For Melissa Miranda, Musang stands for a lot of things. It is the Filipino restaurant she opened with a Kickstarter fund of over US$90,000. It is also her dad’s nickname, derived from the car he used to drive (Mustang). It means wild cat in Filipino as well, something that will have a significant meaning in her life later on. Of all the definitions though, what holds the most value to her is the acknowledgement of her family’s beloved culture, appreciation from society and everything that her father has worked hard for.
“It is so much more than a restaurant. Musang, to me, is a movement. It’s a space that is sustained by and in service of community,” she states.
To think that, back in 2007, Miranda never even dreamt of opening a restaurant, nor even finding a career in cooking. Right after graduating at the University of Washington, the sociology major packed her bags and moved to Florence, Italy where she attended culinary school and doubled as a restaurant chef and English tutor.
To pacify bouts of sadness, she cooked food that reminded her of family. “One Filipino dish I made when I was feeling homesick was kare-kare,” she says. “My dear friend Romina, who is Filipina-Italian, and I would experiment with Italian flavours in the dishes of our childhood memories. For example, we tried using red wine instead of vinegar in adobo.”
She discovered that the correlation between the two cuisines even go beyond food. “I realised that there are similarities in the two cultures particularly revolving around dining. Meals were always served to be shared, and many people would gather around the table in the spirit of togetherness. Hospitality is so important to both cultures and through food, I came to understand that,” she explains.