The Filipino Cuisine has a humble beginnings. The early Filipinos used simple ways of cooking like broiling on an open fire, boiling and roasting. Philippine Cuisine consists of the foods, preparation methods and eating customs found in the Philippines. The style of cooking and the foods associated with it have evolved over several centuries from its Austronesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences 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 elaborate paellas and cocidos created for fiestas. Popular dishes include lechon (whole roasted pig), longganisa (Philippine sausage), tapa (cured beef), torta (omelette), adobo (chicken and/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), pochero (beef in bananas and tomato sauce), afritada (chicken and/or pork simmered in a tomato sauce with vegetables), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), 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). But with the frequent visit of Asian neighbours like the Indonesians, Arabs, Indians, The Malays and the Chinese who used to come to the Philippine shores to barter their goods and produce, the Filipinos were introduce to their use of spices and herbs to enchance the flavour of the food they eat.
History & Influences
Malayo-Polynesians during the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines prepared food by boiling, steaming, or roasting. This ranged from the usual livestock such as kalabaw (water buffaloes), baka (cows), manok (chickens) and baboy (pigs) to various kinds of fish and seafood. Filipinos have been cultivating rice since 3200 BC when Austronesian ancestors from the southern China Yunnan Plateau and Taiwan settled in what is now the Philippines. They brought with them rice cultivation and a lot of other various traditions that are used in forms today. Trade with other Asian nations introduced a number of staples into Philippine cuisine, most notably toyo (soy sauce) and patis (fish sauce), as well as the method of stir-frying and making savory soup bases. Vinegar and spices were used in foods to preserve them.
When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippine shores in 1521, the Filipinos were introduced to a different style of cooking, The Spaniards have a big influence in the present Filipino dishes that is serve in every homes of the Filipinos today because the Philippines have been a Spanish colony for almost 400 years.
History tells us that the First Governor General, Miguel de Leaspi who lived in Manila for several years have taught his helpers how to cook his favourite Spanish dishes who in turn passed the recipe to family and friends. When the Spaniards migrated and intemarried in the Philippines, the popularity of Spanish cooking increase.
The Spaniards introduced tomatoes and garlic along with the technique of sautéing them with onions in olive oil.
Popular baked good and desserts like Pan de Sal (dinner roll), Leche Flan (egg custard), Ensaymada (cheese buns) are from the Spanish influence.
Favourite Filipino dishes served for special occasions like Pochero, Morcon, Mechado, Cocid, Paella, Estofado, Callos, Calderaeta, Menudo can be traced to Spanish cooking. They are generally considered fiesta food and most often found on the dining tables of the upper classes during the Spanish era.
Food historians claim that 80 % of Filipino dishes are of Spanish origin.
Spanish settlers brought with them produce from the Americas like chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and the method of sautéing with garlic and onions. Although chili peppers are nowhere as widely used in Filipino cooking compared to much of Southeast Asia, chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green, again distinct from the cooking of neighbors. 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. Morcon is likely to refer to a beef roulade dish not the bulbous specialty Spanish sausage.
The Chinese migrants and traders have also added a different taste to the way Filipinos cook. Chinese migrants introduce the use of noodles known as “Mi” as in Lo-Mi, Mi-Ki, Ma-Mi, Mi-Sua. Now we have our own version of noodles called Pansit/Pancit. Pancit is a noodle dishes sautted with pork, shrimp and vegetables.
Other Chinese-inspired dishes, are Lumpiang Shanghai (spring roll) fried and served with soy sauce and chopped garlic, kikiam, siopao, and siomai. This dishes have been a favourite and become a part of Filipino way of life.
While there were some Chinese in the Philippines before the Spanish, a significant Chinese population grew only after the Spanish established themselves. Chinese food became a staple of the panciterias or noodle shops that sprang up in the nineteenth century, but were often marketed with Spanish names. The influence of comida china (Chinese food) is seen in dishes like arroz caldo (congee), morisqueta tostada (an obsolete term for sinangag or fried rice), and chopsuey.
The Filipino Cuisine Today:
The so called traditional Filipino cuisine is the result of various cultural influences from the different foreign settlers and invaders who have come to the Philippines. The Filipinos who have their own way of adjusting to new settlers have adopt to foreign ways without discarding their own way and thus become the Filipino cuisine of 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.
