Philippine cuisine defines the food preparation, the food, and the eating customs of the Filipinos. Dishes range from the very simple to the most complex due to the evolution of customs and traditions. It’s a fusion of Polynesian origins mixed with Malaysian, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, American, and Japanese influences.
Basically, the Filipino diet is higher in fat, protein, and carbohydrates as compared to other Asian diets. The Filipino taste centers on the mixture of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), salty (alat), and spicy (anghang). However, different regions have different tastes — take for example in Luzon, the biggest and northern island of the Philippines. The Ilocos and Cordillera regions prefer their food salty; Pampanga in Central Luzon is known for its sweet taste in food; and in the Bicol region in Southern Luzon is known for its fondness of all things spicy.
Usual food preparations among Filipinos are boiling, steaming, and roasting. Other methods of preparation came in due to foreign influences from trading countries and colonizers. However, the distinct characteristic that defines Philippine cuisine is counterpoint. It is the pairing of two tastes resulting to something surprisingly pleasant. For example, eating something sweet can be paired with a food that is something salty as in champorado (sweet chocolate rice porridge) and tuyo (salted dried fish). Some may think this is weird but once you get the taste and hang of it, you’ll get used to it and crave for it.
Locally made suka (vinegar) is a common ingredient. This is where the food’s sourness comes from. Although there are other ingredients that provide sourness, it’s the lowly vinegar that takes center stage. Adobo and sinigang are considered the Philippine’s national food and are good examples of how Filipinos love their food sour. Being in a tropical archipelago, it is important to prepare simple food like adobo that can be stored without spoiling. Tinapa (smoke-cured fish) and daing (sun-dried fish) are popular, too, because they can last for weeks without spoiling even without refrigeration.
Another distinct characteristic of Filipino cuisine is its being an informal and communal affair, centered around the family, and in the kitchen. Most dining tables are in or near the kitchen. Meals are eaten with the whole family and visitors, if there are any. In fact, one can’t help but invite someone to eat with him/her by asking, “Kumain ka na ba?” (Have you eaten?) or saying, “Kain tayo (Let’s eat.). Also, the “boodle fight“, a style of dining popularized by the Philippine Army which uses banana leaves spread out on the table as the main serving platter upon which is laid out portions of rice and a variety of Filipino viands, is a good example of brotherly, friendly, filial, and communal feasting.
Filipinos eat three main meals a day: almusal (breakfast), tanghalian (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus merienda (snack) in between. Food is served all at once and not in courses as other foreign cuisines do. Food is often eaten using spoon and fork, not knife and fork; and Filipinos don’t usually eat with chopsticks. The traditional Filipino way of eating is by hand known as kamayan. One has to take a bite of the viand, a bite of rice, then pressed together with fingers.
Philippine cuisine uses native ingredients like the calamansi (calamondin), sampalok (tamarind), kangkong (water spinach), patis (fish sauce), bagoong (shrimp paste), and other native fish, meat, vegetables, fruits, and root crops.
Let me know what part of the Philippine cuisine you’re interested in and I’ll write about it soon.