Philippine Food and Dining: Filipino Cuisine and Dishes

Written on March 30, 2009 – 10:49 am | by Etravel |

Philippine Cuisine, Food and Dishes

Filipino cooking is a mirror of its culture. Variety is present in what is cooked and how it is cooked. rice is the staple product, although many foreign influences have become regular fare on dining tables. For example, the coconut milk or “gata” is often used as an ingredient as taken from our Malay ancestors. Other dishes like the lumpia (spring roll) and pancit (noodles) are derived from the Chinese culture. Surprisingly, the lechon or roasted pig which is the country’s favorite dish has its origins in Spain and Puerto Rico.

Due to its bountiful coastline, Philippine cuisine is heavily into seafood fare. Practically all restaurants offer some form of seafood in one way or another. The most popular is the inihaw (broiled). Standard seafood includes crab, fish, squid, shrimp and rock lobster. Favorite delicacies include the curacha, a type of crustacean, which is something of a cross between a crab and a crayfish, available mostly in Zamboanga. Davao boasts of its inihaw na panga, tuna head split and broiled and the crispy buntot (fried tuna). A good majority of desserts include rice creations, native sweets and fresh fruits.

Filipinos also enjoy “sawsawan”, flavorful dipping sauce such as soy sauce, ketchup, chilli, vinegar and many others. Tastes cover the spectrum of sour, colorful, tangy, exotic, bitter, etc. Whether the person is feasting on sidewalk fare or in a plush hotel restaurant, the dining experience is an adventure. The wide array of cuisine, from native, to Asian, to continental, is matched only by the wide array of choices of restaurants and other dining joints in urban areas.

As the first set of foreing influences in Filipino cuisine, the Chinese traders introduced stir-frying and deep frying. Noodles and soy products became quite prominent. Local cooks however, incorporated thier own preferences into the Chinese foods. These are quite common in pancit with a squirt of kalamansi and spring rolls dipped in vinegar and crushed garlic.

The Spaniards introduced thick stews, sausages and other meat and dairy products that have become a luxury today. Such favorites as relleno, mechado, lengua and pochero show up only during special occasions like Christmas and fiestas. Filipinos also incorporated their own version of adobo using vinegar, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorn and soy sauce as a stewing sauce for the chicken/pork dish.

Basic Cooking Methods, The Filipino Way

  1. Sinigang
    Cooking with water and adding a sour agent from fruit or vegetable. May be meat, fish or fowl.
  2. Inasnan
    Food preserved with salt. May be broiled and can be meat, fish or vegetables.
  3. Pinaksiw
    Cooking fish with vinegar, just a little water and spices. May be with or without vegetables.
  4. Nilaga
    Boiling fish, fowl or meat with water.
  5. Pangat
    Cooking fish with a little water with or without a souring agent.
  6. Halabas
    Cooking with salt and almost no water. Cooks from the juice of the shellfish or crustacean.
  7. Pinais
    Food wrapped in leaves like banana or alagao and then steamed.
  8. Pesa
    Boiling sautéed fish with ginger, vegetables and patis.
  9. Sinuam
    Boiling ssautéed fish or shellfish in ginger and pepper leaves.
  10. Pasingao
    Steaming fish, meat, fowl or shellfish.
  11. Inihaw
    Broiled over live charcoal. May be meat, fish or root crops.
  12. Dinaing (broiled or fried)
    Fish cut at the back and opened like a butterfly.
  13. Tinapa
    Blanching fish and soaking it until golden brown.
  14. Pinausukan
    Smoking fish, meat and fowl just before eating.
  15. Binuro
    Salting foods like talangka (small crabs), alimasag (crabs), bangus (milkfish), hito (catfish), dalag (mudfish), eggs or vegetables.
  16. Kinilaw
    Food marinated in vinegar and spices (saviche or raw).
  17. Ginisa
    Basic use of lard, garlic and onions for almost everything meat, fish, fowl or vegetable.
  18. Ginataan
    Cooking fish, crustaceans, vegetables and root crops in coconut milk.
  19. Inadobo
    Cooking with vinegar and spices. May be meat, fish or vegetables.

What to Order

Chicken Pork Adobo
A rich, dark, well-marinated stew of chicken, pork or both, with flavors that hint of the vinegar and soy sauce. This dish is probably considered the closest thing to a national dish, if ever there is one.

Pancit
A steaming mound of sautéed noodles with bits of fresh vegetables thinly sliced savory sausage and tiny shrimps laced throughout. This is easy to prepare and the recipe is very flexible. Different types of noodles can be used: bihon (rice noodles), canton (flour noodles), sotanghon (soybean noodles) and mike (pronounced as mee-kee, fresh egg noodles).

