miranda said. 

She anticipates the classes will take place via Zoom or pre-recorded instructional videos, with ingredient kits available for pickup at Musang. Recalling her involvement with Filipino Story Time Seattle, Miranda says there might even be opportunities for Tagalog language-learning as well. Already the classes have been so popular that plenty of people have inquired about the possibility of adult cooking classes. 

“It’s really cool to see this full-circle learning and… bridging the gap between the generations, starting that dialogue, sharing the stories,” Miranda said. “So many recipes have not been passed down. This is an opportunity where people are talking to their elders. We just want to keep promoting that.”

Parol and holiday cookie decorating kits are still available for pre-order. Prices range from $25 to $35. Check out the Little Wildcats class calendar and find out how you can register here

Mark Van Streefkerk is a South Seattle-based journalist living in the Beacon Hill neighborhood.

Featured image courtesy of Musang Seattle.