By Gosia Kluk
The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country in the Western Pacific, comprising more than 7,000 islands. Filipino cuisine is as rich and interesting as its culture. Both Filipino culture and cuisine are influenced by its geography and history. This Asian country for years was influenced by neighbouring Asian cultures such as Chinese and Malaysian, colonised by Spain and remained under its governance for over 4 centuries, in 1898 freed from Spaniards and controlled by Americans till the World War II.
Keeping all these in mind, what type of cuisine would you expect going to the Philippines?
Over 7 thousand islands – they must have great seafood! You’re right!
It is also a tropical country, there must be some nice, sweet, and juicy fruits. You are right again! In fact, the Philippines have the best mangoes in the world:)
The country is located in Asia. You’re right again saying they eat loads of rice which is the most common grain in Asia.
They were influenced by Spain for such a long time. Yes, they are many Spanish flavours too! Even some dishes have Spanish-sounding names.
Lastly, the Philippines were influenced by the US and are pretty much in favour of everything that is American. Thus you can also expect American influence on their cuisine. What is American cuisine you may ask. Well… did you know that apparently the Philippines is the only market where McDonald’s is not a leader on the fast food market? A local brand Jollibee offers products which cater better to the Filipino taste. Their burgers have calamansi flavour. Calamansi are little fruits, similar to limes, but with a very distinctive sour taste. Jollibee offers also spaghetti, prepared in a Filipino style. You must be wondering what that means. It’s a simple pasta dish with tomato sauce which is actually sweet! Filipinos love sweet food, they add sugar to many dishes you know as savoury and have desserts which actually turn out to be one or another type of a… rice cake!
Bibingka, puto bumbong, suman are just a few examples. You may also try a refreshing halo-halo which in a local language means ‘mix-mix’. The dessert is exactly what its name suggests, a mix of crushed ice, evaporated milk, boiled sweet beans, jellies, fruits, and cheese. One of my favourite ever desserts is turon. Turon is a banana (sometimes with jackfruit) wrapped in a rice paper and deep fried, covered with sugar. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it?
Filipino cuisine is dominated by rice dishes and fried meat in heavy gravy. Sea food for obvious reasons is also very common in local cuisine, you can try fish such as lapu-lapu or bangus. Filipinos also love tiger prawns, crabs, or calamari. One of my favourite spots in Manila, the capital city, is a seafood market called Dampa, where you can buy your fish, crabs, prawns, etc., head off to one of the surrounding restaurants, choose the way you want your food to be prepared and finally… enjoy your delicious and fresh meal.
Just to give you a few examples of typical Filipino dishes, here they are:
- Sinigang – sour seafood soup
- Relleno – stuffed roasted chicken
- Tinola – a very mild taste chicken soup
- Adobo, prepared with either chicken or beef – thick tomato based meat stew
- Kare kare – oxtail and beef stew with peanut based sauce
- Kilawin – fish or other seafood marinated in vinegar (similar to Peruvian ceviche)
- Lumpia – very thin rice crepe, served often with young coconut, veggies and peanut sauce
- Lechon – roasted pig, usually eaten at festivities
- Pancit – noodles fried with meat or prawns and veggies
- Bicol express – pork cooked in coconut milk
- Balut – this is definitely for the bravest of you and adventure seekers. Balut is a developing bird embryo (usually a duck or chicken) that is boiled and eaten from the shell.
And lastly, a good Filipino dinner cannot happen without Tanduay Rum and followed by karaoke, Watch out if you want to compete with Filipinos. They are amazing singers!
It’s more fun in the Philippines!
Join us in SIETAR UK for this autumn’s supper club at Filipino Romulo Café on 6th of September, 6.30pm. For more information and tickets go to: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/sietar-uk-supper-club-phillippino-cuisine-tickets-36274303418
About the author
Gosia Kluk – a cross-cultural trainer (www.culturallysmart.com), SIETAR UK member, and a dive master, lived in the Philippines for over 5 years, where she had to give up her vegetarian diet and immerse herself into exploring new local flavours:) No regrets!