Foodtrip Bedaña: The Story Behind Hong Kong’s First Filipino Restaurant

Founding History | Most Popular Dishes | Filipino Culture Representation | Future Plans

In 2007, Joyce Vitero remembers dining at a Thai restaurant with Gerald Bedaña, situated blocks away from the hotel they both worked at in Hong Kong. Vitero was a waitress, while Bedaña worked as a bartender.

It was 1:00AM and they had just finished a long 12-hour shift.

“Eating during late hours after work was our tradition,” says Joyce Vitero, 45, Restaurant Manager at Foodtrip Bedaña’s Filipino Restaurant. “We did this for around 8 years.”

Joyce Vitero, Foodtrip Bedaña’s Restaurant Manager, stands in front of a Filipino flag inside the store. She has been working there for 14 years. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

During that time, they would hop around different Asian restaurants, from Thai to Vietnamese, depending on which was open by the time they ended work. But they always craved a particular kind of food — one that soothes the missing of home.

For them, that was Filipino food.

“Before, there was no official restaurant that served Filipino cuisine. It was just takeaway and deliveries from home-based operations,” says Vitero. “So we really wanted to make this happen.”

Founding History

Foodtrip Bedaña’s new sign and title for the restaurant at Woosung Street in Jordan, Hong Kong. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

So, after years of wishing for a Filipino restaurant, Joyce Vitero and Gerald Bedaña finally decided to open one in 2008. Jordan’s Saigon Street witnessed the launch of Foodtrip Bedaña, the first ever Filipino restaurant in the city.

Aside from naming it after the owner Gerald Bedaña’s family name, they wanted to incorporate a sense of Filipino food culture in the restaurant title.

“We decided on adding foodtrip because us Filipinos love eating and when you’re here, you just want to try everything,” says Vitero, chuckling as she finished her sentence.

In the Philippines, teenagers and college students typically go on “foodtrips” together whilst hanging out with each other. They often visit several food trucks and corner restaurants throughout the day, eating all sorts of street food and drinks, such as isaw (chicken or pork intestines), kwek kwek (deep-fried battered quail eggs), banana cue (caramelised bananas on bamboo skewers) and palamig (iced sweet drinks served in plastic bags and straws).

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9 years later, they moved to Woosung Street in Jordan, which is located a few streets away from their original store. By then, they changed the name into Bedaña’s Filipino Restaurant. 

In the pre-COVID pandemic times, the restaurant’s doors were open until 4:00AM because a lot of Filipinos are either musicians, or work in the restaurant or hotel industry. “Just like kuya Gerald and I before, they finish work really late so we wanted to make sure they had somewhere to stay and eat.”

The term kuya is used to address an older male family member or friend in Tagalog.

But apart from Filipino customers, Vitero has noticed an upsurge in Chinese Hongkongers over recent years — most of which have become their regular customers.

“The locals are very interested in our food,” said Vitero. “Their first impression is usually that the food is too salty, fatty and heavy so we had to adjust it to accommodate their tastes.”

Most Popular Dishes

Lechon kawali, a Filipino crispy deep fried pork belly dish, served with rice and fried egg. It is one of Foodtrip Bedaña’s top dishes. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

Foodtrip Bedaña’s best-sellers belong to an array of pork dishes, including lechon kawali (pork belly), pork barbecue and sisig (a combination of minced pork, chopped onion and chicken liver).

“There’s always sisig on every table,” said Vitero.

Sisig is composed of chopped and fried pig’s cheeks snouth and ears, along with its liver and belly. It is typically seasoned with calamansi, onions and chilli peppers. Foodtrip Bedaña’s best-selling dish. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

According to Vitero, one distinct difference between what Filipinos and Chinese Hongkongers order is rice. “For us Filipinos, rice is life. We eat it for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. But the Chinese will usually order noodles like pancit instead,” she said.

Pancit is a Filipino-style stir-fried rice noodle dish topped with shredded cabbage, sliced carrots and chicken. Bedaña’s Special Pacit is topped with lechon kawali (pork belly). (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

Vitero’s personal favourite is the chicken inasal (chargrilled chicken) because she can choose to eat it without rice. When asked to describe Filipino food in a few words, she called it masarap (delicious) and addictive.

Chicken inasal is a classic Filipino chargrilled chicken, which is Joyce Vitero’s favourite dish at Foodtrip Bedaña’s. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

Filipino Culture Representation

A personalized Filipino jeep painting with “Foodtrip” at the vehicle’s head curated by Riz Bedaña, who is owner Gerald Bedaña’s elder brother. Jeepneys were created by Filipino brand Sarao Motors in 1953, and have become a symbol of national pride since then. It is a minibus-like vehicle, serving as the most popular and affordable method of transportation in the Philippines. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

The restaurant contains several paintings by Gerald Bedaña’s elder brother, Riz Bedaña, who is a painter in the Philippines.

“We wanted to make the restaurant feel like home so we included personalised artworks showing the jeep and indigenous homes,” said Vitero.

A multi-colored painting of a Filipino indigenous community made by Riz Bedaña, who is owner Gerald Bedaña’s elder brother. The piece is hung across the wall in the restaurant. (Photo Credit: Julianna Barcela)

Gerald Bedaña, on the other hand, took charge of the restaurant’s interior design, from the decorations to the layout. “That’s because he has a Fine Arts degree in college,” said Vitero.

As a Filipino-run business, she says they prioritize treating all customers like “family”. “We make sure to be friendly to everyone. We welcome anyone who walks in the door, and say goodbye when they leave because we want them to come back.”

Food and hospitality runs at the core of Filipino culture. To them, being hospitable means ensuring their visiting relatives and guests are well-fed and comfortable.

“I really believe that service and food goes together. If one is missing, our business cannot survive,” said Vitero. “It’s all about spreading the Filipino joy and making sure everyone has a good time.”

Here are reviews from some customers, who talked about the food they ordered with a few even having a long-standing relationship with the restaurant.

Future Plans

Upon listening to popular requests from customers, Foodtrip Bedaña has been looking into opening another branch. This time, on Hong Kong Island.

“Many people have been asking us to bring our restaurant there,” said Vitero. “This is definitely a dream which is really in process now.”

Address: 113 Woosung Street, Jordan, Kowloon, Hong Kong. Check for opening hours on their Facebook page.

(Feature Image Credit: Julianna Barcela)

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