Food, Global Eats

Global Eats: Morocco (Part 3, Main Dish)

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Introduction

Hello and welcome back to the Global Eats series! This is country #2 in my new series.

 

Previously in the series on Morocco I shared:

Post #1-Global Eats: Morocco (Part 1, Intro)

Post #2-Global Eats: Morocco (Part 2, Condiment)

Check it out if you wish! Post #1 will give you a bit of background if you are not familiar with the food/culture of the country.

Goals for the Series

My intent is to answer 3 basic questions:

  1.  How do people in other countries save money on food?
  2.  What ingredients are staples in other countries?
  3. What new flavors will I learn about?

In my intro post, I covered question #2. I learned a lot about the common foods eaten and grown in Morocco.

And then in my last post, I shared my experience with preserving lemons. Why did I bother? Well because preserved lemons are awesome, obviously (nevermind the fact that I had no idea what they were for until I started reading about Morocco).

But mainly because I wanted to make tagine, and all Moroccan tagines call for preserved lemon.

 

The Main Dish: Moroccan Chicken, Apricot and Almond Tagine

The photos I’m sharing today are guided by the recipe for tagine which was created by The Daring Gormet.

Check out the site {via the link above} for the recipe 😊

And you may be wondering…ok so what is a tagine? Glad you asked!

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See the pots in the front that look like flower vases with a wide base? Those are tagines. They are cooking pots, for cooking..you guessed it. Tagines. How do they work?

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A tagine has 2 pieces. The bottom part is a bowl and the top part is the lid. The food is cooked on the stove and then served as is.

The cool part about a tagine pot is that the shape is created so that the moisture rises and drips down back to the food, keeping it moist and tender. Much like a crockpot or a dutch oven. (I used the latter.)

You may be wondering where the tagine pot originally came from and who invented it. I’m not 100% sure on this one. Most sources said that nomads in North Africa used them, although no specific country or person was credited.

It’s a really cool invention huh? Kinda like the predecessor to the modern day crock pot. Super cool.

Cooking it Up

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First of all, this was really good. Second of all there are 3 ingredients here that I want to spend a bit of time talking about.

Preserved Lemon

I talked about this in my previous post. I wasn’t 100% sure on why this was a necessary ingredient in tagine until I actually tried the dish.

I don’t know what the 4-week preserved lemons are supposed to taste like but I think the quick preserved lemons I used turned out well.

The recipe just called for 1/2 of a preserved lemon so I just added 2 pieces of it to the pot. I didn’t cut it up, just left it whole because I wasn’t so sure about eating it, to be honest.

Harissa

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I purchased this harissa hot sauce from Amazon. I thought about making my own, but ended up not doing so because I couldn’t find the right kind of peppers.

The ingredients in the picture are tiny but it says “Rehydrated chilli 52%, water, modified starch corn, salt, garlic, coriander, caraway, acidity regulator: citric acid”.

And yep it is hot. I tried a very small amount and it tasted chock full of cayenne pepper. The recipe called for 1 Tablespoon of it which I thought might be too much…but it ended up being perfect and wonderfully balanced.

Couscous

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I used this kind of couscous instead of following the directions in the recipe because I couldn’t find plain couscous at the store.

It ended up being really good and it went with the recipe pretty well. Garlic couscous is the way to go 😉

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Alright back to the food.

Flavors

What did this dish taste like?

There were a lot, and I mean A LOT of flavors going on here. Let me break it down.

  • Spices. right away I could taste cinnamon, followed by turmeric. Cumin slightly.
  • Spicy. The harissa I could taste, but it wasn’t overly powerful. The spiciness was pleasant & lingered.
  • Sweet. there was definitely a sweet element with the raisins and butternut squash. I couldn’t taste or find the apricot but I’m sure it added to the sweetness as well.
  • Sour. I could taste the preserved lemon in places. I didn’t eat the actual pieces but the lemon flavor was definitely more mellow but still had that bright citrus taste.

Overall this was very good. I loved the complex flavor. The sweet and spicy was balanced. There was great texture with the chickpeas, butternut squash and dried fruit.

The slivered almonds added an unfamiliar crunch that I didn’t especially care for, and yet it didn’t make me want to stop eating 😋😋

Saving Money

The last element I want to briefly mention are the frugal aspects of this dish. Looking at this meal, you wouldn’t think it is frugal at first because it has 25 ingredients. I used 22 and 6 of those are seasonings.

Also, just want to mention that this makes a lot of food. Like 4 generous servings, at least.

