You have set up the location and built the home of your dreams. You have everything inside the house and now feel like a king. Well, depending on where the King has built his home he may struggle with putting good food on his royal table.
Philippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries, influenced by Malay, Spanish, American and Chinese cooking. Different regions have their own specialties.
Northern Luzon: Cooking method is simple; vegetables are usually steamed or boiled. There is a preference for locally grown vegetables e.g., saluyot, a leafy green that looks like spinach but turns slippery like okra when cooked.
Some popular dishes are pinakbet and bangus (milkfish) which are farmed in ponds of brackish water.
Central Luzon: Cooking is marked by elaborate preparation and clever combination of many different ingredients in a single dish.
The people have a passion for meat especially pork and poultry. Some popular dishes are sisig, embutido and balut – a partially formed duck embryo in an egg that has been boiled for a few moments.
They usually like their vegetables sautéed in garlic, onions and tomatoes with pork and shrimps.
Southern Luzon: The people have a strong preference for fresh water fish which abound in streams and rivers. Vinegar seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper is used as a marinade for fish before frying or as a dip.
Its cooking is notable for their generous use of coconut milk, chilies, vinegar and tamarind. Some popular dishes are sinigang and laing.
The region is noted for dried salted seafood. Visayan cooking tends to be salty because of its dried salted foods and the liberal use of guinamos. Cooking is also simple. The people like their fish broiled over live coals or boiled in vinegar until it is almost dry. Some even eat their fish raw as in kinilaw.
Like the Northern Luzon people, they also like their vegetables simply boiled or steamed but dipped in guinamos with a squeeze of lemon. The region is also well known for its native snacks such turon, turong saging and baybaye.
Mindanao cooking is marked by simplicity and the non-use of pork which Muslims do not eat. It is closely similar to Indonesian and Malaysian native fares in the use of hot chilies and spices such as curry. Some popular dishes are tiola sapi, piarun and lapua.
One dish that almost every Filipino knows is adobo (pronounced AH-doh-boh, sometimes called the national dish) and the most popular dessert is halo-halo. For large parties and feasts, lechon (pronounced LEHR-tsone) or roasted suckling pig is almost a must.
For staples, most Filipinos living in Luzon prefer rice while Visayans like corn. In Mindanao, however, panggi (cassava) is the staple food in many areas.
Philippines and Food
History and legend say that the Filipinos came from Indonesia and Malaysia. They founded villages and small kingdoms in the 7,000 or so islands which make up the Philippines today. Chinese traders were common visitors to these settlements. So were Hindu merchants, Japanese fishermen, and later on, Spaniard, Portuguese, Dutch and English adventurers. In 1521, Ferdinand Magellan reached the islands in his effort to circumnavigate the world, reaching the east by sailing west Spain colonized the country soon after that and gave it the name of Philippines, after the Spanish King, Philip II. Spanish rule held sway over the Philippines for more than three centuries until the Americans took over in 1898. The Philippines gained its independence from the United States in 1946.
Filipino cooking reflects the history of the islands. On a Malayan base, Chinese, Hindu, Spanish and American ingredients have been added through centuries of foreign influence and surprisingly, a blend with an identity of its own has emerged. In the cosmopolitan city of Manila, this mixture is most in evidence. Far from the capital city, however, one can still sample the simple dishes that native Filipinos eat Many of these dishes are remarkably close to native fares still found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries.
Native Filipino cooking is not too spicy despite the fact that spices are plentiful and readily available in the islands. (Europeans, after all, stumbled upon the Philippines in their search for the fabled Spice Islands). The basic staple is rice of which hundreds of varieties are cultivated. Main source of protein is fish which abound in oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. Meat, especially pork and poultry, is also commonly eaten. Beef is readily available but is more expensive; the cattle industry not being well developed in the country. Veal and lamb are not too popular but goat meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the country as are frogs, rabbits and deer.
