Filipino cuisine has been called one of the original fusion cuisines. It is heavily influenced not just by the food of its former colonisers, but also by its Asian neighbours. Its complexity is made even more varied by the country’s geography. Yet given all its intricacies, there are certain things that make Filipino cuisine altogether fascinating and unique.
It’s not a meal without rice. More than noodles or bread, rice has become the carb of choice. Its plain taste helps pacify the often rich and bold flavours of Filipino stews, adds texture to simple soups, and provides that full and satisfied feeling after eating. Be it simply cooked, burnt, or a day old, rice is a constant presence on any Filipino’s dining table all day, from breakfast, lunch, to dinner.
Dip and eat
A Filipino dish is finished not in the kitchen, but on the dining table. We love to customize the flavor of our meals to our liking. How? With an array of dipping sauces. The condiments themselves are even personalized—for instance, some eat their lechon (roasted pig) with liver sauce, others with soy sauce and calamansi, and some, just plain sea salt.
The preferred protein of many Filipinos is pork, which may be surprising for an island country surrounded by water and fresh seafood. Even vegetable dishes such as pinakbet (vegetable stew), ginisang monggo (mung bean stew), and chop suey (vegetable stir-fry) use chopped pieces of pork for their oil and flavor.
No parts wasted
Filipinos are resourceful and economical. The same traits extend to food, that’s why nothing goes to waste. For example, when we cook a pig, its skin becomes chicharon, the feet are stewed, the knuckles deep-fried, the face is turned to sisig (thrice-cooked pork), and the blood is cooked in a stew. Another proof to this is our street food, where innards like intestines are basted and grilled, and the heart and lungs are prepared for bopis (spicy offal stir-fry).
Since rice is quick to digest and because we just love to eat, many Filipinos enjoy a small meal in between lunch and dinner called merienda. Sometimes we also do it in the late morning, between breakfast and lunch. The variety of snacks come far and wide, from savoury ones such as fish balls and pancit (noodles) to sweet treats like rice cakes and maruya (fried banana fritters).