Another thing I see here is that the ingredients with the larger amounts are pretty cheap. Butternut squash, couscous and garbanzo beans are all pretty inexpensive. 

Also, there was only 1 pound of chicken in the whole recipe. Adding chickpeas and almonds adds more protein and keeps the cost down.

Basically:

  • Lots of spices & seasonings
  • Small amounts of pricier food.
  • Keep expensive meats at minimum.
  • Add alternate sources of protein.
  • Bulk up on produce.

 

Conclusion

What I love about this series is that I (sometimes) think that people around the world are so different but I am everytime so pleasantly suprised that we are so similar and have so much in common.

There are differences in our surroundings, in our countries. But in the end we all just want good, delicious and frugal food.

Stay tuned for more Moroccan food! The next post will be either a side dish or dessert. Haven’t decided yet 😃

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Global Eats

Global Eats: Morocco (Part 2,Condiment)

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On Wednesday (2 days ago) I mentioned that my next post on Moroccan food would be a condiment.

And so here we have…

Preserved Lemons!

I was really super intrigued by this idea of preserving citrus. I had read about the process in a preserving book last summer but didn’t attempt it, due to the fact that I had no real use for or ambition to use preserved lemons.

However, in reading through a lot of recipes for Moroccan tagine (slow cooked stew), almost all of them call for a bit of preserved lemon.

I was thinking, “What’s the big deal? Why does it need to be preserved lemon? Can’t I just use lemon juice or something..you know…easier?”.

But what I’m going for is that authentic Morroccan flavor. And as I learned last time with oyster sauce in the recipe for Philippine Ginisang Togue, flavor and authenticity is key.

And so I set out to find a recipe.

And ran into a problem.

Preserved lemons take 4 weeks to make. What?? Yeah. Regarding my time frame I had for the series, I did not have time to make it that way.

The Recipe

And luckily, I found a recipe for Quick Preserved Lemons, from myrecipes.com which has been a lifesaver.

And so I made the preserved lemons, because I was so wanting to make a tagine.

(Bear with me…my picture settings are being glitchy and not allowing me to write captions.)

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I got 2 organic lemons from the store, cut them into quarters and added 2 Tablespoons sea salt (subbed for Kosher salt) and about 1 cup of water.

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Afterwards. Looked kinda gross but smelled heavenly.

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Right after I made it. I imagined the peels would soften as they sat in the salt and juices. (And they did.)

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After sitting in the fridge for a few days. It looks oily but I think that’s just the mix of lemon pulp and saturated salty lemon juice.

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All that remains here is the peel…the actual fruit part is super soft, almost like a cooked onion.

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Lemony Thoughts

I didn’t actually try the lemons themselves but I did try a bit of the..(sauce?) they were preserved in. And I made a face. Because it was super-salty. And super-sour. Big suprise, right?

But it smelled heavenly. The most amazing, sunny and beautiful lemon fragrance.

And now I think I’m beginning to understand why preserved lemon had value. It’s just a way to prolong the harvest of a plentiful seasonal fruit. Much like we make applesauce or strawberry jam here in the U.S.

And I can also see how these lemons will add a bit of the sour in the sweet & sour cooking that is common in Morocco.

Stay tuned for my main dish post next week! It will hopefully be up on Tuesday.

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Global Eats

Global Eats: Morocco (Part 1, Intro)

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Introduction

Welcome back to the Global Eats series! This is a series I’ve been doing 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.

My last 4 posts were all about the Philippines. I shared my inspiration for the series in my first post Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 1, Intro).

Long story short, I read a post by another blogger and it inspired me to seek out the unique history, ingredients and flavors that are common in other cultures.

And let’s face it. It’s been a great way to distract from the winter blahs.

My intent in this series is to answer 3 basic questions:

  1. How do people in other cultures save money on food?
  2. What ingredients are staples in other countries?
  3. 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 Morocco.

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 Moroccan but I will try my best to share what I have learned. To anyone who is Moroccan 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

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Question: what is the history that shaped present day food dishes in Morocco?

Morocco is located in Northern Africa and borders the nations of Western Sahara and Algeria. Spain and Portugal lie quite close to it’s northern shores.

It has the Atlantic ocean on it’s western coast and a small part of the Mediterranean Sea on it’s northeastern side.

The food history of the country is a complex blend of the Berber people with Arabic, Moorish and French influences.

