It is undoubted that Filipinos love to eat. There’s a Filipino joke that when you are left in the kitchen, you will become fat. Well, it’s somehow true, some Filipinos who love to cook also love to eat, and my mother is a living proof. I love to eat but I’m not that big like my mom. Haha. Anyway, It inspires me to see my mom cook, actually. Everyday she makes different dishes, and they’re absolutely delicious. Sometimes when we lack budget for food, she still makes sure that the food is delicious even if the ingredients are incomplete. That’s when I start to realize that cooking isn’t really hard at all, It’s completing the ingredients that makes it hard.
What I realized with Filipino food is that it has lots of ingredients, and also has a long process of cooking. It also consumes the whole kitchen as I observe my mom cook. She goes around and around the kitchen to get utensils, to chop this, to wash that, to get this and mix them all together. I sometimes imagine cooking as a form of magic since my mom starts with a lot of stuff and end up with a very wonderful masterpiece, still leaving the kitchen clean and dry. For that I can say that cooking is an art as well.
So what I observed about Filipino food, eating is incomplete without rice. Rice is, of course, made from boiled rice grain until it becomes perfectly soft little white grains. I always try to cook rice and end up cooking it the way I like it. If there’s one thing I’ll be proud of cooking even though I don’t know how to cook, it’s cooking rice. And I believe that you are not a Filipino if you don’t cook rice. There was also this research that I saw in a tv show which stated that based from a book about Filipino food, our delicacy is known to be salty in origin, among the different cuisines in Asia. Well, the living proof is that we love to preserve food and ingredients for cooking, namely Bagoong (fermented fish) and Pulang Itlog (salted egg). My mom also told me that Filipinos are fond of using salt while cooking and fish sauce, even though it’s not necessary. This is to replenish the need for that salty taste that our Filipino taste buds want. So today, I have listed down different Filipino food that I love and that I can say perfectly define Filipino Cuisine.
A Filipino breakfast isn’t complete without Pandesal. A pandesal is a small round salted bread, usually made during the morning and best served toasted. It is best partnered with spreads like butter, cheese, mayo and peanut butter. It is usually filled with corned beef, ham, egg, meat or anything that you’d like to fill in it. I usually combine peanut butter and cheese as filling for my pandesal, and they perfectly match. Others usually dip it in their hot coffee or choco, but me I prefer it dry. Another favorite food during breakfast is called Tapsilog. Tapsilog is a combined term meaning Tapa (dried beef), Sinangag (garlic fried rice) and Itlog (egg). Tapsilog also has different varieties like Chicksilog partnered with chicken, Hotsilog partnered with hotdog, Longsilog partnered with lonngganisa (sausage) and Tosilog partnered with Tocino (sweetened pork).
I actually perceive Lunch or Dinner of a Filipino family as a feast. We love to cook a lot of food or a big serving of food even though it should only be good for one day. This is also accompanied by dishes with lots of ingredients adding more color to the table and enticing family members to eat. My favorite food that my mom cooks is Sinigang. Sinigang is a Filipino soup accompanied with tamarind. It has different classifications as well like Beef, Pork, Chicken (Sinampalukang Manok) and Bangus (Milkfish). Other than tamarind, there are other times that Guava or Miso Paste is used. Another Filipino favorite is the Adobo. Like Sinigang, Adobo has different classifications like for Chicken, Beef and Pork usually marinated with a special sauce that makes it have a combination of tastes being sour and salty, and sometimes sweet. Tinola, on the other hand, is a soup dish, usually accompanied with ginger, chili pepper leaves and papaya. But unlike Sinigang and Adobo, Tinola is only for Chicken. So just like Tinola, Nilaga is for a specific main ingredient, Pork but is also usually for Beef, they are boiled and accompanied with potatoes, string beans and lettuce. Another one is the Kare–kare, it is actually stewed with peanut butter making it seem tasteless and for better flavoring, it is dipped with Bagoong. Other than soup-based dishes, Embotido and Relleno are steamed. Embotido is stuffed meat while Relleno is a deboned fish and stuffed with meat. My mom usually fries embotido after steaming. Speaking of fried, I am a big fan of Crispy Pata and Lechon. Crispy pata is a deep-fried pig leg or knuckles usually dipped in vinegar and soy sauce, while on the other hand, Lechon can be a whole pig or chicken roasted until it becomes crispy.
My all-time favorite dessert is Leche Flan (caramel custard). My mom usually makes it on a small pan, and I can consume dozens of it in one sitting. Sweets actually delight me and remove my stress. Filipinos are actually cheerful in nature, maybe because Filipinos love sweets, too. Other desserts that make my heart delighted are yema (custard candy), pastillas (sugar-coated milk candy) and polvoron (crumbly spanish shortbread). On the other hand, Halo-Halo is a mixture of tropical ingredients like banana, langka, sago pearls, nata de coco, rice flakes and monggo beans mixed to a cup of shredded ice. Halo, being a tagalog term of mix, makes it literally mean a mixture of ingredients. Another Filipino specialty for dessert is our own version of Rice Cakes. Some of which I know are Puto, Palitaw, Suman, Putobumbong and Bico. My mom’s favorite is Bico and my mom usually mixes it with shredded coconut meat. That’s actually what’s cool with Filipino dishes, their very versatile and you can add your own ingredients for added flavor.
Since we are a tropical country, we are proud of our juices. And our most loved juices are made from Coconut and Mangoes. Some are also blended with shredded ice made as fruit shakes or smoothies for fruits like banana, strawberry and watermelon. But the ultimate pinoy beverage is of course the Sago’t Gulaman. I have been wondering how it is made but all I know, it has sago pearls and jellies mixed in a juice with a flavoring that I still don’t know until now. Haha. Sago’t gulaman is the most known and affordable beverage in the Philippines, aside from water of course. :p
- Street Foods
I am not really a fan of street foods, but recently, as I heard from the news, Philippines was named as number one on having the most delicious street foods. When we say street foods, we usually think of smoky and dirty cooking, but there are actually some that have simple and clean cooking, like my favorite banana cue (fried sugar-coated banana) and camote cue (fried sugar-coated sweet potato). There are also eggs covered with flour and then deep-fried known as Pugo (quail eggs) and Kwek-kwek (chicken egg). But if you are looking for exotic street foods, you can try some grilled animal parts like adidas (chicken feet), helmet (chicken head), isaw (chicken intestine), dugo (chicken blood), tenga ng baboy (pig ears) and balun-balunan (chicken liver). And if you are looking for extreme exotic food you can also try Balut (boiled duck egg), containing a baby duck inside. Some say it is delicious but I haven’t tried one. I’d rather stay with banana cue. :p
May it be exotic or not, Filipino food is extremely amazing and versatile. From the simple roasted chicken, soup-based sinigang to the exotic grills of Isaw, Filipinos have learned to adapt and love these foods. There are even more amazing and exciting foods in our provinces that I haven’t tasted, and I am willing to taste them of course. It’s fun to discover new things from your own country, like what Magnolia ice cream said, don’t be a stranger to your own country.
Other countries also offer wonderful dishes, and our country never fail to impress them as well. Like what I stated earlier, cooking is an art, a battle and show-off of different colors, tastes and designs to entice people to eat, enjoy and be satisfied. Cooking is not all about making food but rather passing on the techniques and secrets our ancestors have given to us. Well that made me think, I have to ask my mom to teach me how to cook. I don’t want to let the amazing legacy of delicious dishes my mom makes everyday. All i can say is that Filipino food is the reflection of how nutritious and rich our culture is, and it is reflected to every household as well. What we prepare and what we eat is what defines our home and ourselves.