Most traditional dishes have survived over the centuries and recipes have been handed down from one generation to another. Although most popular dishes in the Philippines are of Spanish origin, several factors proved influential in the cooking methods of the Filipinos. New ingredients cooking techniques and easy to use ready made sauces and mixes became more popular which suited the present fast-paced lifestyle of Filipinos today.
Different regions in the Philipines have developed their own dishes, depending on the availability of ingredients found in that region. In the Bicol Region because of the abundance of coconuts, “gata” or coconut milk is a common ingredients in Bicolano cooking.
In the Philippines, cooking is a tradition and extravagant fiestas, birthday, weddings, family reunions, Christmas and New Year are still causes for lavish celebrations among Filipinos.
Fiestas showcase Filipino cooking signature dishes. No matter how humble a family is, each member look forward to a happy gathering during these occasions because their favourite Filipino dishes will always be on the table.
Filipino Cuisine can be best described as a mixture of the eastern and western influences it provides an array of rich flavours, colour and spices which made the Filipino cuisine unique, delicious and irrisistible.
As with most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. It is most often steamed and served during meals. 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. While rice is the main staple food, bread is also a common staple.
A variety of fruits and vegetables are often used in cooking. Bananas (the saba variety in particular), calamondins, guava (bayabas), mangoes, papaya, 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 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, garlic, and onions 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, oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong), clams (halaan and tulya), large and small crabs (alimango and alimasag respectively), game fish, sablefish, tuna, cod, blue marlin, and squid/cuttlefish (both called pusit). Also popular are seaweeds, abalone, and eel.
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) or relleno (deboned and stuffed). Fish can be preserved by being smoked (tinapa) or sun-dried (tuyo).
Food is often served with various dipping sauces. Fried food is often dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from kalamansi (Philippine lime, calamondin, or calamansi), or a combination of all. Patis (fish sauce) may be mixed with kalamansi as dipping sauce for most seafood. Fish sauce, fish paste (bagoong), shrimp paste (alamang) and crushed ginger root (luya) are condiments that are often added to dishes during the cooking process or when served.
The Filipino/Tagalog words for popular cooking methods and terms are listed below:
“Adobo” - cooked in vinegar, oil, garlic and soy sauce. It could also refer to just roasting on a wok, with light oil, garlic and salt, as in adobong mani (peanut adobo). The latter is done more for snacks, while the former is more associated with viands.
“Binabad” - to marinate.
“Binanlian” - blanched.
“Binagoongan” - cooked with fermented fish paste bagoong.
“Binalot” – literally “wrapped.” This generally refers to dishes wrapped in banana leaves, pandan leaves, or even aluminum foil. The wrapper is generally inedible (in contrast to lumpia).
“Binuro” - fermented.
“Daing” – marinated with garlic, vinegar, and black peppers. Sometimes dried and usually fried before eating.
“Guinataan” - cooked with coconut milk.
“Guisa/Guisado/Ginisa” - sautéed with garlic, onions and/or tomatoes.
“Halabos” – mostly for shellfish. Steamed in their own juices and sometimes carbonated soda.
“Hilaw/Sariwa” – unripe (for fruits and vegetables), raw (for meats). Also used for uncooked food in general (as in lumpiang sariwa).
“Hinurno” – baked in an oven or roasted.
“Ihaw/Inihaw” - grilled over coals.
“Kinilaw” or “Kilawin” - marinated in vinegar or calamansi juice along with garlic, onions, ginger, tomato, peppers.
“Nilaga” - boiled/braised.
“Nilasing” - cooked with an alcoholic beverage like wine or beer.
“Lechon/Litson” - roasted on a spit.
“Lumpia” – wrapped with an edible wrapper.
“Minatamis” - sweetened.
“Pinakbet” - to cook with vegetables usually with sitaw (yardlong beans), calabaza, talong (eggplant), and ampalaya (bitter melon) among others and bagoong.
“Paksiw” - cooked in vinegar.
“Pangat” - boiled in salted water with fruit such as tomatoes or ripe mangoes.
“Palaman” ? “filled” as in siopao, though “palaman” also refers to the filling in a sandwich.
“Pinakuluan” – boiled.
“Prito/Pinirito” - fried or deep fried. From the Spanish frito.
“Relleno/Relyeno” – stuffed.
