Filipino cuisine (Filipino: Lutuing Filipino or Pagkaing Filipino) is composed of the cuisines of 135 distinct ethno-linguistic tribes found within the Philippine archipelago, however, majority of mainstream Filipino dishes that compose Filipino cuisine are from the cuisines of the Bikol, Chabakano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Meranaw, Pangasinan, Sebwano (or Bisaya), Tagalog, and Waray ethno-linguistic tribes. The style of cooking and the food associated with it have evolved over many centuries from their Austronesian origins (shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines) to a mixed cuisine of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, in line with the major waves of influence that had enriched the cultures of the archipelago, as well as others adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate.
Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the complex paellas and cocidos created for fiestas of Spanish origin. Popular dishes include: lechón (whole roasted pig), longganisa (Philippine sausage), tapa (cured beef), torta (omelette), adobo (chicken or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce, or cooked until dry), kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew), mechado (larded beef in soy and tomato sauce), puchero (beef in bananas and tomato sauce), afritada (chicken or pork simmered in tomato sauce with vegetables), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), pinakbet (kabocha squash, eggplant, beans, okra, and tomato stew flavored with shrimp paste), crispy pata (deep-fried pig's leg), hamonado (pork sweetened in pineapple sauce), sinigang (meat or seafood in sour broth), pancit (noodles), and lumpia (fresh or fried spring rolls).
History and influences
During the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines, the preferred Austronesian methods for food preparation were boiling, steaming and roasting. The ingredients for common dishes were obtained from locally raised livestock. These ranged from kalabaw (water buffaloes/carabaos), baka (cows), manok (chickens) and baboy (pigs) to various kinds of fish and seafood. In 3200 BCE, Austronesians from the southern China (Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau) and Taiwan settled in the region that is now called the Philippines. They brought with them knowledge of rice cultivation and other farming practices which increased the number and variety of edible dish ingredients available for cooking.
Direct trade and cultural exchange with Hokkien China in the Philippines in the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) with porcelain, ceramics, and silk being traded for spices and trepang in Luzon. This early cultural contact with China introduced a number of staple food into Philippine cuisine, most notably toyo (soy sauce; Chinese: 豆油; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-yu), tokwa; (tofu; Chinese: 豆干; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-koaⁿ), toge (bean sprout; Chinese: 豆芽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-koaⁿ), and patis (fish sauce), as well as the method of stir frying and making savory soup bases. Many of these food items and dishes retained their original Hokkien names, such as pancit (Chinese: 便ê食; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: piān-ê-si̍t)(Chinese: 扁食; pinyin: biǎn shí), and lumpia (Chinese: 潤餅; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: jūn-piáⁿ, lūn-piáⁿ). The Chinese food introduced during this period were food of the workers and traders, which became a staple of the noodle shops (panciterias), and can be seen in dishes like arroz caldo (congee), sinangag (fried rice), chopsuey.
Trade with the various neighboring kingdoms of Malacca and Srivijaya in Malaya and Java brought with it foods and cooking methods which are still commonly used in the Philippines today, such as Bagoong (Malay: Belacan), Patis, Puso (Malay: Ketupat), Rendang, Kare-kare and the infusion of coconut milk in condiments, such as laing and Ginataang Manok (chicken stewed in coconut milk). Through the trade with the Malay-Indonesian kingdoms, cuisine from as far away as India and Arabia enriched the palettes of the local Austronesians (particularly in the areas of southern Luzon, Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, the Visayas and Bicol, where trade was strongest). These foods include various dishes eaten in areas of the southern part of the archipelago today, such as kurmah, satti, and biryani, as well as puto, which specifically derives from Indian cuisineputtu.
Spanish colonizers and friars in the 16th century brought with them produce from the Americas like chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and the method of sautéing with garlic and onions. Chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green. Spanish (and Mexican) dishes were eventually incorporated into Philippine cuisine with the more complex dishes usually being prepared for special occasions. Some dishes such as arroz a la valenciana remain largely the same in the Philippine context. Some have been adapted or have come to take on a slightly or significantly different meaning. Arroz a la cubana served in the Philippines usually includes ground beef picadillo. Philippine longganisa despite its name is more akin to chorizo than Spanish longaniza (in Visayan regions, it is still known as chorizo). Morcon is likely to refer to a beef roulade dish not the bulbous specialty Spanish sausage.
Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques, styles of cooking, and ingredients find their way into the country. Traditional dishes both simple and elaborate, indigenous and foreign-influenced, are seen as are more current popular international viands and fast food fare. However, the Filipino diet is higher in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than other Asian diets.
Filipino cuisine centres around the combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat), although in Bicol, the Cordilleras and among Muslim Filipinos, spicy (anghang) is a base of cooking flavor.
Counterpoint is a feature in Philippine cuisine which normally comes in a pairing of something sweet with something salty, and results in surprisingly pleasing combinations. Examples include: champorado (a sweet cocoa rice porridge), being paired with tuyo (salted, sun-dried fish); dinuguan (a savory stew made of pig's blood and innards), paired with puto (sweet, steamed rice cakes); unripe fruits such as mangoes (which are only slightly sweet but very sour), are eaten dipped in salt or bagoong; the use of cheese (which is salty) in sweetcakes (such as bibingka and puto), as well as an ice cream flavoring.
Vinegar is a common ingredient. Adobo is popular not solely for its simplicity and ease of preparation, but also for its ability to be stored for days without spoiling, and even improve in flavor with a day or two of storage. Tinapa is a smoke-cured fish while tuyo, daing, and dangit are corned, sun-dried fish popular because they can last for weeks without spoiling, even without refrigeration.