Meat and fish are common throughout the Philippines but there are also regional differences. Generally, people living in coastal areas or river streams eat a lot of fish while inland people prefer meat. The most popular meat for Christian Filipinos is pork followed closely by chicken, duck and other poultry. However, Muslims do not eat pork and Pampangos are generally known as eaters of dog meat as are so called non-Christian tribes in northern Luzon (Igorots, Bontocs, IfUgaos and Ibanags).
Among fish eaters, variations exist between those who prefer salt water fish or fresh water varieties. Most Visayans prefer ‘salt water fish such as sardines, tuna, bonito and mackerel which abound in the seas surrounding them. Many Tagalogs, Pampangos, llocanos and Pangasinans prefer fresh water fish caught in rivers, lakes and streams. In Pangasinan and Pampanga the cultivation of fish in ponds (aquacuiture) is a well developed art. The most popular “cultured” fish is the bangus (milkfish) which is grown in ponds of brackish water. Mudfish, catfish, carp and tifapia are not as carefully cultivated as milkfish but they are also somewhat “domesticated” in that they usually co-exist with wet rice (paddy) cultivation.
There are many peculiarities in food habits among Filipino ethnic groups which are extremely hard to explain. For example, though the leafy green vegetable known as saluyot can be grown in any part of the country, only the llocanos seem to like it a lot. To others,the slippery leaves are very unappetizing. Visayans eat fish raw, though unlike the Japanese, they marinate it first in a mixture of vinegar, garlic, onions and salt. Tagalogs and Pampangos eat frogs, others rarely touch them.
Cookiog styles and seasonings also vary from region to region although all basic cooking methods are used. Some places, however, tend to use one method more than the others. The Northern Luzon people,for instance, boil most of their foods and season them with bagoong (shrimp paste). The Southern Tagalogs tend to marinate their meat, fish and poultry in seasoned vinegar and then fry them. Central Luzon people favor sauteing in, garlic, onion, and tomatoes and the use of soy sauce and gravies. The Visayans also favor frying as well as boiling while the Muslims prefer to boil or roast their food over a live fire. (Sinugba or inasal means broiled.)
The basic cooking methods commonly used in the Philippines are boiling, roasting, frying and steaming. Freshly caught fish is usually broiled over live coals or a wood ‘fire. The fish is simply skewered from end to end with a bamboo stick and broiled. The burnt scales are then peeled off to reveal the tender meat. Fresh kalamansi (native lemon) juice or vinegar with a little salt is placed in a small dish and the fish dipped into this before it is eaten usually with handfuls of plain boiled rice. Meat and poultry are also cooked this way.
On special occasions a small suckling pig may be roasted in the festive lechon. The pig is cleaned, stuffed with rice, .tender tamarind leaves and arbmatic herbs. A long bamboo pole is thrust through the pig from head to tail and the pig is roasted over live coals until it is golden red, the skin crispy and its curling tail signals it is ready. This most festive of Filipino dishes is eatpn with a sweet-sour liver sauce that is spiced with lots of garlic, onions and peppercorns.
Most daily fares are boiled with the ingredients thrown into the pot in the order of how fast they cook. Certain fruits or vegetables are boiled with fish or meat to impart their peculiar taste, usually sour, to the dish. Kamias, tomatoes, guavas, fruits, flowers and even young leaves of the tamarind tree are often used. They are boiled, crushed through a sieve and the puree poured back into the pot. One such favorite Filipino dish is called sinigang — a boiled sour dish of fish, shrimps, pork, beef or chicken mixed with vegetables. Similar dishes seem to be popular throughout Asia where it is called sayur asam in Indonesia and tomiam in Thailand.
Fresh vegetables are sometimes boiled and dipped in a vinegar and bagoong mixture before eating. Often, however, they are simply washed and placed on top of boiling rice just before the rice is fully cooked, thus achieving a steamed effect. They may also be cut into small pieces and sauteed in garlic, onions and tomatoes with pieces of pork and shrimps. Some, like eggplants, may be sliced thinly, dipped in batter and deep fried not unlike the Japanese tempura.