“Tapa/Tinapa” – dried and smoked. Tapa refers to meat treated in this manner, mostly marinated and then dried and fried afterwards. Tinapa meanwhile is almost exclusively associated with smoked fish.
“Sarciado” – cooked with a thick sauce.
“Sinangag” – garlic fried rice.
“Sinigang” - boiled in a sour broth usually with a tamarind base. Other common souring agents include guava, raw mangoes, calamansi also known as calamondin.
“Tostado” – toasted.
“Torta” – to cook with eggs in the manner of an omelette.
Filipino cuisine is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat) flavors. Filipino palates prefer a sudden influx of flavor, although most dishes are not heavily spiced. While other Asian cuisines may be known for a more subtle delivery and presentation, Filipino cuisine is often delivered all at once in a single presentation.
Counterpoint is a feature in Philippine cuisine. This 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), tanghalian (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda (light snack). 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.
A traditional Filipino breakfast might include pandesal (small bread rolls), kesong puti (white cheese), 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 sinangag. Other examples include variations using a silog suffix, usually some kind of meat served with sinang?g 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.
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 their traditional kape (coffee): breads and pastries like pandesal, ensaymada (buttery sweet rolls covered with cheese), hopia (pastries similar to mooncakes filled with sweet bean paste) and empanada (savory pastries stuffed with meat). There’s also the option of cakes made with sticky rice (kakanin) like kutsinta, sapin-sapin, palitaw, biko, suman, bibingka, and pitsi-pitsi.
Savory 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-flavored soy sauce and vinegar sauce), and dinuguan (a spicy stew made with pork blood) which is often served with puto (steamed rice flour cakes).
Dim sum and dumplings brought over by the Fujianese people have been given a Filipino touch and are often eaten for merienda. Street foods, most of which are skewered on bamboo sticks, such as squid balls, fish balls, and others are common choices too.
Pulutan (from the Filipino word pulutin which literally means “something that is picked up”) is a term roughly analogous to the English term “finger food”. It originally 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 chicharon (also spelled tsitsaron), pork rinds that have been salted, dried, then fried; chicharong bituka or chibab, pig intestines that have been deep fried to a crisp; chicharong bulaklak or chilak, similar to chicharong bituka it is made from mesenteries of pig intestines and has a bulaklak or flower appearance; and chicharong manok or chink, chicken skin that has been deep fried until crispy.
Some grilled foods include barbecue isaw, chicken or pig intestines marinated and skewered; barbecue tenga, pig ears that have been marinated and skewered; pork barbecue which is skewered pork marinated in a usually sweet blend; betamax, salted solidified pork or chicken blood which is skewered; adidas which is grilled or sautéed chicken feet. And there is sisig a popular pulutan made from the pig’s cheek skin, ears and liver that is initially boiled, then grilled over charcoal and afterwards minced and cooked with chopped onions, chillies, and spices.
Smaller snacks such as mani (peanuts) are often sold boiled in the shell, salted, spiced or flavored with garlic by street vendors in the Philippines. Another snack is kropeck which is fish crackers.
Fried tokwa’t baboy is tofu fried with boiled pork then dipped in a garlic-flavored soy sauce or vinegar dip that is also served as a side dish to pancit luglog or pancit palabok.
For festive occasions, Filipino women band together and prepare more sophisticated dishes. Tables are often laden with expensive and labor-intensive treats requiring hours of preparation. Lechon, a whole roasted suckling pig, takes center stage. Other dishes include hamonado (honey-cured beef, pork or chicken), relleno (stuffed chicken or milkfish), mechado, afritada, caldereta, pochero, 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 cream), totong (a rice, coconut milk and mongo bean pudding), ginataan (a coconut milk pudding with various root vegetables and tapioca pearls), and gulaman (an agar jello-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.
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 Igorots 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.
The town of Calasiao in Pangasinan is known for its puto, a type of steamed rice cake.
Pampanga is the culinary center of the Philippines. 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. Kare-kare is also thought to have been originated from Pampanga.
Bicol is known for its 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).
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 candy pastillas 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, 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.
Bacolod is known for chicken “inasal” which is a kind of roast chicken served on skewers.
Iloilo is known for La Paz batchoy, pancit molo, dinuguan, puto, biscocho and piyaya.
Cebu is known for its lechon. Lechon prepared “Cebu style” is characterized by a crispy 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.