Cooking and eating in the Philippines has traditionally been an informal and communal affair centered around the family kitchen. Filipinos traditionally eat three main meals a day: agahan or almusal (breakfast), tanghalían (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda (also called minandál or minindál). Snacking is normal. Dinner, while still the main meal, is smaller than other countries. Usually, either breakfast or lunch is the largest meal. Food tends to be served all at once and not in courses. Unlike many of their Asian counterparts Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks. Due to Western influence, food is often eaten using flatware—forks, knives, spoons—but the primary pairing of utensils used at a Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork. The traditional way of eating is with the hands, especially dry dishes such as inihaw or prito. The diner will take a bite of the main dish, then eat rice pressed together with his fingers. This practice, known as kamayan, is rarely seen in urbanized areas. However, Filipinos tend to feel the spirit of kamayan when eating amidst nature during out-of-town trips, beach vacations, and town fiestas.
See also: List of Philippine dishes
As in most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. It is most often steamed and always served with meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Leftover rice is often fried with garlic to make sinangag, which is usually served at breakfast together with a fried egg and cured meat or sausages. Rice is often enjoyed with the sauce or broth from the main dishes. In some regions, rice is mixed with salt, condensed milk, cocoa, or coffee. Rice flour is used in making sweets, cakes and other pastries. Sticky rice with cocoa, also called champorado is also a common dish served with tuyo or dried herring.
A variety of fruits and vegetables is often used in cooking. Bananas (the saba variety in particular), kalamansi, guavas (bayabas), mangoes, papayas, and pineapples lend a distinctly tropical flair in many dishes, but mainstay green leafy vegetables like water spinach (kangkong), Chinese cabbage (petsay), Napa cabbage (petsay wombok), cabbage (repolyo) and other vegetables like eggplants (talong) and yard-long beans (sitaw) are just as commonly used. Coconuts are ubiquitous. Coconut meat is often used in desserts, coconut milk (kakang gata) in sauces, and coconut oil for frying. Abundant harvests of root crops like potatoes, carrots, taro (gabi), cassava (kamoteng kahoy), purple yam (ube), and sweet potato (kamote) make them readily available. The combination of tomatoes (kamatis), garlic (bawang), and onions (sibuyas) is found in many dishes.
Meat staples include chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Seafood is popular as a result of the bodies of water surrounding the archipelago. Popular catches include tilapia, catfish (hito), milkfish (bangus), grouper (lapu-lapu), shrimp (hipon), prawns (sugpo), mackerel (galunggong, hasa-hasa), swordfish (isdang-ispada), oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong), clams (halaan and tulya), large and small crabs (alimango and alimasag respectively), game fish, sablefish, tuna, cod (bakalaw), blue marlin, and squid/cuttlefish (both called pusit). Also popular are seaweeds (damong dagat), abalone, and eel (igat).
The most common way of having fish is to have it salted, pan-fried or deep-fried, and then eaten as a simple meal with rice and vegetables. It may also be cooked in a sour broth of tomatoes or tamarind as in pangat, prepared with vegetables and a souring agent to make sinigang, simmered in vinegar and peppers to make paksiw, or roasted over hot charcoal
or wood (inihaw). Other preparations include escabeche (sweet and sour), relleno (deboned and stuffed), or "kinilaw" (similar to ceviche; marinated in vinegar or kalamansi). Fish can be preserved by being smoked (tinapa) or sun-dried (tuyo or daing).
Food is often served with various dipping sauces. Fried food is often dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from Kalamansi (Philippine lime or calamansi), or a combination of two or all. Patis (fish sauce) may be mixed with kalamansi as dipping sauce for most seafood. Fish sauce, fish paste (bagoong), shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) and crushed ginger root (luya) are condiments that are often added to dishes during the cooking process or when served.
A traditional Filipino breakfast might include pandesal (small bread rolls), kesong puti (fresh, unripened, white Filipino cheese, traditionally made from carabao's milk) champorado (chocolate rice porridge), sinangag (garlic fried rice), and meat—such as tapa, longganisa, tocino, karne norte (corned beef), or fish such as daing na bangus (salted and dried milkfish)—or itlog na pula (salted duck eggs). Coffee is also commonly served particularly kapeng barako, a variety of coffee produced in the mountains of Batangas noted for having a strong flavor.
Certain portmanteaus in Filipino have come into use to describe popular combinations of items in a Filipino breakfast. An example of such a combination order is kankamtuy: an order of kanin (rice), kamatis (tomatoes) and tuyo (dried fish). Another is tapsi: an order of tapa and sinangág. Other examples include variations using a silog suffix, usually some kind of meat served with sinangág and itlog (egg). The three most commonly seen silogs are tapsilog (having tapa as the meat portion), tocilog (having tocino as the meat portion), and longsilog (having longganisa as the meat portion). Other silogs include hotsilog (with a hot dog), bangsilog (with bangus (milkfish)), dangsilog (with danggit (rabbitfish)), spamsilog (with spam), adosilog (with adobo), chosilog (with chorizo), chiksilog (with chicken), cornsilog (with corned beef), and litsilog (with lechon/litson). Pankaplog is a slang term referring to a breakfast consisting of pandesal, kape (coffee), and itlog (egg). An establishment that specializes in such meals is called a tapsihan or tapsilugan.
Merienda is taken from the Spanish, and is a light meal or snack especially in the afternoon, similar to the concept of afternoon tea. If the meal is taken close to dinner, it is called merienda cena, and may be served instead of dinner.
Filipinos have a number of options to take with kapé, which is the Filipino pronunciation of café (coffee): breads and pastries like pandesal, ensaymada (buttery brioche covered in grated cheese and sugar), hopia (pastries similar to mooncakes filled with mung bean paste) and empanada (savoury, meat-filled pasties). Also popular are kakanín, or traditional pastries made from sticky rice like kutsinta, sapin-sapin (multicoloured, layered pastry), palitaw, biko, suman, Bibingka, and pitsi-pitsî (served with desiccated coconut).
Savoury dishes often eaten during merienda include pancit canton (stir-fried noodles), palabok (rice noodles with a shrimp-based sauce), tokwa't baboy (fried tofu with boiled pork ears in a garlic-flavoured soy sauce and vinegar dressing), and dinuguan (a spicy stew made of pork blood), which is often served with puto (steamed rice flour cakes).