 

Berbers

As far as we know, the Berber people were the first to make their home in present-day Morocco. However, most peoples in the country today are a mix of Berber and Arabic ethnicities. The origin of the Berber people is difficult to trace. But we do know they ate things like olives, figs, dates, couscous and chickpeas (or garbanzo beans). All of these things are still staples today.

 

Arabs

The Arabs arrived next and their prominence lasted a little over 1,000 years, from about the 600’s A.D. to the 1700s. Morocco is still largely Berber/Arabic but influence-wise there was a break in political power.

From the Arabs, foods like spices from India and Asia were introduced (cinnamon, ginger, cumin, etc.). Also nuts and dried fruits along with a sweet and sour flavor common in Persian cooking.

 

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Moores

The Moores came from Spain around 700 A.D. and were largely responsible for upping the consumption of olives, plus introducing olive oil and citrus trees and fruit.

 

The French

This part was new to me. In the early 1900s, the country of Morocco declared bankruptcy. This led to The Treaty of Fes, under which Morocco became a French colony until it’s independence in 1956. Oddly there wasn’t a lot of French culinary influence aside from the dessert and the whole café experience. Who doesn’t love French pastries? 😋😋

That covers the food history. So if you were to walk through Morocco today, what are some foods and ingredients that would stand out?

 

Common & Unique Ingredients

In my reading, there were 4 foods (plus a beverage) that I thought were rather unique. They were:

  • Argan oil
  • preserved lemons
  • harissa
  • and Ras El Hanout.
  • (Plus the very popular mint tea.)

What are these things and how are they eaten in Morocco?

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Argan oil is made from the kernels of the argan tree. Argan trees are common in Morocco. So common that people will use the oil as a dip for bread.

I find this interesting because I use Argan oil as a facial moisturizer and it is neither easy to find nor cheap to buy in my particular area of the U.S.

 

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Another common ingredient in Moroccan cooking is preserved lemons. I first heard of this from a canning and preserving book last summer. Now I know what it can be used in and where in the globe it is a common ingredient.

Preserved lemons are in various recipes but I think especially so in tagine, which is a special slow cooked stew.

 

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Harissa and Ras El Hanout are two ingredients that add a bit of a spicy kick. Although they are popular in Morocco, they are also used overall in North African cusine.

Harissa is a thick, spicy sauce made from fresh and dried hot chili peppers and spices like caraway and cumin, among other ingredients.

Ras El Hanout translated means “top of shop”. It is a blend of as few as 10 and as many as 100 spices. I found a few recipes online but none that had more than 22 ingredients. I wouldn’t have thought to combine spices like cinnamon and allspice with coriander and turmeric but that is exactly what this recipe does.

 

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Mint tea is also a big deal in this country. It is served daily and  always served sweetened.

 

Tying it All Together

How to explain Moroccan food? From reading and research only I can see that this food as a whole is rich and complex.

I see sweet mixed with savory and lots of seasonings. Spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg are combined with hot spices like cayenne and spices used in Indian cooking like turmeric and cumin. I think that this will make for some interesting flavors.

Besides spices, other common ingredients that I observed were things like chicken, almonds, carrots, chickpeas, raisins, lentils and onions.

 

Plans for the Moroccan Series

So what’s next? Next I am planning on writing 4 posts based on recipes for authentic Moroccan dishes. As of now, one will be a condiment, then a main dish, a side dish and finally a dessert with a beverage.

I am excited to begin this series and I look forward to the new recipes and flavors I will encounter.

The condiment dish I am planning on having up on the blog later this week. See you then!

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Photo credit: All photos from pixabay and Unsplash.


 

Sources:

The Multicultural Cookbook for Students, by Carole Lisa Albyn and Lois Sinaiko Webb

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www.fescooking.com

The Art of Moroccan Cuisine: A Culture of Eating, Drinking, and Being Hospitable

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www.foodbycountry.com

Food in Every Country/Kazakhstan to South Africa/Morocco

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www.bbc.com

Africa-Morocco country profile

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www.infoplease.com

Morocco

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www.foodal.com

The Magic of Moroccan Cuisine

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http://www.thespruce.com

Collection of Authentic Moroccan Comfort Food Recipes

10 Famous Moroccan Dishes You Should Try

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www.mymoroccanfood.com

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Food, Global Eats

Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 2, Main Dish)

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Welcome back to the Global Eats series! Last week I posted Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 1, Intro).

This is Part 2, out of 3 or 4 total posts.

Re-cap

To re-hash, this is what inspired the series:

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:

  1. How do people in other cultures save money on food?
  2. What ingredients are staples in other countries?
  3. What new flavors will I learn about?