Farther south in Mindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi dishes are filled with the spices of the rest of Southeast Asia: turmeric, coriander, lemon grass, cumin, and chillies — ingredients not commonly used in the rest of Filipino cooking (except in the Bicol Region where there is a fairly liberal use of chillies). Being free from Hispanicization, the cuisine of the indigenous Moro and Lumad peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago differs greatly from much of the cooking found throughout the rest of the Philippines, having more in common with the rich and spicy Malay cuisines of Malaysia, Brunei and to an extent Sumatra, Indonesia, with well-known dishes from the region being satti (satay) and ginataang manok (chicken cooked in coconut milk). Since this region is predominantly Muslim, pork is rarely if ever consumed. Popular crops such as cassava root, sweet potatoes, and yams are grown. Sambal is a popular sauce 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).
Adobo is one of the most popular Filipino dishes and is considered unofficially by many as the national dish. It usually consists of pork or chicken, sometimes both, stewed or braised in a sauce usually made from vinegar, cooking oil, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, and soy sauce. It can also be prepared “dry” by cooking out the liquid and concentrating the flavor.
Bistek, also known as “Filipino beef steak,” consists of thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi and then fried in a skillet that is typically served with onions.
Some well-known stews are kare-kare and dinuguan. In kare-kare, also known as “peanut stew”, the oxtail or ox tripe is the main ingredient and is cooked with vegetables in a peanut-based preparation. It is typically served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). In dinuguan, a pig’s blood, entrails, and meat are cooked with vinegar and seasoned with chili peppers, usually siling mahaba.
Paksiw refers to different vinegar-based stews that differ greatly from one another based on the type of meat used. Paksiw na isda uses fish and usually includes the addition of ginger, fish sauce, and maybe siling mahaba and vegetables. Paksiw na baboy is a paksiw using pork, usually pork hocks, and often sees the addition of sugar, banana blossoms, and water so that the meat is stewed in a sweet sauce. A similar Visayan dish called humba adds fermented black beans. Both dishes are probably related to pata tim which is of Chinese origin. Paksiw na lechon is made from lechon meat and features the addition of ground liver or liver spread. This adds flavor and thickens the sauce so that it starts to caramelize around the meat by the time dish is finished cooking. Although some versions of paksiw dishes are made using the same basic ingredients as adobo, they are prepared differently, with other ingredients added and the proportions of ingredients and water being different.
In crispy pata, pork knuckles (the pata) are marinated in garlic-flavored vinegar then deep fried until crispy and golden brown, with other parts of the pork leg prepared in the same way.
Lechon manok is the Filipino take on rotisserie chicken. Available in many hole-in-the-wall stands or restaurant chains (e.g. Andok’s, Baliwag, Toto’s, Sr. Pedro’s, G.S. Pagtakhan’s), it is typically a specially seasoned chicken roasted over a charcoal flame served with “sarsa” or lechon sauce made from mashed pork liver, starch, sugar, and spices.
Mechado, kaldereta, and afritada are Spanish influenced tomato sauce-based dishes that are somewhat similar to one another. In these dishes meat is cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, and onions. Mechado gets its name from the pork fat that is inserted in a slab of beef making it look like a wick (mitsa) coming out of a beef “candle”. The larded meat is then cooked in a seasoned tomato sauce and later sliced and served with the sauce it was cooked in. Kaldereta can be beef but is also associated with goat. Chunks of meat are cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, chopped onions, peas, carrots, bell peppers and potatoes to make a stew with some recipes calling for the addition of soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, chilies, ground liver or some combination thereof. Afritada tends to be the name given to the dish when chicken and pork is used. Another similar dish said to originate from the Rizal area is waknatoy. Pork or beef sirloin is combined with potatoes and cut sausages and cooked in a tomato-based sauce sweetened with pickles. Pochero is derived from the Spanish cocido; it is a sweeter stew that has beef and banana or plantain slices simmered in tomato sauce.
Filipinos also eat tocino and longganisa. Tocino is a sweetened cured meat either chicken or pork and is marinated and cured for a number of days before being fried. Longganisa is a sweet or spicy sausage, typically made from pork though other meats can also be used, and are often colored red traditionally through the use of the anatto seed but also artificial food coloring.
Filipino soups tend to be very hearty and stew-like containing large chunks of meat and vegetables or noodles. They are usually intended to be filling and not meant to be a light preparatory introduction for the main course. They tend to be served with the rest of the meal and eaten with rice when they are not meals unto themselves. They are often referred to on local menus under the heading sabaw (broth).