Dim sum and dumplings, brought to the islands by Fujianese migrants, have been given a Filipino touch and are also popular merienda fare. Street food, such as squid balls and fish balls, are often skewered on bamboo sticks and consumed with soy sauce and the sour juice of the calamondin as condiments.
Pulutan (from the Filipino word pulutin which literally means "to pick something up") is a term roughly analogous to the English term "finger food" or Spanish Tapas. Originally, it was a snack accompanied with liquor or beer but has found its way into Philippine cuisine as appetizers or, in some cases, main dishes, as in the case of sisig.
Deep fried pulutan include chicharrón (also spelled chicharon or tsitsaron), pork rinds that have been boiled and then twice fried, the second frying gives the crunchiness and golden color; chicharong bituka, pig intestines that have been deep fried to a crisp; chicharong bulaklak, similar to chicharong bituka it is made from mesenteries of pig intestines and has an appearance roughly resembling a flower, hence the bulaklak name; and chicharong manok, chicken skin that has been deep fried until crisp.
Examples of grilled foods include: isaw, or chicken or pig intestines skewered and then grilled; Inihaw na tenga, pig ears that have been skewered and then grilled; pork barbecue, skewered pork marinated in a sweet soy-garlic blend and then grilled; betamax, salted solidified pork or chicken blood which is then skewered and lightly grilled; adidas which is grilled or sautéed chicken feet. There is also sisig, a popular pulutan made from the pig's cheek skin, ears and liver that is initially boiled, then charcoal grilled and afterwards minced and cooked with chopped onions, chillies, and spices.
Smaller snacks such as mani (peanuts) are often sold steamed in the shell, salted, spiced or flavored with garlic by street vendors in the Philippines. Another snack is kropeck, which is fish crackers.
Tokwa't baboy is fried tofu with boiled pork marinated in a garlic-flavored soy sauce or vinegar dip. It is also served as a side dish to pancit luglog or pancit palabok.
You can also find tuhog-tuhog accompanied by sweet or spicy sauce. This include Fish balls, Kikiam, Squid balls etc., these are commonly served during a small gathering or in local bars.
Bread and pastries
In a typical Filipino bakery, pandesal, monay and ensaymada are often sold. Pandesal comes from the Spanish pan de sal (literally, bread of salt), and is a ubiquitous breakfast fare, normally eaten with (and sometimes even dipped in) coffee. It typically takes the form of a bread roll, and is usually baked covered in bread crumbs. Contrary to what its name implies, pandesal is not particularly salty as very little salt is used in baking it. Monay is a firmer slightly denser heavier bread. Ensaymada, from the Spanish ensaimada, is a pastry made using butter and often topped with sugar and shredded cheese that is especially popular during Christmas. It is sometimes made with fillings such as ube (purple yam) and macapuno (a variety of coconut the meat of which is often cut into strings, sweetened, preserved, and served in desserts). Also commonly sold in Filipino bakeries is pan de coco, a sweet roll filled with shredded coconut mixed with molasses. Putok, which literally means "explode", refers to a small, hard bread roll whose cratered surface is glazed with sugar. Kababayan is a small, sweet gong-shaped muffin that has a moist consistency. Spanish bread refers to a rolled pastry which looks like a croissant prior to being given a crescent shape, and has a filling consisting of sugar and butter.
There are also rolls like pianono, which is a chiffon roll flavored with different fillings. Brazo de mercedes, a rolled cake or jelly roll, is made from a sheet of meringue rolled around a custard filling. Similar to the previous dessert, it takes on a layered presentation instead of being rolled and typically features caramelized sugar and nuts for sans rival. Silvañas are large, oval-shaped, cookie-sized desserts, with a thin meringue on either side of a buttercream filling and dusted with crumbed cookies. Not overly sweet, they are rich, crisp, chewy, and buttery all at the same time. Barquillos use sweet thin crunchy wafers rolled into tubes that can be sold hollow or filled with polvoron (sweetened and toasted flour mixed with ground nuts). Meringues are also present in the Philippines, due to the Spanish influence, but they are called merengue – with all the vowels pronounced. Leche flan is a type of caramel
custard made with eggs and milk similar to the French creme caramel. Leche flan (the local term for the original Spanish flan de leche, literally "milk flan") is a heavier version of the Spanish flan made with condensed milk and more egg yolks. Leche flan is usually steamed over an open flame or stove top, although on rare occasions it can also be seen baked. Leche flan is a staple in celebratory feasts.
A heavier version of leche flan, tocino del cielo, is similar, but has significantly more egg yolks and sugar.
The egg pie with a very rich egg custard filling is a mainstay in local bakeries. It is typically baked so that the exposed custard on top is browned. Buko pie is made with a filling made from young coconut meat and dairy. Mini pastries like turrones de casuy are made up of cashew marzipan wrapped with a wafer made to resemble a candy wrapper but take on a miniature look of a pie in a size of about a quarter. There is also napoleones – again with all the vowels pronounced – a mille-feuille pastry stuffed with a sweet milk-based filling.
There are hard pastries like biskotso a crunchy, sweet, twice-baked bread. Another baked goody is sinipit which is a sweet pastry covered in a crunchy sugar glaze, made to resemble a length of rope. Similar to sinipit is a snack eaten on roadsides colloquially called shingaling. It is hollow but crunchy with a salty flavor.
For a softer treat there is mamon a chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar, its name derived from a slang Spanish term for breast. There's also crema de fruta, which is an elaborate sponge cake topped in succeeding layers of cream, custard, candied fruit, and gelatine. Similar to a sponge cake is mamoncillo which generally refers to slices taken from a large mamon cake, but it is unrelated to the fruit of the same name. Sandwich pastries like inipit are made with two thin layers of chiffon sandwiching a filling of custard that is topped with butter and sugar. Another mamon variant is mamon tostada, basically mamoncillo toasted to a crunchy texture.