Relenong Manok
A whole chicken deboned and stuffed with a mixture of ground chicken, pork and ham, plus whole sausages and hard boiled eggs, so that when sliced and served, the dish looks good as it tastes.

Tinolang Tahong
New York Magazine has described this as a most dazzling dish, a glorious soup made with plump mussels steamed in ginger root, spinach and onion.

Inihaw na Talong
A dish composed of broiled eggplant with chopped tomato, onions and bagoong (tiny shrimps fermented in salt).

Lumpia
Also called spring rolls, these are either fresh (lumpiang sariwa) or fried (fried lumpia, lumpiang shanghai). Lumpiang sariwa are like crepes filled with Chinese vegetable and topped with peanut sauce while lumpiang shanghai are small spring rolls (rice pastry filled with ground pork or beef). Fried lumpias are basically the fresh variety, deep fried to perfection.

Kare-kare
A meaty oxtail stew with pieces of tender mtripe and vegetables in peanut sauce.

For desserts, one can choose from halo-halo which literally means mix-mix. It is a tall glass or a medium bowl filled with cubed sweet potato, cut up caramelized bananas and jackfruit, some red beans, ube jam (purple yam jam), ice cream, whatever else you want to put in, shaved ice, milk and sugar, and there you have it. A great snack that is perfect for hot summer days. There is also the sinfully delicious leche flan (custard pie), brazos which are custard wrapped in meringue.

Philippine Cuisine and Food: Seafoods

The archipelago’s 7100 islands teem with nearly all varieties of marine life. Not surprisingly, seafoods has always been a daily staple in the diet of the Filipinos all the way from the humble “galungong” to the exotic shark’s fin soup. Seaside communities in the rural areas teem with hundreds of bancas and other water vessels trying their luck with the day’s catch; be it for the family mael, a visit to the market or a sale for a commercial firm. In some cases, all of the above is only to stretch the family income.

Not too surprising fact is that native and seafood restaurants often blend as one due to the overlapping and criss-crossing of menu selections. Preparation is varied and simple since the locals generally aren’t too fussy with the cooking details just as long as it appeals to their taste buds. Foreigners however, may have their own specifications and it deemed be best for the waiter and cook to take note of such instructions.

What to Order

Loster
These are large marine crustaceans that are usually characterized by their stalked eyes and two pincer-like claws as the first pair of ten limbs.

Bangus (milkfish)
A shallow saltwater fish which feed on algae. They taste like sardines but have many more bones. One fish normally makes one serving.

Pugapo (grouper)
One of the most delicious fish and more expensive than other rare fishes. More of a restaurant delicacy than a house viand. Of the three varieties, the black is the best and most expensive, being juicer and softer than the red and spotted kinds. Some pugapo can grow to as much as 50 kilos.

Blue marlin
Sought-after not only by the game anglers but gourmets as well as it is cut into steaks. Milder than the usual steaks, but as in the case of meat, a serving of blue marlin gets its taste mainly from the sauce going with it. The belly is regarded as the best part, not the back. those who don’t mind the bones may order the fin since it tastes somehow sweeter than that of the belly.

Tangigue
A large mackerel with high fat content and a meaty taste. Seafood restaurants commonly serve it fried. However, Spanish restaurants and delicatessen stores of five star hotels also sell it raw and smoked.

Pusit (squid)
Can be prepared grilled, fried or even adobo.

Eel
This is more common in Chinese restaurants.

Shrimp
These are also called gambas and is available and affordable everywhere. Shrimp is first prepared by steaming them in garlic. They may also be fried.

Prawns
Bigger and much more expensive shrimps and served in restaurants. These are usually grilled.

Alimango
A very delicious crab with large pincers which are commonly steamed or simmerted in cococnut milk. Upscale native restaurants only serve the female alimango as it always carries the spawn (aligi). The spawn is the most delicious part of the crab which is reddish in color, tastes stronger than the rest of the crab and has a slightly crisp texture.

There are three kinds of shellfish thta is common in Philippine cuisine. These are the oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong) and clams (imbao). In native and Chinese cuisine, oysters are usually steamed or grilled on the half shell after being marinated in vinegar and onions. Mussels are served steamed or in soups. There is a great abundance of tahong on Philippine shores and clams are more expensive. As anywhere in the world, they are most commonly served in soups.

Oysters, mussels and clams can all be prepared with a cheese and wine sauce. However, as oysters have the mildest and clams the strongest taste of the three, the sauce for the oysters have to be mild too. Clams can also be served in a combination with little bits of bacon without completely concealing the seafood taste.



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