Sinigang is a popular dish in this category distinguished by its sourness that often vies with adobo for consideration as the national dish. It is typically made with either pork, beef, chicken or seafood and made sour with tamarind or other suitable souring ingredients. Some seafood variants for example can be made sour by the use of guava fruit or miso.
Another dish is tinola. It has large chicken pieces and green papaya slices cooked with chili, spinach, and moringa leaves in a ginger-flavored broth.
Nilagang baka is a beef stew made with cabbages and other vegetables.
Binacol is a warm chicken soup cooked with coconut water and served with strips of coconut meat.
La Paz batchoy is a noodle soup garnished with pork innards, crushed pork cracklings, chopped vegetables, and topped with a raw egg. Another dish with the same name uses misua, beef heart, kidneys and intestines, but does not contain eggs or vegetables.
Mami is a noodle soup made from chicken, beef, pork, wonton dumplings, or intestines (called laman-loob). Ma Mon Luk was known for it. Another chicken noodle soup is sotanghon, consisting of cellophane noodles (also called sotanghon and from whence the name of the dish is derived), chicken, and sometimes mushrooms.
Noodle dishes are generally called pancit. Pancit recipes primarily consist of noodles, vegetables, and slices of meat or shrimp with variations often distinguished by the type of noodles used. Some pancit, such as mami and La Paz-styled batchoy, are noodle soups while the “dry” varieties are comparable to chow mein in preparation. Then there is spaghetti or ispageti in the local parlance that is a modified version of spaghetti bolognese. It is sometimes made with banana ketchup instead of tomato sauce, sweetened with sugar and topped with hot dog slices.
There are several rice porridges that are popular in the Philippines. One is arroz caldo which is a rice porridge cooked with chicken, ginger and sometimes saffron, garnished with spring onions (chives), toasted garlic, and coconut milk to make a type of gruel. Another variant is goto which is an arroz caldo made with ox tripe. There is also another much different rice porridge called champorado which is sweet and flavored with chocolate and often served at breakfast paired with tuyo or daing.
Another rice-based dish is arroz a la valenciana, a Spanish paella named after the Spanish region Valencia that has been incorporated into the local cuisine. Bringhe is a local rice dish with some similarities to paella but using glutinous rice, coconut milk, and turmeric. Kiampong a type of fried rice topped with pork pieces, chives and peanuts. It can be found in Chinese restaurants in Binondo and Manila.
For vegetarians, there is dinengdeng, a dish consisting of moringa leaves (malunggay) and slices of bittermelon. There is also pinakbet, stewed vegetables heavily flavored with bagoong. A type of seafood salad known as kinilaw is made up of raw seafood such as fish or shrimp cooked only by steeping in local vinegar, sometimes with coconut milk, onions, spices and other local ingredients. It is comparable to the Peruvian ceviche.
In Filipino celebrations, lechon (also litson) serves as the centerpiece of the dinner table. It is usually a whole roasted suckling pig, but piglets (lechonillo, or lechon de leche) or cattle calves (lechong baka) can also be prepared in place to the popular adult pig. It is typically served with lechon sauce.
More common at celebrations than in everyday home meals, lumpiang sariwa, sometimes referred to as 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 accompanied together in Filipino parties. Lumpiang sariwa has Chinese origins, having been derived from popiah. Available mostly during the Christmas season and sold in front of churches along withbibingka, puto bumbong is a purple yam-flavored puto.
Breads nd 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 bread 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. Silvaare oval shaped, large 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.
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 of both Western and Eastern influence are common. One can find empanadas, turnover-type pastry filled with a savory-sweet meat filling. Typically made with ground meat and raisins, it can be deep fried or baked.Siopao is the local version of Chinese baozi. Buchi is another snack probably 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 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.
