Activities

Chef Daria’s Amazing Menu – the Philippines

The Philippines has a unique culture relating to food, which evidently includes everyone in the entire country posting recipes on the web, and especially advertising cookbooks on the web.
Welcome to the Philippines (that’s one “l” and two “p’s”), land of broken links, pictures of obscene tomatoes (scroll down at your own risk), and really cool recipe names. The Philippines has a unique culture relating to food, which evidently includes everyone in the entire country posting recipes on the web, and especially advertising cookbooks on the web. Do these people ever eat anything without posting about it? Seriously, they love to write about Filipino cuisine – where it came from, why it’s really the first fusion cuisine, and how to track down the ingredients in the US. And they post recipes. Boy, do they ever post recipes. Lots and lots of recipes. And the great thing is, it all sounds delicious. In other words, yay!

Filipino cuisine is not particularly hot, as it’s based primarily in Malay traditions with Chinese, Spanish, and American influences (scroll down to see a picture of the Manila McDonald’s). There’s an affinity for combining meats, like pork and chicken. There are some unique ingredients, but a few of the many websites list substitutions, and there are also glossaries, some of which demonstrate a sense of humor.


SOUPS/APPETIZERS

As in New Zealand, mussels are popular here. We have a mussels and spinach soup and a mussels and ginger soup. Showing the multicultural influences is sopa de fideos, which has noodles, pork, and a scrambled egg (Colin? Colin, want some soup?). It might be interesting to add the raw egg gradually to create the ribbons of egg drop soup. A nice lady’s blog has this recipe for beefy nilaga soup. And there’s Filipino corn soup, which has shrimp in it. But don’t fill up on soup too much. One of the national dishes, for which I found about 8,000 interchangeable recipes online, is lumpia. I chose this lumpia recipe because it has a very flexible ingredients list.


MEAT/FISH ENTRÉE

One of the traditional Filipino meals is adobo. We have a chicken and pork adobo and a spicy fish adobo. Another traditional recipe is kare-kare. Use anchovies where it calls for bagoong. Pancit is a popular noodle, meat, and vegetable dish. The pork puchero looked appetizing, as did the fish with ginger and black pepper.


VEGETARIAN ENTRÉE

While the Philippines are not quite the vegetarian heaven that India was, we have a site that discusses Filipino vegetarian cuisine and presents seven traditional recipes that have been adapted for vegans. Of course, the adobo style of cooking can work with some of the heartier vegetables, as this recipe for potato or eggplant adobo demonstrates. Bulanglang incorporates tofu, spinach, squash, zucchini, and tomatoes if you rely on the substitutions that are easy for North Americans to obtain. Ginataang saba is based on an Indonesian dish that is fed to people recovering from an illness and includes garlic, onions, and bananas, all of which are believed to have health benefits. For a side dish prepared that’s acceptable to vegans, try sinangag, or vegetable fried rice. (You’ll note that these recipes all come from the same site. That’s for two reasons: first, very few Filipino recipes are prepared without animal fat so most recipes elsewhere require adaptation, and second, this is just a very good and reliable site.)


DESSERT

A traditional Filipino cake, bibingka is more authentic if you can get cassava; another version if you can’t uses Bisquick (click on the recipe name) and doesn’t seem to be the same thing at all. I’d track down the cassava. Also note that the more authentic recipe incorporates cheese into a sweet pastry. I’ve encountered this several times, and if you’re the type of cook who likes to experiment, you might play with this concept. Anyway, while on the subject of cakes, we have a mango cream cake (note the comment about lady fingers) and a mango cake (remember to use the right font when heating the oven).
Do you have kids? Do you want to give them a good sugar buzz so they’ll run around like crazy all evening?
From an “American-friendly” site that presumes a reluctance on our part to try pork intestines and “strange tropical fruit” (to which I reply “define ‘strange’”) comes turon, which are like fried banana fritters. Do you have kids? Do you want to give them a good sugar buzz so they’ll run around like crazy all evening? Then try making them palitaw, which seem to be like cookies, except they’re boiled, not baked. That could make for a nice mess, come to think of it, so maybe you can have your kids “help” you make them.


ADDITIONAL SOURCES

This week, we have more large sites than ever before. My runaway favorite, though, is the Asiarecipe.com site. I could have done the entire column from this site, and I highly recommend it. Another good, navigable site is Kusinaatbp, and for an omnibus site with some of the best links I’ve come across, try Filipinolinks.com. There’s also an “American-friendly” recipe site, another site with 54 recipes, about half of which are variations of lumpia, a collection of 94 recipes, our friends at Food Down Under with 75 recipes, and tribo.org, which has a few too many ingredients not readily available in North America but which otherwise sounds pretty interesting. Finally, there are two omnibus sites, the first with lots of links and the second with considerable overlap but some new links, too.