Filipino cuisine is a vibrant tapestry of flavors.
Over the centuries, it has been defined by rich traditions infused with a variety of flavorful influences. It's been said that Filipino food culture was "fusion" even before there was a culinary term for it.
From Spanish to Chinese, Indian to Indonesian, there is a little bit of everything (for everyone) in Filipino cooking.
And with over 7,000 islands, most with its own distinct food history and culture, there are thousands of dishes worth discovering.
Now that Filipino food is heating things up in the United States and across the world, here's why we think more and more people will come to know and love it as much as we do.
What better example of the complex, complementing flavor profiles of Filipino cuisine than adobo? This braised meat dish, considered to be the country's national dish, is timeless but also ever evolving.
Each region of the Philippines has their own delicious take on it. Some marinate pork or chicken (or both) in vinegar and soy sauce, while others prefer braising the meat in a creamy coconut milk and chilli mixture. Some also add turmeric or annatto oil to the mixture, resulting in adobong pula (red adobo).
However it is prepared, one thing's for sure: it pairs perfectly with a steaming plate of white rice.
image: Jack Lawrence on Flickr
Just as Filipino food culture as a whole is a fusion of different influences, so too are the dishes a reflection of this diversity. Dishes can be at once sweet, savory, tangy, and spicy all at the same time. Just as flavors enrich one another, textures can also elevate a dish.
Take beef mechado, for instance, which has a contrasting sweetness and acidity thanks to calamansi (Philippine lime) juice that can be infused into the stew. The starchy potatoes and carrots add texture as well as a nutritive value to the dish.
image: wikimedia commons
Kicking the day off with sweetness is one of the great things about Filipino cuisine. Breakfast staple tocino, best paired with egg, rice, and achara (Pickled papaya) is a prime example. This is often paired with vinegar for a pleasant acidic contrast.
While others prefer lighter fare, like a cup of coffee paired with sweet treats like the ensaymada, a fluffy type of bread coated with butter, sprinkled with sugar, and topped with cheese.
Filipinos have made the most out of the versatility of rice.
From desserts like kakanin (rice cakes) which are typically made with root vegetables, coconut milk, and rice to comforting broths like arroz caldo (rice porridge) rice is a pillar of mealtimes in the Philippines.
Filipinos know how to do comfort food right.
How about some kare-kare, or meat and vegetables stewed in a savory peanut sauce? Or perhaps chocolate porridge (champorado) is more your speed? Maybe a sweet-style spaghetti with hotdogs can satisfy your craving?
Rich textures and natural sweetness are the pillars of Filipino desserts.
For instance, national favorite halo-halo (which translates to mix-mix), is made with crushed ice, nata de coco, jelly, sago pearls, sweet potato, sweet banana, ube (purple yam) jam, coconut and drizzled with evaporated milk. It's topped with leche flan, ice cream (often ube), purple yam jam or sweet beans. To deepen flavor it's often made with jackfruit and fried rice grains or pinipig and cereal.
From the large portions of each recipe to the varied ingredients used, a majority of Filipino dishes have been crafted with the intent to share. Communal dining is one of the key factors of Filipino food culture. And it truly shows! From boodle fights to sumptuous buffets, sharing is caring for those who love Filipino cuisine.
And Filipino food's so good, you'll want to eat with your hands, or kamayan-style!
Filipinos know to make the most out of everything. Like sisig, dubbed by the late Anthony Bourdain as a dish that's "perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world," which makes use of pork hash (made of the face, ears, cheeks and snout).
Filipinos are experts at making even leftovers feel special. Adobo and mechado are even more delicious the next day. Even day-old rice can be whipped up to be more flavorful, like sinangag (garlic rice) with tocino or longganisa.
Those constantly feeling peckish can easily identify with Filipinos' need to constantly be snacking or having merienda (midday snacks) in between meals.
Filipino cuisine has a rich snacking culture, which range from deep-fried, wrapped bananas with jackfruit to bar chow (pulutan), like kilawin (Filipino ceviche). Chicharon (pork cracklings) dipped in vinegar make for mouthwatering merienda or tangy, chewy delicacies like dried mangoes.
image: @cactusandbrunch Instagram account
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featured image: Jack Lawrence on Flickr