As a tropical oriental country it should come as no surprise there are many treats made from rice and coconuts. One often seen dessert is bibingka, a hot rice cake optionally topped with a pat of butter, slices of kesong puti (white cheese), itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs), and sometimes grated coconut. There is also glutinous rice sweets called biko made with sugar, butter, and coconut milk. Another brown rice cake is kutsinta. Puto is another well known example of sweet steamed rice cakes prepared in many different sizes and colors. Sapin-sapin are three-layered, tri-colored sweets made with rice flour, purple yam, and coconut milk with its gelatinous appearance. Palitaw are rice patties covered with sesame seeds, sugar, and coconut; pitsi-pitsi which are cassava patties coated with cheese or coconut; and tibok-tibokis based on carabao milk as a de leche (similar to maja blanca). As a snack, binatog is created with corn kernels with shredded coconut. Packaged snacks wrapped in banana or palm leaves then steamed, suman are made from sticky rice.
For cold desserts there is halo-halo which can be described as a dessert made with shaved ice, milk, and sugar with additional ingredients like coconut, halaya (mashed purple yam), caramel custard, plantains, jackfruit, red beans, tapioca and pinipig being typical. Other similar treats made with shaved ice include saba con yelo which is shaved ice served with milk and minatamis na saging (ripe plantains chopped and caramelized with brown sugar); mais con yelo which is shaved ice served with steamed corn kernels, sugar, and milk; and buko pandan sweetened grated strips of coconut with gulaman, milk, and the juice or extract from pandan leaves. Sorbetes (ice cream) is popular too. A local version uses coconut milk instead of cow milk. Ice candy made from juice or chocolate put it in a freezer to freeze is another treat. It can be any kind of flavor depending on the maker; chocolate and buko (coconut) flavored ice candy are two of the most popular.
Street food and other snacks
Aside from pastries and desserts, there are heartier snacks for merienda that can also serve as an appetizer or side dish for a meal. Siomai is the local version of Chinese shaomai. Lumpia are spring rolls that can be either fresh or fried.Fresh lumpia (lumpiang sariwa) is usually made for fiestas or special occasions as it can be labor-intensive to prepare, while one version of fried lumpia (lumpiang prito), lumpiang shanghai is usually filled with ground pork and a combination of vegetables, and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce. Other variations are filled with minced pork and shrimp and accompanied by a vinegar-based dipping sauce. Lumpia has been commercialized in frozen food form.
Filipinos have their own distinct range of street food. Some of these are skewered on sticks in the manner of a kebab. One such example is banana-cue which is a whole banana or plantain skewered on a short thin bamboo stick, rolled in brown sugar, and fried. Kamote-cue is a peeled sweet potato skewered on a stick, covered in brown sugar and then fried. Fish balls or squid balls are skewered on bamboo sticks then dipped in a sweet or savory sauce to be commonly sold frozen in markets and peddled by street vendors.
Turon, a kind of fried lumpia consisting of an eggroll or phyllo wrapper filled with plantain and jackfruit and sprinkled with sugar can also be found sold in streets.
Taho is a warm treat made up of soft beancurd which is the taho itself, dark caramel syrup called arnibal, and tapioca pearls. It is often sold in neighborhoods by street vendors who yell out “taho” in a manner like vendors in the stands at sporting events yell out “hotdogs” or “peanuts”. Sometimes taho is served chilled or flavors have been added such as chocolate or strawberry. Taho is derived from the original Chinese snack food known as douhua.
There is also iskrambol (from the English “to scramble”), that is a kind of iced-based treat like a sorbet combined with various flavorings and usually topped with chocolate syrup. It is eaten by “scrambling” the contents or mixing them, then drinking with a large straw.
Street foods featuring eggs include kwek-kwek which are hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in orange-dyed batter and then deep fried similar to tempura. Tokneneng is a larger version of kwek-kwek using chicken or duck eggs. Another Filipino egg snack is balut, essentially a boiled pre-hatched poultry egg, usually duck or chicken. These fertilized eggs are allowed to develop until the embryo reaches a pre-determined size and are then boiled. There is also another egg dish calledpenoy which is basically hard-boiled unfertilized duck eggs. Like taho, balut is advertised by street hawkers calling out their product.
Okoy also spelled as ukoy is another batter-covered, deep-fried street food in the Philippines. Along with the batter, it normally includes bean sprouts, shredded pumpkin and very small shrimps, shells and all. It is commonly dipped in a combination of vinegar and chilli.
Among other street foods are already mentioned pulutan like isaw, seasoned hog or chicken intestines; betamax, roasted dried chicken blood served cut into and served as small cubes for which it received its name in resemblance to a Betamax tape; and proven, the proventriculus of a chicken coated in cornstarch and deep-fried. There is also pinoy fries which are fries made from sweet potatoes.