Stuffed pastries that reflect both Western and Eastern influence are common. One can find empanadas, a turnover-type pastry filled with a savory-sweet meat filling. Typically filled with ground meat and raisins, it can be deep fried or baked. Siopao is the local version of Chinese baozi. Buchi is another snack that is likely of Chinese origin. Bite-sized, buchi is made of deep-fried dough balls (often from rice flour) filled with a sweet mung bean paste, and coated on the outside with sesame seeds; some variants also have ube as the filling. There are also many varieties of the mooncake-like hopia, which come in different shapes (from a flat, circular stuffed form, to cubes), and have different textures (predominantly using flaky pastry, but sometimes like the ones in mooncakes) and fillings.
For festive occasions, people band together and prepare more sophisticated dishes. Tables are often laden with expensive and labor-intensive treats requiring hours of preparation. In Filipino celebrations, lechón (also spelled litson) serves as the centerpiece of the dinner table. It is usually a whole roasted pig, but suckling pigs (lechonillo, or lechon de leche) or cattle calves (lechong baka) can also be prepared in place of the popular adult pig. It is typically served with lechon sauce, which is traditionally made from the roasted pig's liver. Other dishes include hamonado (honey-cured beef, pork or chicken), relleno (stuffed chicken or milkfish), mechado, afritada, caldereta, puchero, paella, menudo, morcon, embutido (referring to a meatloaf dish, not a sausage as understood elsewhere), suman (a savory rice and coconut milk concoction steamed in leaves such as banana), and pancit canton. The table may also be have various sweets and pastries such as leche flan, ube, sapin-sapin, sorbetes (ice creams), totong (a rice, coconut milk and mongo bean pudding), ginataan (a coconut milk pudding with various root vegetables and tapioca pearls), and gulaman (an agarjello-like ingredient or dessert).
Christmas Eve, known as Noche Buena, is the most important feast. During this evening, the star of the table is the Christmas ham and Edam cheese (queso de bola). Supermarkets are laden with these treats during the Christmas season and are popular giveaways by Filipino companies in addition to red wine, brandy, groceries, or pastries. Available mostly during the Christmas season and sold in front of churches along with bibingka, puto bumbong is a purple yam-flavored puto.
More common at celebrations than in everyday home meals, lumpiang sariwa, or fresh lumpia, is a fresh spring roll that consists of a soft crepe wrapped around a filling that can include strips of kamote (sweet potato), singkamas (jicama), bean sprouts, green beans, cabbage, carrots and meat (often pork). It can be served warm or cold and typically with a sweet peanut and garlic sauce. Ukoy is shredded papaya combined with small shrimp (and occasionally bean sprouts) and fried to make shrimp patties. It is often eaten with vinegar seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Both lumpiang sariwa and ukoy are often served together in Filipino parties. Lumpiang sariwa has Chinese origins, having been derived from popiah.
The Philippine islands are home to various ethnic groups resulting in varied regional cuisines.
Ilocanos, from the rugged Ilocos region, boast of a diet heavy in boiled or steamed vegetables and freshwater fish, but they are particularly fond of dishes flavored with bagoong, fermented fish that is often used instead of salt. Ilocanos often season boiled vegetables with bagoong monamon (fermented anchovy paste) to produce pinakbet. Local specialties include the soft white larvae of ants and "jumping salad" of tiny live shrimp.
The Igorot prefer roasted meats, particularly carabao meat, goat meat, and venison.
Due to its mild, sub-tropical climate, Baguio, along with the outlying mountainous regions, is renowned for its produce. Temperate-zone fruits and vegetables (strawberries being a notable example) which would otherwise wilt in lower regions are grown there. It is also known for a snack called sundot-kulangot which literally means "poke the booger." It's actually a sticky kind of sweet made from milled glutinous rice flour mixed with molasses, and served inside pitogo shells, and with a stick to "poke" its sticky substance with.
Isabela is known for Pancit Cabagan of Cabagan, Inatata & Binallay of Ilagan City are rice cakes prepared year-round in the city and both famous delicacies specially during the lenten season. Cagayan for its famous Carabao Milk Candy in the town Alcala and Tuguegarao City for Pancit Batil Patung and Buko Roll.
The town of Calasiao in Pangasinan is known for its puto, a type of steamed rice cake.
Kapampangan cuisine makes use of all the produce in the region available to the native cook. Among the treats produced in Pampanga are longganisa (original sweet and spicy sausages), calderetang kambing (savory goat stew), and tocino (sweetened cured pork). Combining pork cheeks and offal, Kapampangans make sisig.
The cuisine of the Tagalog people varies by province. Bulacan is popular for chicharon (pork rinds) and steamed rice and tuber cakes like puto. It is a center for panghimagas or desserts, like brown rice cake or kutsinta, sapin-sapin, suman, cassava cake, halaya ube and the king of sweets, in San Miguel, Bulacan, the famous carabao milk candypastillas de leche, with its pabalat wrapper.Cainta, in Rizal province east of Manila, is known for its Filipino rice cakes and puddings. These are usually topped with latik, a mixture of coconut milk and brown sugar, reduced to a dry crumbly texture. A more modern, and time saving alternative to latik are coconut flakes toasted in a frying pan. Antipolo City, straddled mid-level in the mountainous regions of the Philippine Sierra Madre, is a town known for its suman and cashew products. Laguna is known for buko pie (coconut pie) and panutsa (peanut brittle). Batangas is home to Taal Lake, a body of water that surrounds Taal Volcano. The lake is home to 75 species of freshwater fish. Among these, the maliputo and tawilis are two not commonly found elsewhere. These fish are delicious native delicacies. Batangas is also known for its special coffee, kapeng barako.
