Filipino cuisine undiscovered
When we think about food in the Philippines, first thing that comes into mind is its richness and diversity. With the country’s variety of influences and rich history, Filipino cuisine has been tagged as the next big thing to look out for in the culinary world. Yes, it may not be as widely known as other Asian foods like those from Vietnam, Thailand, or Indonesia but that is changing. As more Filipino restaurants and chefs are gaining international recognition, the popularity of Philippine cuisine is surely gaining traction. With a wide range of cuisines and delicacies from all corners of the archipelago, one will never get enough of the Filipino distinct flavors.
Many islands, many influences
The Philippines is a country with more than 7000 islands. As an archipelago, it is rich in natural wonders, dramatic landscapes and tourist spots. Also known for its cultural history, the country has some of the best delicious dishes on its own. History plays a significant role in food too.
The food culture in the Philippines is a diverse blend of influences and traditions. Colonialism, Spanish rule, and American influences have all left their mark on the local cuisine.
The country's colonial past has heavily influenced the local food culture that added a touch of authenticity. The Philippines was a melting pot of cultures before the Spanish arrived at the heart of Sino-Indo-Malay pre-colonial trade routes. The cuisine became heavily infused with Latin influences and ingredients during more than 300 years of Spanish rule. Like other Southeast Asian cuisines, it has some influences from other countries but with heavy Spanish impact. Post Spanish times became a period of American cultural influence in the with a fondness for fast food, sweets, and processed foods. Indeed, the hybrid and ever constantly changing culinary traditions are derived from the rich history, origins and varied geography. From the familiar, to the unusual, Filipino cuisine has it all.
So, what exactly is Filipino cuisine, and what makes it stand out? One of the most beautiful aspects of Filipino food is its diversity because it has evolved into a melting pot of influences. Authentic Filipino cuisine has developed from the diverse cultures that shaped and contributed to its history. Though the cuisine is not as renowned as many of its neighboring countries such as Vietnam and Thailand, Filipino cooking is distinct in the ingredients and certain spices added to bring out the flavors. Food evolved for taste and necessity and has a very particular taste between sweet, sour, and salty. With the variety of influences throughout its rich history, its traditional cooking techniques, and the Filipinos’ ability for combining flavors and making the most ingredients at their disposal, what results is unpretentious, no-frills food that is absolutely delicious.
Our daily rice
Rice has always been an intrinsic part of daily life in the Philippines. Filipinos begin and end their day with it: breakfast, lunch, and dinner and sometimes in sweets and snacks too. Rice is so fundamental and inhabited in culture that it also symbolizes prosperity and wealth as it is customary practice to bring rice into a new home first before anything else. White rice ― steamed and served plain accompanies every meal.
Adobo is often considered to be the Filipino national dish, and it's a must-try when you're in the Philippines. The flavor is created using vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black pepper. Also, chili peppers are sometimes added to give it a little spice.
The most typical adobo dishes are chicken and pork, but you will find every restaurant or household to have their own take. The meat can either be cooked into a stew or marinated in the adobo sauce and then pan fried. For those willing, you can put boiled chicken eggs into the cooking meat, which additionally takes on flavor. If there is one dish you should try before you leave the Philippines, it’s pork adobo!
There is a saying that the most invited party guest in holidays and family events is the lechon.It's hard to beat a delicious roast pig, with crispy skin and juicy meat. The entire pig is spit-roasted over coals for 8 hours, which results in a perfectly crisp, golden brown skin and juicy tender meat inside. In Cebu where it is famous, the stomach of the pig is stuffed with star anise, pepper, spring onions, laurel leaves and lemongrass—resulting in an extremely tasty and delicious lechon that needs no sauce.
Sinigang is simply a pinoy classic. A delicious sour broth usually made tangy by tamarind and is filled with different vegetables and a meat of choice. Popular variants include fish, prawns, pork or beef soured by fruits like tamarind, kamias or tomatoes. Often accompanied by vegetables like kangkong, string beans and taro, this stew is usually eaten with rice.
