An Evening at UNDSCVRD’s Night Market | The SF Mint

Come for the experience, leave with the culture. Set in the heart of the SOMA Pilipinas Cultural District, we spent an evening celebrating Filipino American History Month with a visit to the third installment of UNDSCVRD SF. They showcase a thrilling and lively atmosphere of Filipino food, music, art, and social awareness. It was such an inspiration to see this new, creative community effort under one roof merge and bring us all together to honor the Filipino culture and how it’s evolved to what it is today. 
Traditional Filipino malongs
Traditional Filipino malongs (hand-woven skirts)

The event is held at the San Francisco Mint which is an unparalleled experience like no other. Walking up on the steep concrete steps, you’ll take in so much of the history with the stately exterior columns and detailed 18th century architecture. It’s hard to really describe the inside in full detail as you’d need to just witness it for yourself. From what I’ve learned, it’s been restored but still possesses some original, colonial charm from the exposed brick walls to the hanging bronze light fixtures. 

To keep the flow of people organized, you had to have a ticket to enter before 8pm. There was a line but it was steady. As you enter the Mint, a long corridor greets you. There were multiple rooms that offered different retail vendors as well as Fil-Am organizations prominent in the community who provided historical information or addressed social issues (i.e. the SF I-Hotel evictions). Entertainment options were all a plenty. You could either grab a drink from the bar and vibe to hiphop musical performances in the enclosed courtyard or enjoy a Frozen Kuhsterd Bar as you listen to people show off their vocal chops in the karaoke area. What’s a Filipino gathering without some karaoke, right?

We spent most of our times in rooms that showcased cultural theatrics such as the Kulintang Party by Gongster’s Paradise. If you don’t know what kulintang is, it’s instrumental music composed of traditional Filipino instruments: gongs, chimes and drums. In addition to that, there was a crowd-pleasing puppet show by Ramon Abad that followed after a brief Indiegogo campaign presentation to publish the first Filipino American history book for children. Jamie even saw her former SFSU teacher there, Professor Gonzales, and a few former PACE (SFSU Filipino cultural student group) members back when she was in school. 

UNDSCVRD SF musical perfomances in SF Mint courtyard
Courtyard with musical performances
Kulintang Party
Kulintang Party

The outside market was thoughtfully laid out. Though it wasn’t as jam packed as we were expecting, it was great to freely move around and not be in line for too long. I witnessed one attendee hop from stall to stall trying a variety of snacks and dishes which I thought was impressive. There was a variety of Filipino food to choose from and no two vendors were alike. It would’ve been great to see more stalls alongside a true open air market vibe with trays of skewers or more traditional Filipino street food (banana cue, fish balls, carioca, etc.). A couple of food trucks were already familiar to us such as Señor Sisig and Sataysfied so our goal was to try tasty, new options which included: PI Wings, Hookt Doughnuts, and Lumpia Company.

Outside atmosphere

Where else but San Francisco could you find chicken wings tossed in sauce from classic Filipino dishes? At P.I. Wings, the chicken wings are hand-spun to a traditional Filipino flavor of your liking accompanied by garlic rice that’s assembled in ball form and deep fried. The aesthetics of their vendor booth is hands down the best I have ever seen in the food truck community. It’s a nice change for once to just walk up and have a personable experience versus having to strain your neck up and yell your food order. Everyone seemed drawn to their digital menu board and rustic stall design that even a big line formed prior to opening. Jamie and I walked by on a few other occasions through the night and the line wasn’t letting up.

P.I. Wings
P.I. Wings Booth

P.I. Wings Kare Kare Wings
Kare Kare Wings
P.I. Wings Bicol Express Wings
Bicol Express Wings

Mestelle: If you guys know me, Kare Kare is my favorite Filipino dish of all time. I didn’t have to think twice about ordering this one. It’s definitely savory as you’ll get that salty kick from the bagoong (shrimp paste) amidst a rich, creamy peanut flavor on the tender chicken wings. One tweak I’d love to see is a subtle crunch to the chicken and possibly offer the bagoong on the side. Otherwise, it’s a great concept and would love for everybody to try them out.

Jamie: I could taste the coconut and bagoong flavor and it wasn’t spicy at all for me. I just wished the wings were crunchier since it’s covered in sauce. The garlic fried rice balls really stood out for me. Its crunchy texture reminded me of eating the hardened rice from the bottom of a Korean bibimbap bowl.

Next up was Hookt Doughnuts because dessert! Their whole motto is “Word on the street” which is definitely how I learned about them while reading social media posts and review sites. They serve up hot and fresh out of the kitchen treats with a lot of delightful choices from doughnuts to ube themed drinks, both hot and cold. Jamie and I decided to get their doughnuts as that’s what their known for. The ube gives the quintessential doughnut a nice touch. I loved how passersby gawked at us with each doughnut bite then headed over to their booth.

Hook Doughnuts Ube Doughnuts
Top: Langka Ube Doughnuts / Bottom: Ube Doughnuts with coconut

Jamie: You can’t really go wrong with fried dough. The langka sauce on top added a nice tropical touch. Plus, the yellow color provided a pleasing visual contrast with the purple. 

MestelleI was hoping for a doughnut hole type of texture though it tasted more like deep fried funnel cake from the state fair (but purple and bite-sized). There was a drizzle of ube sauce that tasted like vanilla glaze sprinkled with toasted coconut. It would’ve been better if they didn’t overly fry them.

Lastly, we tried The Lumpia Company. The most entertaining and lively food truck crew I’ve encountered to date. It’s a family gig and I love their interaction with each other. “Despacito” was on repeat and the owner (Alex?) was on the megaphone hyping us all up. This is not your ordinary traditional lumpia, people! They take a creative approach when it comes to the filling inside of the wrapper. Specialties like Spicy Ramen and Elote (Mexican street corn), bring us a fusion of two ethnic dishes in harmony. Their innovative efforts go unnoticed as you can see from the long lines.

Lumpia Company Spicy Ramen Lumpia
Spicy Ramen Lumpia
Lumpia Company Bacon Cheeseburger Lumpia
Bacon Cheeseburger Lumpia
Jamie: This was an interesting mashup of Japanese ramen noodles inside of Filipino lumpia skin. Spicy food fans would love it since it was truly spicy. Unfortunately, I’m rather a lightweight when it comes to spicy foods so I wasn’t able to take the spice level. 

Mestelle: Bacon Cheeseburger Lumpia? Who thinks of these things? It had a moist ground beef filling with a tad hint of bacon enclosed in a crispy outer shell. The lumpia may have been twice fried so I couldn’t taste or see the cheesiness that a cheeseburger would have. This mash-up is a new experience for me so I’m not quite sure how I feel about it just yet. I would love to try the other varieties.

Overall, we’re glad we came and will most likely revisit in the near future. The creators of this event put in a real concerted effort to provide a wonderful space for showcasing the Fil-Am community. It’s surely a great place to spend a Friday night if you want to immerse yourself in the culture and discover new Filipino eats. UNDSCVRD runs on the third Friday of each month. Check out their website for more details:


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