Bicol is noted for its gastronomic appetite for the fiery or chili-hot dishes. Perhaps the most well-known Bicolano dish is the very spicy Bicol Express. The region is also the well-known home of natong also known as laing or pinangat (a pork or fish stew in taro leaves).
Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Occidental. There are a plethora of restaurants in Bacolod that serve delicious local dishes which visitors shouldn’t miss when they travel in the city. It is known for "inasal" which literally translates to “cooked over fire”. The "chicken inasal" is a local version of chicken barbecue. It is cooked with red achuete or annatto seeds giving it a reddish color, and brushed with oil and cooked over the fire. The city is also famous for various delicacies such as piaya, napoleones and pinasugbo (hard candied banana sprinkled with sesame seeds).
Aklan is synonymous with Inubarang Manok, chicken simmered in coconut milk, as well as Binakoe na Manok, chicken cooked in bamboo with lemongrass. Of particular interest is Tamilok (wood worms), which is either eaten raw or dipped in an acidic sauce such as vinegar or calamansi. There is a special prevalence of chicken and coconut milk (gata) in Akeanon cooking.
Iloilo is home of the Batchoy, derived from “Ba-chui” meaning pieces of meat in Chinese. The authentic Batchoy contains fresh egg noodles called miki, buto-buto broth slow-cooked for hours, and beef, pork and bulalo mixed with the local guinamos (shrimp paste). Toppings include generous amounts of fried garlic, crushed chicharon, scallions, slices of pork intestines and liver. Another type of pancit which is found in the said province is Pancit molo, an adaptation of wonton soup and is a specialty of the town of Molo, a well-known district in Iloilo. Unlike other pancit, Pancit molo is not dry but soupy and it does not make use of long, thin noodles but instead wonton wrappers made from rice flour. Iloilo, is also famous for its two kadios or pigeon pea-based soups. The first is KBL or "Kadios Baboy Langka". As the name implies, the three main ingredients of this dish are kadyos, baboy (pork), and langka (unripe jackfruit is used here). Another one is KMU or "Kadios Manok Ubad". This dish is composed mainly of kadyos, manok (preferably free range chicken called Bisaya nga Manok in Iloilo), and ubad(thinly cut white core of the banana stalk/trunk). Both of these dishes utilize another Ilonggo ingredient as a souring agent. This ingredient is batwan or Garcinia binucao, a fruit closely related to mangosteen, which is very popular in Western Visayas but is generally unknown to other parts of the Philippines.
Roxas City is another food destination in Western Visayas aside from Iloilo City and Kalibo. This coastal city that's about two to three hours by bus from Iloilo City prides itself as the Seafood Capital of the Philippines due to its bountiful rivers, estuaries and seas. Numerous seafood dishes are served in the city's Baybay area from mussels, oysters, scallops, prawns, seaweeds, clams, fishes and many more.
Cebu is known for its lechón variant. Lechon prepared "Cebu style" is characterized by a crisp outer skin and a moist juicy meat with a unique taste given by a blend of spices. Cebu is also known for sweets like dried mangoes and caramel tarts.
In Bohol, kalamay is popular. In Palawan, crocodile meat is boiled, cured, and turned into tocinos. In Romblon, a speacialty dish is pounded and flavored shrimp meat and rice cooked inside a banana life.
In Mindanao, the southern part of Palawan island, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, dishes are richly flavored with the spices common to Southeast Asia: turmeric, coriander, lemon grass, cumin, and chillies — ingredients not commonly used in the rest of Filipino cooking. Being free from European colonization, the cuisine of the indigenous Moro and Lumad peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago has much in common with the rich and spicy Malay cuisine of Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Indonesian and Thai cuisine.
Well-known dishes from the region include Satti (satay) and ginataang manok (chicken cooked in spiced coconut milk). Certain parts of Mindanao are predominantly Muslim, where pork is rarely consumed.
Rendang, is an often spicy beef curry whose origins derive from the Minangkabau people of Sumatra; biryani and kiyoning (pilaf) are dishes originally from the Middle East, that were given a Mindanaoan touch and served on special occasions.
Pyanggang is a Tausug dish made from barbecued chicken marinaded in spices, and served with coconut milk infused with toasted coconut meat.
Popular crops such as cassava root, sweet potatoes, and yams are grown.
Sambal, a spicy sauce made with belacan, tamarind, aromatic spices and chillies, is a popular base of many dishes in the region.
Another popular dish from this region is tiyula itum, a dark broth of beef or chicken lightly flavored with ginger, chili, turmeric, and toasted coconut flesh (which gives it its dark color).
Lamaw (Buko salad), is a mixture of young coconut, its juice, milk or orange juice, with ice.
1 GEOGRAPHIC SETTING AND ENVIRONMENT
The Republic of the Philippines consists of a group of 7,107 islands situated southeast of mainland Asia and separated from it by the South China Sea. The two largest islands are Luzon (40,814 square miles/105,708 square kilometers), and Mindanao (36,906 square miles/95,586 square kilometers). Comparatively, the area occupied by the Philippines is slightly larger than the state of Arizona. The land is varied, with volcanic mountain masses forming the cores of most of the larger islands. A number of volcanoes are active, and the islands have been subject to destructive earthquakes. Lowlands are generally narrow coastal strips except for larger plains in Luzon and Mindanao. Forests cover almost one-half of the land area and are typically tropical, with vines and other climbing plants.
Pollution from industrial sources and mining operations is a significant environmental problem in the Philippines. Almost forty of the country's rivers contain high levels of toxic contaminants. About 23 percent of the nation's rural dwellers do not have pure water, while 93 percent of the city dwellers do not have pure water. Also threatened are the coastal mangrove swamps, which serve as important fish breeding grounds, and offshore corals, about 50 percent of which are rated dead or dying as a result of pollution and dynamiting by fishermen. The nation is also vulnerable to typhoons, earthquakes, floods, and volcanoes.
