Mama Z: bringing Filipino food to the homes and hearts of Manchester

Delicious, sour, umami. Umami is a Japanese word for good savoury taste, or “deliciousness”.

Three words Zosima Fulwell uses to describe Filipino cooking. She is the founder of Mama Z, a Manchester-based food business. 

A trip home to the Philippines inspired her to start her business in 2017, since then she has started to make big waves, changing the way that Filipino food has been perceived in the UK street market sector. 

Tasty Filipino dishes – made by chefs including Zosima Fulwell – have also been made to feed NHS nurses during the COVID-19 crisis that has hit the community so hard. 

The ‘foodie’ revolution

“Filipino food has the stigma that it is a greasy and heavily ‘meat-orientated’ cuisine. I am always striving to create delicious veggie and vegan Filipino dishes to show that Filipino food can be fresh, simple and delicious – even without the meat,” she says. 

Filipino food has been trending within the “foodie community” for a couple of years now, so Zosima has capitalised on this with her business. 

“Filipino chefs are doing what we do best – feed people! The foodie community is now welcoming the rise of Filipino food, and it’s thanks to the hard work and dedication of Filipino chefs globally.”

She wanted to bring a little bit of Filipino culture to Manchester’s already rich foodie culture, calling it a “no brainer.” 

“If I was having people over for dinner I would always cook more or less Filipino food because so many people had never heard of it, or tried it. It always went down a storm and everyone enjoyed it!”

Fusion cooking

Zosima’s favourite dish to cook is sisig, saying, “It is so easy to make but always delivers on flavour. I really enjoy all sabaw (soup-based) dishes such as sinigang and tinola.”

Growing up in the Middle East, her background as a “third culture kid” (someone raised in a culture other than her parents’ nationality) was a big influence on her own cooking and the reason why she wanted to start her own food company. 

“Being in the Middle East until I was 16, I think that my upbringing and being immersed in different cultures by going to an international school allowed me to understand the bigger picture of the world.”

Mama Z banana ketchup

As we all know, banana ketchup is a staple in many Filipinos’ own cupboards. But Zosima wanted to help bring that sweet taste to a new audience – with her own twist. 

“I used to enjoy making hot sauces in my old job and knew of banana ketchup in the Philippines.”

Her chilli sauce knowledge helped her to create the perfect blend of the well-known flavour and sweetness of bananas, but with a more familiar western sauce vibe. Clearly, this new hybrid had the impact she wanted, as her sauce is now being stocked in four stores in Manchester.

Helping during the pandemic

But with many restaurants and street food markets closing during Covid-19, how has the Mama Z business been able to stay afloat? 

“Like most of us, we are all having to adapt – those of us who can work – and restructure our business models” says Zosima. “I am currently doing food deliveries and selling banana ketchup, whilst also trying to refresh my website to include some more products to sell.” 

She has also been actively taking part in the #Filipinofood4NHS movement, where Filipino chefs and community members have been providing free meals for their local NHS workers. 

“The importance of the #Filipinofood4NHS movement is crucial as there are so many Filipino nurses, carers risking their lives during this pandemic” says Zosima.

“The fact I can help give some food and comfort to those working around the clock to save lives is what keeps me going.”

All throughout the pandemic, Filipinos have been coming together and helping others. As food is an important part of our culture, this initiative is a perfect path to choose to help. Zosima embodies this message through her cooking for the community and is trying to stay positive through the crisis. 

“I know it’s a cliché but you just keep positive by thinking about how lucky you are to have some help.”

“If and when we do get sick, we are in the best hands and we are all going to get through this together!”

Follow Mama Z on Twitter to see her creative take on Filipino food.