The Filipino Kitchen
The Filipino food might not quite be what you expect.
When swedes talk about asian food it is seldom the Filipino food we have in mind. Like the country, the Pinoy food have a mixed story with influences from both China, Malaysia and Spain. The US presence have also made it’s mark. The Filipino food is generally less spicy than for example Thai food.
The seasoning is kept simple. Salt, pepper and fish sauce makes a base with coconut, soy and vinegar of all kinds. With this comes also plenty of vegetables and herbs that can be grewn at home in the Filippino garden, for example lemongrass and ”pandan” that is a leaf with nutty taste.
Food to try
Should you be looking for something exotic, a sallad of seaweed, ”guso”, could be a good start.
Chicken is popular in the Philippines and most of the bird is used including its feet. Grilled chicken feet is popular both as a snack and as an appetizer.
The more adventurous should of course try “balut” which is boiled and very salty eggs with chicken featus. Wings, beak and feathers – all of it has to go down. Balut is often eaten as a late night snack, and maybe it is so that a few alcoholic beverages can make it easier to swallow this hard boiled dish.
Rice is a given to the Filippino food, it is eaten with everything. A typical everyday meal is made up with rice and dried fish – ”bulad” which is salt and have a strong odour.
Other dishes that might be more appealing to a westerner is afritata that is a lovely hotpot with a slight sting. Kinilaw is a kind of herring sallad with heaps of vinegar that fits on a hot day.
Should you be close to the ocean, not very uncommon in the Philippines, you should of course go for fresh fish. Have you ever been in the Mediterranean area the tastes should be familiar.
The Filipinos will seize any opportunity to party since this means eating together. Apart from weddings, baptism and birthdays, a number of saints are also honored and as we all understand this calls for large parties. At some of these occations it is custom that all that can afford it will prepare food.
During the fiesta all are invited and neighbours will meet to eat. This is an opportunity for the poor to eat real good food.
Pinoy parties often offer an abundance of food. For a Filipino party planner there is nothing more terrifying than offering too few dishes or too little food. This would be considered very skimpy and could give a bad reputation that would be hard to wash off.
Should there be lechon on the table, roasted suckling pig, then you know you’re at a serious party. Lechon is served as it is and all parts are eaten with your hands. The crispy skin is considered an absolute treat. The rice can come with the lechon in a handy bundle of banana leaf. No cutlery needed.
A lot of food is eaten by hand so keep your clean. Not just to avoid food poisoning but also so that you are not perceived as gross or arrogant. Cleanliness is of great importance in the Philippines and even the very poorest with no access to running water puts an honor in washing several times a day.
When visiting a restaurant you will be given cutlery of course but often just a fork and a spoon, so prepare to ask for a knife or bring your own.
Don’t expect Thai or Chinese but give the Filipino food a chance and you will be richly awarded with delicious tastes and good dining experiences.