Filipino food, with its characteristically vibrant and contrasting combination of sweet, salty and tangy flavors, is the food of the people of the Philippines, a South East Asian country. Though less spicy, Filipino recipes, which are an outcome of an appealing blend of the different indigenous and colonial cuisines, though less spicy than comparable cuisines, are known for their bold expression of flavor. In essence, Filipino food is not only appetizing, but is also appealing to human visual and and taste buds. Adobo( a stewed meat or seafood and vegetables dish), Lumpia( Filipino spring roll), Sinigang( a tangy soup made from sour fruits like an unripe guava and tomatoes), Bistek( a a Filipino-styled beef steak), Lechon( a dish made by roasting a suckling pig) are not only popular dishes of the Filipino cuisine, but are also identified and acclaimed as the national dishes of the country.
Contemporary Filipino food is an interesting assortment of pure and fusion dishes from the native and the immigrant cuisines. The originally Malayo-Polynesian cuisine is now mixed with other cuisines, such as, the American, Hispanic, Chinese and other Asian cuisines. The dishes were made by conforming the recipes of foreign cuisines to suit the Filipino palate by using local ingredients and adopting local methods of cooking.
Historical and Cultural Influences
Filipino food of the Malayo-Polynesians, the primitive inhabitants of the country, consisted of fish and seafood, apart from bulky meat of water buffalos ( kalabaw), baka (cows), locusts, and pork and poultry. Reptiles, such as snakes and monitor lizards were also a part of their culinary menu. Filipino recipes were made with rice and cultivated vegetables and fruit, after their introduction to the Filipino cuisine by the Austronesians in 3200 BC. Next, the Spanish introduced corn, potatoes, chili peppers, and tomatoes to the evolving cuisine. The influence of the Chinese cuisine came in later in the 19th century, though it could not establish itself independently owing to the already strongly established Spanish cuisine. Popularly known as Comida China, the Chinese food, in the Filipino cuisine was made with a Spanish touch. Chopsuey, arroz caldo (also known as congee) and morisqueta tostada( a fried rice) are such Filipino foods.
Filipino food is made using ingredients like rice, corn, bread, eggs, meat with onion and garlic seasonings. Condensed salt, milk, coffee and cocoa are also mixed with rice for making some preparations. Rice flour is a main ingredient for many dessert recipes. Fruits are commonly consumed in the cooked form also, apart from being eaten in their uncooked states. Coconut and its associated products, tomatoes and banana are used in a number of recipes. Apart from common vegetables, taro, cassava, yam and sweet potato (kamote) are widely used vegetables. Different types of fish and seafood, pork, chicken and beef are the non-vegetarian ingredients of the cuisine. Luya( Ginger root) in the crushed form is served as a much relished accompaniment to many dishes.
Popular Methods of Cooking
Filipino food is cooked in a number of ways
- Inadabo/Adobo – This method involves cooking chicken or pork (sometimes a combination of the two) in a vinegar, soy sauce and garlic. It can also refer to a simpler method of roasting the food with garlic in oil in a wok.
- Binalot – This method refers to wrapping food in an inedible but non-toxic wrapper like a banana leaf or culinary aluminum wrapper for cooking purposes
- Ihaw/Inihaw – This method refers to grilling the food over charcoal
- Pinirito/Prito – Deep frying or optimal frying in oil
- Tapa and Tinapa - Tapa is a process involving marinating, drying and frying meat. Tinapa is a process of smoking fish.
Apart from these five methods there Filipino cuisine has a number of methods for cooking its dishes. Mostly, the dishes are also given the same name as the methods.
Everyday/ Traditional/ Festive/ Gourmet/Modern/Fusion Filipino Recipes
Filipino food has a number of items in different categories.
- Everyday– These dishes may range from the most simple, like rice with salted fish, to the more complex, like paellas( Spanish rice dish usually eaten during special occasions) and Cozido European vegetable stew which is also eaten usually for special occasions).
- Traditional – Adobo, Tinapa, Champorado( a sweet cocoa flavored porridge of rice), dinaguan( pig blood and inner parts stew), pandesai( bread) are some of the Filipino food of this category
- Festive/Special Occasion Food– Lechon( roasted suckling pig), relleno( stuffed milkfish or chicken), hamonado( honey-cured meat such as prok, chicken or beef), and leche flan and ubeI( desserts) are some of the dishes that are popularly consumed during festivals and special occasions. Lumpiang Sariwa( spring rolls), singkama(popularly known as Jicama or Mexican Turnip), Shrimp patties( made with shrimp and shredded papaya called Ukoy)
- Fusion- Popular Filipino food influenced by the Spanish cuisine includes Arroz con Valencia (a Filipino version of the Spanish paella), Kiampong (a Chinese influenced rice dish with chives, pork and peanut topping), Mechado( a beef dish made using a Spanish culinary procedure), chopsuey and arroz caldo are other dishes which represent a fusion of two or more cuisines.
A Typical Filipino Meal
Filipino food, is mainly consumed as a three course meal:
- Agahan/Almusal (Breakfast)– The traditional breakfast dishes include pandesal, champorado, sinangag, tapa, karne norte( corned beef), longaniza( Spanish sausage), and tostino( cured meat). Itlog na pula( salted egg of duck), daing na bangus( milkfish dish). An interesting concept is here is that of portmanteau food that consists of a set of items for breakfast, commonly served commercially. For example, Kankamtuy is a breakfast consisting of kanin- kamatis- tuyo which is a combination of rice-tomatoes-dry fish in that order.
- Tanghalian( Lunch)– A sandwich made of Panera bread and filled with a lot of sautéed vegetables like portabella mushrooms, sweet corn chowder served as an accompaniment, and a blended cocktail juice of fruits like mango, banana and pineapple completes a typical lunch menu of the Filipino cuisine.
- Hapunan( Dinner)– It is more elaborate than lunch as it is the time people of the house gather at leisure to discuss the day. It consists of rice and couple of other main dishes.
Apart from these main course meals, brunch or snack food called Merienda, and Pulutan, the Filipino-styled finger food are eaten in-between meals or as a substitute for the main meal, if a lighter meal course is preferred to a heavy full-course one.