Side dishes and Complements
Itlog na pula (red eggs) are duck eggs that have been cured in brine or a mixture of clay-and-salt for a few weeks making them salty. They are later hard boiled and dyed with red food coloring, hence its name, to distinguish them from chicken eggs before they are sold over the shelves. They are often served mixed in with diced tomatoes. Atchara is a side dish of pickled papaya strips similar to sauerkraut. It’s a frequent accompaniment to fried dishes like tapa or daing.
Nata de coco is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food product produced by the fermentation of coconut water can be served with pandesal. Kesong puti is a soft white cheese made from carabao milk (although cow milk is also used in most commercial variants). Grated mature coconut (niyog), is normally served with sweet rice-based desserts.
Some exotic dishes in the Filipino diet are camaro which are field crickets cooked in soy sauce, salt, and vinegar as it is popular in Pampanga; papaitan which is goat or beef innards stew flavored with bile that gives it a bitter (pait) taste;Soup No. 5 (Also spelled as “Soup #5″) which is a soup made out of bull’s testes, and can be found in restaurants in Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila; asocena or dog meat popular in the Cordillera Administrative Region; and pinikpikan na manok that involves having a chicken beaten to death to tenderize the meat and to infuse it with blood. It is then burned in fire to remove its feathers then boiled with salt and pork.The act of beating the chicken in preparation of the dish apparently violates the Philippine Animal Welfare Act 1998.
Drinks and cocktails
There are a wide variety of alcoholic drinks in the Philippines manufactured by local breweries and distilleries. This includes brandy, and its variations such as brandy-iced tea powder (a popular cocktail consisting of one or more liqueurs and iced tea powder); and brandy-grape juice powder (same as above but with grape juice powder). Rum is often associated with Tanduay. For serbesa (beer), the most popular choices in restaurants and bars are San Miguel Beer, Red Horse Beer and San Miguel Light.
Several gins, both local varieties like Ginebra San Miguel (as well as GSM Blue and GSM Premium Gin) and imported brands like Gilbey’s, are commonly found. Some people refer to gin by the shape of the bottle: bilog for a circular bottle and kwatro kantos (literally meaning four corners) for a square or rectangular bottle. Gin is sometimes combined with other ingredients to come up with variations. Some have gin mixed with fruit juices like pineapple, pomelo, and guyabano (soursop).
Tuba (toddy) is a type of hard liquor made from fresh drippings extracted from a cut young stem of palm. The cutting of the palm stem usually done early in the morning by a mananguete, a person whose profession involves climbing palm trees and extracting the tuba to supply to customers later in the day. The morning accumulated palm juice or drippings from a cut stem is then harvested by noon then brought to buyers then prepared for consumption. Sometimes this is being done twice a day so that there are two harvests of tuba in a day occurring first at noon-time and later in the late-afternoon. Normally, tuba has to be consumed right after the mananguete brings it over or it becomes too sour to be consumed as a drink. Any remaining unconsumed tuba is then often stored in jars for several days to become palm vinegar. Tuba can be distilled to produce lambanog (arrack), a neutral liquor often noted for its relatively high alcohol content.
Chilled Drinks and Shakes
Due to the tropical climate chilled drinks are popular. Stands selling cold fruit drinks and fruit shakes are common. Tropical fruit drinks one encounters include those based on dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pinya(pineapple), banana, and guyabano. The shakes usually contain crushed ice, evaporated or condensed milk, and fruits like the perennially popular mango. Other fruit flavors are melon, papaya, avocado, watermelon, strawberry, and durian to name but a few.
Other chilled drinks include sago’t gulaman a flavored iced-drink with sago pearls and agar gelatin with banana extract sometimes added to the accompanying syrup; fresh buko juice, the water or juice straight out of a young coconut via an inserted straw, a less fresh variation of which is made out of bottled coconut juice, scraped coconut flesh, sugar, and water; and calamansi juice, the juice of Philippine limes usually sweetened with honey, syrup or sugar.
There are some commonly known variations of tea in the country. Pandan iced tea made is made with pandan leaves and lemongrass. Salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, is brewed from ginger root. There is also coffee. Coffee from the cool mountains of Batangas is known as kapeng barako. Tsokolate is the Filipino take on hot chocolate. It is traditionally made from dry powdery chocolate tablets called tablea.