{Gourmet Sunday}It’s More Fun in the Philippines


I recently watched Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations online and purposely searched for his trip to the Philippines. Although I agree with most of the comments I’ve read about volunteering oneself in showing Mr. Bourdain around your country where you yourself have visited the Philippines once for only a week. But where’s the fun in that I guess. Curiosity will eventually lead to discovery. With over 7,107 islands, there is no doubt that the outspoken chef had only a fraction of what the Filipino Cuisine has to offer. I give him props for being able to touch on some of the major cuisine capitals of the country such as Binondo, Pampanga and Cebu but I don’t think one can really get a grasp on what the identity of Philippine Cuisine is in just a few days. To be honest, I myself have not been able to truly experience Filipino food having been born and raised here. I have had encounters and have appreciated regional cuisine since my family is part Nueva Ecijano – Cabanatuan longganisa, carabao’s milk, kesong puti (white cheese), Bataeño (Bataan) – adobong paniki (bat stew), shark sinigang (sour broth), and from Laguna – buko pie. And I am pretty sure that even that is only a slice of what these provinces have to offer.

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Being Filipino, there are a number of recipes that you know from heart, where you do not need to write anything. And just like each State in America has their own version on fried chicken, us Filipinos have our own version of adobo, which I think is generally loved by everyone, even foreign visitors. You can actually make adobo with anything — chicken, fish, pork, beef or even vegetables I guess. But pork and chicken are more common here, depending on the region and availability really.

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In our house, it is my father who has mastered the art of the adobo. And because he works overseas, we only get to eat adobo every time he goes on vacation. And because he is currently here, I’ve decided to feature his adobo and finally put everything in measurement so that we can recreate his adobo even without him. Whenever I ask him how he makes his adobo, he’d often say ‘tikman mo lagi, dapat tamang asim at alat‘ (always taste it, there should be a balance of sour and salty). Yes, there’s a certain taste to get that perfect adobo. The perfect side dish that goes well with adobo and anything fried actually, is a salad of salted egg and tomatoes. And of course, you can’t have adobo without heaps of steamed white rice. Yum!

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And then to round out the meal, a Filipino dessert that my mom did a few years ago that made a mark in my satiety center. It is a perfect mix of coconut milk, tapioca pearls, gelatin and a whole lot of crunchy pinipig — guinumis! This is hiligaynon for sago at gulaman or tapioca pearls and gelatin, a typical cold treat in the Philippines, usually a drink than a dessert. The Ilonggo or people from Iloilo turned it into something akin to the famous Filipino dessert, halo-halo but with less ingredients but loads of flavor and texture. And since then, guinumis has been a lingering thought in my head, waiting for the chance to be made, especially now that the temperature is crazy!

I’ll leave you all with a question. Why is it that Filipino Cuisine is not as popular as Thai, Malay or Chinese? We are just as good and just as different.

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4 comments

  1. Curious question on the reason Filipino cuisine isn’t as popular around the world.

    I’m going to guess that for us in the UK, our experience (historically) of World cuisine has been from countries that we invaded, occupied or traded heavily with OR has been brought to us by immigrants coming to live in the UK.

    Thus Indian food is VERY popular here and our family cooks Indian meals at least twice a week. I think the English love of Indian food comes from our time as occupier in India and from the large number of immigrants from India that moved here over the years. We also like Chinese food and again this will be because we have a large number of Chinese people living here.

    I’m not keen on Thai food myself as I find the heavily scented dishes a bit too like perfume for my taste. In all honestly I would not know what a Filipino meal would be like. I will have to investigate and we’ll try some. We often try different recipies from around thw World to vary our meals and it is a great way of avoiding boredom with the gluts of seasonal produce. Finding different ways to cook the same vegetables is quite an interesting and enjoyable challenge :-)

    I’m not aware of any great number of Filipinos living in the UK so I guess their cuisine has not had the same exposure to the UK population as other countries.

    I’m going to start cooking up some of your recipes soon. The problem for us is that we tend to buy our ingredients in bulk and because we eat so much Inidan food our spice, rice and pulses stock is heavily biased towards Indian meals. To switch to a different set of ingredients takes time as we need to use up our existing stocks. Unlike most UK people who buy ready meals or buy their spices in very expensive and tiny little jars from the supermarket we tend to buy large sacks of rice and 1/2 Kg bags of spices that are actually far better value.

    I will let you know what we think once we’ve tried a few of the Filipino recipies.

    Ian

    1. Hey Ian! Long time huh? Since you put it that way, I sort of have the notion of the UK having a dominant Indian cuisine next to your own… And I agree with your argument. We have been occupied by the Spanish for 400 years that is why most of our cuisine is influenced by that, not to mention our language as well. Next to that would be the Americans and a short but sweet (feel the sarcasm) rendezvous with the Japanese. We do have a significant Chinese population here that’s why we love our dimsum as well.

      Why not love Thai? Although some are quite heavy on the coriander, Thai food is really good! But I can’t force you, can I? If you’d like, I could send you some Filipino recipes that you can try with your family. Just let me know your diet restrictions because there are dished we make that needs pig’s blood or brain. Yup. We make use of the entire carcass.

      As much as I would want to cook Indian food and that we are in the same continent, spices here are not as complete as you think. That is why Indian cooking here is limited. We buy our rice in sacks as well, but 1/2kg bags of spice? Gosh. How long would it take for you to finish that?

      Let me know what you think of Filipino food alright? And I’ll do the same with yours. Although all I know about traditional English cuisine is fish and chips and beef wellington, I’ll research on other recipes that originate from your side of the globe.

      Regards, Gino

  2. Hi Gino,

    We haven’t really got any diet restrictions, one of our favourite foods is ‘black pudding’ which is made of blood and other things best not discussed ;-) However I suspect the most difficult thing would be sourcing the raw materials. Probably better to start with ingredients that we can readily get :-)

    Yes, we go through a lot of spice especially things like cumin seeds. Rather than buy the expensive ground cumin in small jars which tend to lose their freshness quite quickly, we buy bags of seeds and then grind these in a pestle and mortar. As an additional advantage with doing this you get to enjoy the most amazing aromas as you are grinding the seeds up. It makes the whole experience of cooking a meal so much better :-)

    Ian

    1. Right. Black pudding is an English treat, I forgot. Good to know that restrictions are non-existent in your family. Maybe you can cook up some dinuguan, which is blood stew made up with pig blood and a whole lot more cooked in vinegar. It is quite a delicious meal.

      Cooking really does delight all five senses!

      Gino

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