So in my last post I covered #2. I learned a lot about the foods of the Philippines and I still have more to learn! I’m amazed at just how much there is to learn.

And I just love it. I love learning this stuff.

The Main Dish: Ginisang Togue

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Ok so the photos I am sharing today are guided by the recipe for Ginisang Togue which is from the website Authentic Filipino Recipes.

So check out the site for the recipe 🙂

The words “Ginisang Togue” mean “sauteed mung bean sprouts” in Tagalog. So that must be the main ingredient, right?

Right.

I hadn’t made sprouts before but I heard it was easy. Can I get mung beans in the US? Yes I could.

Making the sprouts

I purchased a sprouting jar lid for $4.75 and 4oz organic mung bean sprouts seeds for $3.79 from iherb.com.

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All you need to make sprouts: quart mason jar, sprouting lid, sprouting seeds and water. (Plus a bowl and a towel.)
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I wanted some longer sprouts so I rinsed and drained every 12 hours for 5 days.
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Ta-da! Sprouts!

 

Time to Cook!

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The recipe called for a lot of veggies. Garlic, onions, red and green bell peppers, sprouts and carrots.

It also called for tofu, which I didn’t use. I just used extra shrimp because I try to stay away from soy products.

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So a little bit about these ingredients. The recipe called for a large tomato, cubed. I didn’t have one and wasn’t about to run to the store just for that. So I used part of a can of my homemade crushed tomatoes.

I also used a bit of chicken flavored soup base instead of the chicken cube.

What is oyster sauce? 

According to The Spruce, “Oyster sauce is a thick, brown sauce with a sweet, salty, and earthy flavor. Oyster sauce is a popular ingredient in Vietnamese, Thai, and Cantonese cuisine.”

A good kind will be something like a combo of oysters, salt and soy sauce.

Mine was not high-quality and did not contain oysters. However, being many miles from acquiring good quality oysters, and also not seeing these recipes till just now, bottled “oyster” sauce was what happened.

To me, it just tasted like thick, slightly sweet soy sauce. Boo. Still, it made for decent flavor.

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The final product.

Flavors

What did this dish taste like?

There were a few different flavors going on. There was sweet, from the red bell peppers and carrots. Salty, from the soy sauce, oyster sauce and chicken soup base. And the sprouts, to me were a bit bitter, but just from the seed part. There wasn’t any big pop of flavor but I think all of the ingredients complimented each other.

Definitely an interesting flavor combo and a wonderful texture. I tried to keep the veggies slightly raw and that made for a nice crunch. I enjoyed eating this and I would make it again.

Saving money

To me, this recipe is frugal because…

  • Lots of veggies are added. And veggies are cheap. The ones used here I can buy year-round.
  • Sprouts are also easy to make yourself and cheap. Mine cost me about 95¢ for this recipe.
  • Rice is always a frugal ingredient that can feed a crowd.
  • Protein, starch and veggie in one dish makes for an easy meal. Yay easy!

Just a tiny peek into the flavors and ingredients of a Filipino dish 🙂 Not 100% authentic but a fun experience all the same.

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Resources:

www.tagaloglang.com

Toge

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www.recipeland.com

Homemade Oyster Sauce

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www.thespruce.com

What Is Oyster Sauce?

Food, Global Eats

Global Eats: The Philippines (Part 1, Intro)

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Introduction

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:

  1. How do people in other cultures save money on food?
  2. What ingredients are staples in other countries?
  3. 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

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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.

Filipino-Chinese Food

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.

Fil-Hispanic Food

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.

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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
  • calamansi
  • ube

What are these things??

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Banana ketchup (advertised as banana sauce). source: Wikipedia

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.

 

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Calamansi. Called calamondin in the US. Said to be similar to a lemon or lime in flavor. source: Pixabay

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.

 

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Ube. Also called purple yam. source: Wikipedia

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.

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All photos unless otherwise noted are from Pixabay.


 

Sources:

The Multicultural Cookbook for Students, by Carole Lisa Albyn and Lois Sinaiko Webb

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www.buzzfeed.com

24 Delicious Filipino Foods You Need In Your Life

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www.foodrepublic.com

Banana Ketchup: The Philippines’ Answer To A Lack Of TomatoesCondiment of the Week: Filipino Banana Ketchup

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www.asian-recipe.com

The Philippines-Then and Now

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Wikipedia

Calamondin

Yam (vegetable)

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www.authenticfilipinorecipes.com

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Junblog

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