2 HISTORY AND FOOD
The Philippines' location between the South China Sea and the Pacific Ocean has made the islands a crossing point for migrating
Malays, from Malaysia, were among the first inhabitants of the Philippines over 20,000 years ago. They brought with them the knowledge of preparing hot chilies and the use of ginataan , or coconut milk, in sauces to balance the spiciness.
The Chinese established colonies in the Philippines between 1200 and 1300. They introduced pansit , or Chinese noodle dishes, and bean curds. Later came egg rolls, and soy sauce. Like the Chinese, the Filipinos consume a wide array of dipping sauces to accompany their dishes.
Spain occupied the Philippines for almost 400 years, beginning in 1521. This colonization had a major impact on Filipino cuisine. A majority of the dishes prepared in modern Philippines can be traced back to Spain. In fact, everyday Filipino dishes resemble Spanish cooking more than native meals. The Spaniards introduced a Mediterranean style of eating and preparing food. Techniques such as braising and sautéing, and meals cooked in olive oil, are examples. Spain also introduced cooking with seasonings, such as garlic, onions, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and vinegar.
The United States took control of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War in 1898, staying through World War II (1939–1945) until 1946. The U. S. military introduced goods shipped in from their country such as mayonnaise, hot dogs, hamburgers, and apple pies. Canned evaporated and condensed milk often replace the traditional buffalo milk used in desserts, such as flan (caramel custard). Nowhere else in Asian cuisine can cheese and canned tomato sauce be found in recipes. All of these foods are still favorites of the Filipinos and can be found almost anywhere in the country.
Leche Flan (Caramel Custard)
- Pour the water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Add the sugar and stir constantly over medium heat until sugar is melted and it forms the consistency of syrup.
- Pour the syrup evenly into any ovenware dish that is about 2 inches deep, such as a square brownie pan. Tilt the dish so the syrup coats all of the sides. Refrigerate while preparing the custard.
- 12 eggs
- 2 (13-ounce) cans evaporated milk
- 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites one at a time. Place the egg yolks in a large mixing bowl. (Discard the egg whites or reserve them for another use.)
- Add the rest of the custard ingredients to the mixing bowl.
- Stir lightly when mixing to prevent bubbles or foam from forming. Remove the caramel-lined dish from the refrigerator and pour the custard mixture slowly into it.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- Cover the custard dish with aluminum foil. Set it into a large shallow pan (such as a cake pan). Pour water into the larger pan until it is about one-inch deep. This is called a water bath.
- Bake in oven for 1 hour, or until the custard is firm. Cool to eating temperature. May be served warm or chilled.
Serves 8 to 10.
3 FOODS OF THE FILIPINOS
Like other Southeast Asian cuisines, the Filipinos eat a lot of vegetables and rice. Similarly, they also eat many types of seafood, saving meat for more special occasions (often in the form of lechon , or whole roasted pig). The waters surrounding the Philippines islands provide over 2,000 species of fish. In addition, Filipinos have been farming fish in palaisdaan , or fishponds, using aquaculture (raising fish and shellfish in controlled conditions) for over 1,000 years. Patis, a clear, amber-colored fish sauce, is used in Filipino dishes as much as soy sauce is used in China.
For over 2,000 years, rice has been grown in the Philippines and is eaten almost daily. As of the twenty-first century, over twenty varieties of rice are cultivated, which are made into thousands of different cakes, noodles, and pancakes. Rice noodles are common in fast-food restaurants and stands, served heaping with a choice of different meats and vegetables. Noodles symbolize prosperity, long life, and good luck. Filipinos believe the longer the noodles, the better, so noodles are generally not broken or cut when a dish is being prepared.
Coconut Buying and Opening
To select a fresh coconut, shake it to feel the sloshing of liquid inside. A cracked or old coconut will be empty and dry.
Opening the coconut: Locate the brown eye-like spots at one end and pierce with a sharp point. Drain off the liquid. Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the coconut in the oven on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. Remove the coconut and wrap in a clean kitchen towel. Carefully crack it open with a hammer. The coconut meat should be broken away carefully from the shell. If a portion is not broken easily away from the shell, return the coconut to the oven for a few minutes more.
Making Shredded Coconut
Once all of the meat is out of the shell, you can grate the meat with a small hand grater, shred the meat in a food processor, or with a sharp knife. One coconut makes about 4 cups of shredded coconut.
Since the weather in the Philippines is tropical, many types of fruit are grown. Pineapples, strawberries, cantaloupe, melon, kiwi, bananas, guapple (a cross between a guava and an apple) and coconut are just a few examples. Coconuts are plentiful and are used in and on everything. The coconut meat inside can be eaten, and the ginataang (milk from the meat) can be used in refreshing drinks or for sauces to cook fruits and vegetables in, such as adobong hipon sa gata (shrimp adobo in coconut milk). It can also be grated or baked into desserts and sweets, such as maja blanca (coconut cake).
Homemade coconut milk tastes its best when freshly made; even if it is refrigerated, it quickly loses its flavor.
- 2 cups coconut meat, finely shredded (see instructions above; canned or frozen unsweetened, shredded coconut is available at most supermarkets.)
- 8-inch square of cheesecloth (can be found in most supermarkets), surgical gauze, or 8-inch square of clean nylon stocking
- Fill a large saucepan halfway full of water and bring to a boil. Set aside 2 cups.
- If using a blender or food processor, add shredded coconut and boiling water and blend for 1 minute. Let cool for 5 minutes.
- If not using a blender or food processor, put shredded coconut in a mixing bowl and add the boiling water. Let set for 30 minutes.
- Strain coconut liquid (prepared by either method) through cheesecloth, gauze, or nylon into a medium-size bowl.
- Squeeze and twist cloth to remove all milk from the coconut meat.
- Repeat the process if more coconut milk is needed.
