Welcome to the first post of my Global Eats series! This is a series I’ve been planning to help myself (and hopefully others) learn more about the value of food from other countries. This is a cultural appreciation, history lesson and culinary education all rolled into one.
I wrote in my latest blogging update post that I wanted to make a variety of dishes that are common in other countries and cultures. This idea was inspired in part by a post from the blog My No-Fuss Kitchen.
The blogger shared how she saved money by making Chinese-Malaysian stir fry dishes out of leftover ingredients.
My intent is to answer 3 basic questions:
- How do people in other cultures save money on food?
- What ingredients are staples in other countries?
- What new flavors will I learn about?
Question #2 will be answered in this post. The others I hope to answer by the end of this series on the Philippines.
I am very excited to begin learning as much as I can about the foods that are popular and loved in different countries around the globe.
Disclaimer: I am not Filipino but I will try my best to share what I have learned. To anyone who is Filipino or is more knowledgeable on the topic, please feel free to share info or correct me if I am in error at any point in my posts.
History of Food & Melding of Cultures
Question: what is the history that shaped present day food dishes in the Philippines?
Because the Philippines has a tropical climate, and because of its location in the Pacific and southeast Asia there are foods like coconut, bananas and rice that were well established in the country.
Then there are influences from neighboring countries. The Philippines are close to China, especially but also Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. Trade and the mixing of cultures helped introduce new foods to the Filipino people.
From China there was an introduction to noodles, vegetables in a wrapper (like spring rolls or eggrolls), also things like steamed and filled buns and dumplings were incorporated into the Filipino diet.
One of the most unexpected things I found was that certain types of food have Spanish and even Mexican influences.
The Philippines were colonized by Spain for 333 years (1565-1898). Throughout this time dishes like flan (a custard-like dessert) and Paella (a seasoned rice dish with meat/seafood) were introduced and recipes were slightly modified.
When I think of food in a specific country, I tend to (wrongly) think that the food there will be unique to and consistent throughout the country.
What I’ve found instead is that a country typically has many dishes that are not initially from that particular country. And within that country, dishes will vary by region.
That being said, there are a few foods that are unique specifically to the Philippines.
Common & Unique Ingredients in the Philippines
Three totally unique ingredients I’ve learned about:
- banana ketchup
What are these things??
The story here is that when the US “met” with the Philippines, certain foods like ketchup were introduced. Tomatoes are not as common there, so a sauce was made using bananas. The ingredients are similar, but banana ketchup is sweeter. Read more here if you’re curious.
Calamansi fruit or juice was one ingredient that I saw in Filipino recipes over and over. It is available in the country in all seasons and has a pleasantly tart taste (like a lemon-lime combo), I’ve heard.
Most recipes I saw had pictures of the green fruit but when calamansi are ripe, they look like a tangerine. Very unique, beautiful fruit.
Another incredibly gorgeous food found in the Philippines is ube. It is naturally colored purple yam that is found most often in desserts. Google ube ice cream. Gorgeous. I totally want to grow some!
Tying it All Together
How to explain the flavors of Filipino food? I’m not Filipino and my knowledge is limited. I only know what I’ve read from others that are Filipino and have tried those foods they have written about.
I saw ingredients like rice, shrimp, onions, bell peppers, garlic, soy sauce, carrots, pork and fish sauce over and over.
My general impression is that there is a lot of pork, chicken or shrimp cooked along with a lot of veggies in a somewhat simple sauce. There wasn’t a lot of the seasonings I’m used to, like oregano and thyme.
What I’ve read is that Filipino food doesn’t have heavy seasonings like we might have here in the US. Flavor comes from liquid sauces..not often made of tomatoes either.
Plans For the Series
As I go on in this series on Filipino food, I hope to more accurately describe the flavors I taste. The textures. The new ingredients I’ve used and the fun that I’ve had trying it all out.
Currently I plan on making and posting about 2-3 Filipino dishes. At least one will be a main dish and the other 1-2 will be a side, sauce or dessert.
This is as close as I can get to physically trying Filipino food in the Philippines. I am not a global food expert, but in doing this Global Eats series I hope to educate myself and learn a bit about the good food from other countries around the world.
All photos unless otherwise noted are from Pixabay.
The Multicultural Cookbook for Students, by Carole Lisa Albyn and Lois Sinaiko Webb
24 Delicious Filipino Foods You Need In Your Life
Banana Ketchup: The Philippines’ Answer To A Lack Of TomatoesCondiment of the Week: Filipino Banana Ketchup
The Philippines-Then and Now