One of the more popular Filipino dishes among foreigners with Pinoy friends is pancit or noodles as it is usually customary present in Birthdays and gatherings. Typically known as a birthday dish that also consists of meat, poultry, or pork, this noodle dish is served as a symbol for long life, hence an essential at birthday feasts. The noodles are then complemented by sliced vegetables and meat, soy sauce, and kalamansi is squeezed over upon serving all mixed together in a delicious and savory broth.
Sisig is a favorite pulutan or beer chow among Filipinos. The dish is served sizzling on a hot stone plate, consists of meat that is primarily chopped up parts of the pigs’ face, so no cut of the animal goes to waste. Some recipes use either mayonnaise or raw egg to be mixed in while hot to give it a creamier texture, but the classic way is to incorporate pig’s brain into the dish. Sisig consumption is so high that the Philippines imports substantial amounts of pig ears from other countries. This popular Filipino dish was developed in the province of Pampanga.
Chicken inasal is one of Filipinos’ favorite comfort foods. This is flavorful grilled chicken, the best of which is made in the city of Bacolod, Visayas. It sits in a special marinade of vinegar, pepper, kalamansi, ginger, and lemongrass. It owes its appetizing golden-brown color to annatto oil or achuete, which is also poured over the plain rice it is served with. Chicken inasal is usually served with garlic rice and a good dipping sauce made with vinegar, soy sauce, and kalamansi for that extra zest and flavor.
This rich stew is made with the most delicious peanut sauce made from ground toasted rice and crushed peanuts. Customarily, oxtail, but other meatier cuts of beef can also be added in. Many Filipinos will consider a kare-kare dish incomplete without a serving of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) on the side.
Balut is probably the most infamous street food and no trip in the Philippines would be complete without sampling this boiled duck embryo. Balut duck eggs are fertilized and allowed to incubate anywhere from 14 to 18 days. The ideal incubation period for the perfect balut is 17 days. The duck embryo is then boiled, served with rock salt or spicy vinegar. This means you will be gobbling down partially formed bones, feathers, and even a tiny crunchy duck beak and squishy eyeballs.
Inihaw na Liempo
Inihaw na Liempo is basically grilled pork belly but made in Filipino style. The pork belly is marinated and grilled on a charcoal grill and has that nice char on the fatty part which further enhances the flavor of the dish. This traditional Filipino food is served with a side of sawsawan (dipping sauce) or spiced vinegar known as pinakurat. Inihaw na Liempo is a popular dish for pulutan with beer and is usually served as main entree with steamed white or garlic rice.
This traditional Filipino dessert literally means “mix mix”. Halo-halo is known to be a sweet treat that comprises of finely shaved ice, a generous serving of leche flan, ube ice cream, and condensed milk. It could also include fruits such as banana or mango, sweetened red beans, kaong, jellies, corn flakes, and coconut strings, just to name a few. It is served in a transparent glass so you can see all of the layered ingredients then it is up to you to mix all up into a sugary delicious mess.
The ultimate Filipino feast
The Filipino dining culture is a delightful sight to see and experience. In Filipino homes, food is served family-style in large bowls or platters, and everyone is encouraged to help themselves. There is always plenty of steamed white rice, served in the middle of the table. Any empty space is usually taken up by small bowls of vinegar, fish sauce, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), and slices of calamansi, all of which are used to season the food to each diner's individual taste. For larger celebrations, there is a traditional way of eating known as “kamayan,” in which food is placed directly on banana leaves to be shared by all.
“Kamayan” is a term used to refer to eating with bare hands. It is also known as “kinamot” or “kinamut” in the Visayan language. Just like any other Asian countries like Japan and China that uses chopsticks in their meals, Filipinos have their own traditional way of dining or eating using bare hands. This tradition of Filipino dining has been in an informal manner and is a communal affair between families or a large number of people especially during feasts, holiday celebrations, or even at home meals.
The entire feast is not just about digging into sumptuous food selections but is also all about the human connection. In a Filipino dining setting, small chats never disappear over the table. This authentic dining tradition makes every meal more enjoyable because it creates a bond between the hosts and guests through “kamayan”.