Maja Blanco (Coconut Cake)
- 2 cups coconut, finely shredded (see how to use fresh coconut above) fresh, frozen, or canned, tightly packed into the measuring cup
- 3 Tablespoons sugar
- 4 Tablespoons butter or margarine, melted
- ½ cup cornstarch
- ½ cup light brown sugar, tightly packed
- ¼ cup water
- 2 cups coconut milk, fresh, frozen, or canned (unsweetened)
- 3 eggs
- Whipped topping for garnish
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites one at a time.
- Preheat oven to 325°F.
- If using freshly grated unsweetened coconut, add about 3 Tablespoons of sugar to taste into a small bowl. No sugar is needed if packaged or canned sweetened coconut is used.
- Combine coconut and melted butter or margarine in medium mixing bowl.
- Using fingers, press mixture onto the bottom and sides of a pie pan, making a piecrust.
- Bake for about 5 minutes, or until lightly golden. Remove from oven and cool to room temperature.
- Put cornstarch and sugar in medium saucepan. Add water and mix well to dissolve cornstarch.
- Add coconut milk and egg yolks. Stir constantly over medium to high heat until mixture boils.
- Reduce heat to low and stir constantly until smooth and thick, about 5 minutes.
- Remove from heat and pour mixture into coconut piecrust.
- Cool to room temperature and refrigerate for about 3 hours to set.
- To serve, cut into wedges and add a scoop of whipped topping on top.
While Filipinos use limited spices in their cuisine compared to other Asian nations, they love the taste of sour flavors, particularly vinegar. Meats and fish are commonly marinated in palm vinegar, which is half as strong as Western-style vinegar. Vinegar acts to preserve freshness. Since refrigeration is not nationally available, this marinating method, along with drying, salting, and fermenting are techniques used to preserve meats. Instead of adding strong flavors to their cooking, Filipinos use strong-tasting condiments to accompany their food.
The national dish of the Philippines is called adobo . Not only is this a national dish for the Filipinos, but it is also a style of cooking. This Spanish-influenced dish is like a stew, and involves marinating meat or seafood pieces in vinegar and spices, then browning them in their own juices. The sauce in adobo usually contains soy sauce, white vinegar, garlic, and peppercorns (or pepper) and is boiled with the meat. The vinegar preserves the meat, and adobo will keep for four or five days without refrigeration. This is considered an advantage in the tropical heat. Pork adobo is the most popular, for those who can afford it, but any type of meat or seafood can be used.
Adobong Hiponsa Gata (Shrimp Adobo in Coconut Milk)
- ½ cup white vinegar
- ¼ cup water
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 1 Tablespoon garlic, minced
- Patis (fish sauce, found in an Asian grocery store); soy sauce may be substituted
- 1 pound fresh shrimps, unshelled (frozen unshelled shrimp may be substituted)
- 2 cans (12-ounce each) coconut milk
- Make marinade: Place the vinegar, water, pepper, garlic and patis (or soy sauce) in a medium-size pot.
- Add the shrimp to the marinade and let stand for 1 hour.
- Put the pot over medium heat, and cook the shrimp, turning the shrimp often, until they have absorbed the marinade and the pot is almost dry.
- Pour in the coconut milk and continue simmering, allowing the mixture to thicken, stirring occasionally (about 20 minutes). Serve.
4 FOOD FOR RELIGIOUS AND HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS
Christian holidays are the most widely celebrated holidays in the Philippines. This is because Spain introduced the Catholic religion centuries ago when it occupied the Philippines. In the twenty-first century, about 90 percent of Filipinos are Roman Catholic Christians. The Philippines is the only Asian country that is primarily Christian. Filipinos claim to have one of the world's longest Christmas celebrations. Their celebration begins December 16 and lasts for three weeks. On Pasko Ng Bata, Christmas Day, families may gather to eat lumpia (spring rolls), and drink tsokolate (a native chocolate drink) and salabat (ginger tea).
Tsokolate (Hot Chocolate)
- 1 pound chocolate (or 2 cups chocolate chips)
- 6 cups milk
- 6 eggs, separated
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites one at a time and put the yolks in a medium mixing bowl. (Discard the egg whites or reserve them for another use.) Beat the yolks with a whisk.
- Cut chocolate bar into small pieces.
- Pour milk into saucepan and add chocolate. Heat to boiling, stirring constantly, until chocolate is melted.
- Add the egg yolks to the saucepan. With a whisk, beat the whole mixture until foamy, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
Makes 6 servings.
Filipino families meet to share a Christmas meal, but they save their Christmas feast for Epiphany. The holiday season ends with the Feast of the Epiphany, which is on the first Sunday in January. This is when families gather to eat pork lechon, which is a whole pig roasted outside over a spitfire of burning coals. Served with the pork are a garlic rice called sinangag and other rice dishes, such as bibingka (rice cake with salted eggs and fresh coconut meat) and suman (steamed rice wrapped in banana leaves). Vegetable dishes and assorted fruits, such as pineapples, bananas, persimmons (very tart fruit that looks similar to a tomato), and papayas, are eaten as well. Desserts, cookies, and cakes top off the huge feast, which can go on for several hours and then is followed by a long afternoon nap.
Sinangag (Garlic Rice)
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
- 4 cups rice, cooked
- 6 green onions, finely sliced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and fry for about 3 minutes.
- Add cooked rice, green onions, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.
- Heat through, about 5 minutes. Serve.
Makes 8 servings.
5 MEALTIME CUSTOMS
Filipino dishes are based more on distinctive tastes and textures than different courses. Instead of serving courses separately, they are all brought to the table at one time so the diners can enjoy all flavors and dishes together. Dining at a Filipino table is similar to eating at a buffet. Even the dessert is part of the buffet-style meal. The dessert provides a sweet balance to the salty and sour tastes that are part of a meal.
Unlike in much of the Western world, burping is not considered rude in the Philippines where it means you are full and enjoyed the meal. Sometimes a burp is followed with the expression, Ay, salamat, which means, "Ahh, thank you."
