March 1, 2019
One important aspect of understanding the local culture while traveling is to immerse yourself with the local cuisine.
One of the greatest things I love about the Philippines is their food.
Filipino cuisine is under a lot of influences of their locality and their colonization history in the past. Hence, you will find a lot of seafood and meats in the typical Filipino cuisine, while the preparation style is under a lot of Spanish and American influence. Filipinos can just make great food using anything they can catch from the sea. And I have to agree, their food is superb! Today, I am going to share with you some of the Filipino food I enjoy a lot as an Italian.
There’s always this dish that could not stop me from eating a lot – it’s what they call “caldereta”. Calderata is an example of the many Spanish-influenced stews that have become an integral part of the Filipino cuisine. Like “afritada” and “mechado”, this hearty dish has tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and bell peppers as primary ingredients. But it has, however, the distinction of using liver spread to thicken the saue and chilies to give it a little hot and spice feel!
Although goat is the traditional meat used for the stew, chicken, pork or beef are also the common variations. And what I tried is “beef caldereta” version that is best for dinner. I have to be honest, beef caldereta got me into eating a lot of plain rice which I don’t usually eat. Unlike in the Philippines, where rice is the main staple food here. We Italians normally eat Pasta or bread as our staple. Steam rice has no taste in itself. Yet it tastes so good when eating it with this delicious dish – Caldereta.
“Adobo” is one of the most popular Filipino dishes, and it 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 tastes salty and good with the rice. But this dish could be more challenging for foreigners like us. I must say – “beef caldereta” is better for my tastebuds.
The second food that got me into loving Filipino food is their fried rice. House special fried rice is a popular rice dish consisting of generous portions of shrimps, beef, and chicken along with the eggs and vegetables. Although the same basic stir-frying on high heat is employed, it requires a little more involved in the cooking process to turn the rice from good to ultra special. I love it with grilled pork as my side dish.
In case you don’t know, the word “Lechon” is a Spanish word referring to roasted suckling pig. It is popular in this country which was once colonized by Spain. Lechon in the Philippines is a dish with the whole pig being roasted slowly and manually over charcoal. Spices are placed inside the belly of the pig and on the skin to make it delectable.
Since the country is divided by islands and oceans, Lechon is cooked and enjoyed differently. The two most famous “styles” of Lechon are Cebu Lechon (also known as the Visayan lechon) and Manila Lechon (Also knows as Tagalog lechon). Both look the same but are prepared, cooked, and served differently.
Traditionally, sisig takes all the good parts from a pig’s head – specifically the cheeks, snout, and ears, along with the liver and belly, simmers them in water, and then they’re chopped into small pieces and fried. The mixture is spiced with chili peppers and calamansi, a small green citrus fruit that resembles a lime, and finally mixed with egg, onion.
Eat Sisig with a cold beer (SanMiguel) is a divine combo!
Adobong Pusit (Squid Adobo)
Filipinos love adobo. No doubt about it. And when it comes to seafood, the slippery squid inks on every other candidate. Its dark brown to black appearance may throw off an unsuspecting first-timer in the beginning, but any Pinoy who has tried it will tell you that its squidoo-squidly flavor compliments the salty and the sour, provided by the perfect blend of soy sauce and vinegar.
Inihaw na Pusit (Grilled Squid)
There are many things that you can do with a fresh squid. But the most popular, apparently, is the simplest grilled. Usually stuffed with tomatoes, onions and what have you, the plump squid reveals a healthy surprise when it’s time to chop. The squid is marinated first before it is allowed to hit the grill.
Commonly known as inasal, Chicken inasal is a Filipino variant of lechon manok, marinated in a mixture of Calamansi – a Filipino citrus reminiscent of lemon, orange and lime, pepper, coconut vinegar and annatto, then grilled over hot coals while basted with the marinade. It is served with rice, calamansi, soy sauce, chicken oil and vinegar (often “sinamak” vinegar, a palm vinegar infused with garlic, chili peppers and langkawas, or greater galangal, a kind of ginger).
Inihaw na liempo
Inihaw na liempo literally means “grilled pork belly”. It is another delicious way Filipinos enjoy their pork. The thick-cut pork belly rashers are marinated overnight for best flavor and then grilled to perfection over hot coals. Marinades for this popular grilled meat vary from one household to another, from one cook to the next and every household has their own secret recipes. The recipe can be easily modified according to your taste preference but remember to be generous with your seasonings. The meat will release its own juice while marinating and will dilute the marinade so when prepping your solution, go a little saltier, sweeter or spicier than how you would like the meat when cooked. Happy cooking!
I can’t contain my feelings when trying these filipino foods. The food here always makes me wonder if I should live and stay in the Philippines for a longer period of time. Yeah seriously I have been thinking about making the Philippines my home base for while before continuing my journey as a backpacker around the world. And the delicious food served here contributed quite a lot for this thought!
How about you? Have you tried filipino food before? How does it taste? How does it feel to experience those delicious filipino dishes that expresses and symbolizes their passion in cooking with heart full of love? For me this filipino food experience is just amazing and a must to try!
What are you waiting for? Come and experience the Philippines culture with us!
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