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A Filipino family has revived a former Rax location to create a grocery store and deli.
Shekinah Asian Grocery Store & Deli has four short rows of grocery shelves, two coolers and two freezers. And a lot of warmth coming from the people who own it.
I went for lunch last week. Edna Padilla asked if I was allergic to nuts because they had peanut butter soup.
And what she put on the counter at 305 N. Nappanee St., Elkhart, was a tender pork hock fighting for space in a bowl with greens, eggplant and a subtle broth.
“Subtle” is part of what defines Filipino cooking, according to Dave Schrock-Shenk, a friend who spent four years in the Phillipines.
Filipino cooking doesn't have the strong spices that Thai, Indonesian or Chinese cooking often does, he said. It uses a lot of meat, particularly fish, and a lot of different varieties and preparations of rice. Coconut and coconut milk are common in the cooking too, said Padilla.
Before I tucked into the soup, Padilla asked if I like shrimp paste. She brought a small cup and it added a nice note to the soup.
This is a little market that's doing what it claims to do on the sign out front — “serving Filipino home cooking.”
Padilla and her family are making a few dishes a day and serving them from a small steam table behind the counter.
It doesn't taste like my mother's cooking, but it tastes like a mother's cooking. Padilla is operating the restaurant with her husband, Manuel; her mother, Fedelina Delda; and her sister, Gina Sandefur.
I've had the chicken adobo and pork adobo with black beans. The pancit noodles has white and yellow rice noodles with vegetables and soy sauce, which is a key condiment in the Philippines, according to Schrock-Shenk.
The beef steak served on Thursdays is simply sliced beef with red peppers and onions in a simple broth. It comes with white rice. And it's just very simple and very good.
You pick a main dish and get fried rice, noodles or white rice and then pick a side dish or two for $6.25 or $6.75.
Whatever you do, get the egg rolls. The small, think wraps with pork and vegetables are called “lumpia.” And they're great. The time is coming when I order a box of 15 of them for $6.75 for a special event.
Edna came to Elkhart to work. So did her family members. Manuel worked in the mess hall of a U.S. military base in the Philippines and in Guam. He worked in restaurants, including the Elkhart Bennigan's. She was a waitress and salad prep person there.
Manuel and Gina work at a local warehouse, as well as at the new store. Edna left her job at Walmart, where she'd worked for 13 years and had become a department manager.
She left the job on faith to open a store called the Hebrew name for “God's glory.”
I said, “Your faith is important to you.”
She said, “Amen.”
Shekinah is fun to explore. Aside from its menu with home cooking, the shelves have interesting stuff, including shrimp crackers, canned squid and big bags of rice.
Elkhart County suddenly has a bunch of new Asian restaurants and a Filipino market. Elkhart has had two other Asian markets for a while.
This is a good thing. It's making new flavors available to us Midwesterners.
Shekinah is serving a different style of home-cooking. And now that I know that, I'll ask for more.
My wife, who spent three weeks in the Philippines without me in 2010, said she had the best empanadas of her life there.
The Padilla family may not be able to replicate those.
But then again, they may.
Marshall V. King is news/multimedia editor and food columnist for The Elkhart Truth/eTruth.com. You can reach him at 574-296-5805, firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @hungrymarshall or via www.facebook.com/diningalaking.
If You Go
What: Shekinah Asian Grocery Store & Deli
Where: 305 N. Nappanee St., Elkhart
Fare: Filipino menu and Asian grocery items
Hours: 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday
Details: Credit cards accepted, hot food available for breakfast and lunch, handicapped accessible, catering available, no smoking.