Anyone who visits a Filipino home, no matter what time of day, is offered food. If the guest interrupts a meal, which is common because most Filipinos eat five or more meals a day, they are invited to join the diners. Eating is so constant, in fact, that many Filipinos use "Kumain ka na?" ("Have you eaten yet?") as a general greeting to each other.
Before outside influences, Filipinos used their hands to eat. The traditional way of eating was to scoop up food from flat dishes with fingers of the right hand. Some upscale native restaurants in Manila, the country's capital, serve food this way. With Western influences and the introduction of knives, forks and spoons, Filipinos have adapted their ways. The fork and spoon are the two main utensils of choice. The fork is held with the left hand and the spoon in the right. The fork is used to spear and hold the piece of food while the spoon is used to cut or tear off small pieces.
Almusal (breakfast) is the first meal of the day, and usually consists of leftovers from the previous evening's dinner, like garlic fried rice and cured meat. Ginger tea is usually drunk. Ensaimada (fluffy, sugared, coiled buns), smoked fish, salted duck eggs, fried eggs, Chinese ham, Spanish sausages, and fresh mangos are just some of the foods that might be eaten.
For lunch, mongo (a stew of munggo —mung beans—and shrimp with olive oil and lime juice), caldereta (goat and potato stew), and ensaladang balasens, an eggplant salad, may be eaten. All of these dishes are typically accompanied by white rice. Most school students carry lunchboxes to school. In it, they would have a thermos with a sugary fruit drink, a large container of plain white rice, a small container with fried fish or chicken, and a small container of tomato sauce on the side. They would typically not take any fruit or vegetables. A student's lunch box also might contain a peanut butter sandwich for an afternoon snack.
For dinner, Filipinos will often go to a simple turo-turo restaurant. This literally means "point point," which is how they select their food. They may choose menudo (hearty pork and chickpea stew), or pansit (noodle) dishes, such as pansit mami (noodles in broth). If they decide to go a fancier restaurant, they might enjoy patang bawang , which are deep-fried pork knuckles with garlic and chilies, and maybe a wedge of American-style lemon meringue pie for dessert.
Pansit Mami (Noodles in Broth)
- ¼ pound pork (not ground)
- ¼ pound boneless skinless chicken breast
- 3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 Tablespoon garlic, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 pound rice noodles (found in an Asian market), or substitute flat, wide, egg noodles
- 2 Tablespoons green onions, finely chopped
- In a medium pot, boil pork and chicken in water until tender. Season with a pinch of salt.
- Remove the meat from the water and allow to cool.
- Reserve 2 cups of the cooking stock (water used to cook the meat).
- Cut the pork and chicken into strips. Set aside.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil on medium heat and sauté the garlic and onion for about 3 minutes.
- Add the pork and chicken. Add the stock.
- Bring the mixture to a boil, add the rice noodles or egg noodles, and simmer for 2 minutes until the noodles are tender. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Serve immediately.
Serves 8 to 10.
Dessert is the highlight of a meal for many Filipinos. They consider stir-frying very easy compared to perfecting a dessert. In fact, a cook's reputation may be based on the skills needed to make dessert dishes. Popular desserts are candies, like polvoron , and cakes such as bibingka , made from rice flour and sprinkled with cheese and shredded coconut, which are eaten as snacks during the day.
Polvoron (Powdered Milk Candy)
- 3 cups flour, sifted
- 1 cup powdered milk
- ¾ cup confectioners sugar
- ½ pound (2 sticks) butter, melted
- 1 teaspoon lemon or vanilla extract
- ¼ cup water, measured 1 Tablespoon at a time
- Place sifted flour in a saucepan and toast over medium heat until light brown, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and cool.
- Add powdered milk, sugar, melted butter, and lemon or vanilla extract.
- Add water, 1 Tablespoon at a time, until the mixture holds together and can be molded into balls.
- With your hands, flatten into little cakes the size of a silver dollar.
- Wrap individually in wax paper.
Makes about 60 candies.
Merienda means snacktime in the Philippines. Merienda is a meal in itself for those who can afford it. Merienda is important to the Filipinos because they find the gap between lunch and dinner too long, and they need to take many breaks from the intense tropical heat. Lumpia (spring rolls), puto (little cupcakes made from ground rice), and panyo-panyo (tiny pastry envelopes filled with mango and banana jam) are a few merienda dishes. Anything can be served with the snack except steamed rice. Steamed rice constitutes a complete meal, which merienda is not considered.
6 POLITICS, ECONOMICS, AND NUTRITION
About 22 percent of the population of the Philippines are classified as undernourished by the World Bank. This means they do not receive adequate nutrition in their diet. Of children under the age of five, about 30 percent are underweight, and nearly one-third are stunted (short for their age). Government-financed child health malnutrition programs are already well established in the Philippines; however, these programs lack significant funding and malnutrition continues to be a primary concern. Indigenous (native) foods such as mung beans and powdered shrimp are available for infants and children, but protein, iron, iodine, and Vitamin A remain deficient in their diets.
An increase in community involvement since the 1980s has helped to keep the population aware of the problems with malnourished children. Such awareness has led to a gradual improvement in health care for all Filipinos. As of 1996, a vast majority (91 percent) of those living in urban areas also had access to clean and safe water, as did 81 percent of those living in rural areas.
7 FURTHER STUDY
Fertig, Theresa Kryst. Christmas in the Philippines . Chicago: World Book, 1990.
Hyman, Gwenda L. Cuisines of Southeast Asia . Canada: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1993.
Jaffrey, Madhur. Far Eastern Cookery . New York: Harper & Row, 1989.
Osborne, Christine. Southeast Asian Food and Drink . New York: Bookwright, 1989.
Filipino Web. [Online] Available http://www.filipinoweb.com/art_cuisine.html (accessed March 14, 2001).
Global Gourmet. [Online] Available http://www.globalgourmet.com/destinations/philippines/phileat.html (accessed March 14, 2001).
Tribo. [Online] Available http://www.tribo.org/filipinofood/food2.html (accessed March 14, 2001).