Journey 6: Filipino Food

I referred to some Filipino food at the close of my last post, and in this one I’ll give the cuisine its due.  The first thing you’ll notice when you peruse a Filipino menu is that they really, really like their rice and their meat.  Being a vegetarian in this country must be nearly impossible, and fortunately for me, I’m not.

Right from breakfast, the meat/rice 1-2 combo connects solidly.  Tatsilog, Hotsilog, and Longsilog are what you find most places, and translate to “(Fried) Pork Bits, Egg, and Rice”, “Hot Dog, Egg, and Rice”, and “Longganisa, Egg, and Rice” respectively. Peru got me used to a hearty, full meal-style breakfast, and I couldn’t complain.

The lunch and dinner menu are hardly differentiated, but I was appreciative of the various pork or chicken, sauce, and rice combinations I ran across.  Adobo-style meat is the Filipino national dish, and refers to a vinegar and soy-based sauce accompanied by onions and potatoes.  They’ll use this with about any meat you can imagine, from the more standard pork and chicken all the way to field rat.

Pictured: not field rat

I ran into Taiwanese favorite Tamarind again with another style with a similar arrangement- Sinigang.  The difference is the sauce, which consists mainly of tamarind and ginger, although you’ll usually find a good portion of all-to-rare veggies in this dish as well.  The sour nature of the tamarind makes it an interesting choice for a savory dish, but it complemented the meat well.  I’m not sure it would be a dish I’d eat very often, though.

Pork is definitely the national meat of choice, and I sampled it in several fried forms, all delicious.  Most interesting was Sisig, which consists of small crispy fried bits of pork head and cheek.  Besides being admirably economical, it was quite tasty.

The spinach-looking dish you see in the below picture is Laing, which combines the savory taro leaf, coconut milk, ­­­­hot pepper, and shrimp in one of my favorite dishes from the trip.  The only thing topping that was Bicol Express, a spicy connection of vegetables, shrimp, pork, and coconut milk, whose mix of flavors was a treat for the palate. I didn’t do dessert much in the Philippines, but when I was in Tagaytay I couldn’t pass up the local specialty- Buko Pie.  The Filipino answer to the apple pie instead incorporates cream and tender pieces of coconut flesh into a custardy creation that I’d gladly buy again. No culinary post about the Philippines would be complete without its most infamous drunk street food- Balut.  These are duck eggs that are fertilized and allowed to develop for a few weeks before being hard boiled.  As a result, you get a few interesting surprises beyond just a yolk and egg white.  Mine wasn’t far enough along to discern a beak or feathers, and honestly tasted pretty good once you get past the mental block of the slimy bits.

A couple more things I found interesting about eating in the Philippines.

–         Fast food joint Jollibee’s is the only chain in the world to beat McDonald’s in its home market.  Its fried chicken and ever-present pancit (rice noodles) were unspectacular, but good.  This is the second country I’ve visited to beat an American behemoth at its own game. Peru’s Inka Kola was the only soft drink to beat Coke in its home market… until Coke bought it.

–         You can see the World War II American servicemen legacy everywhere in Asia, including the food.  Canned corned beef is unreasonably popular in the Philippines.  In Korea, that role is filled by SPAM.

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About zijerem

I spent two years neglecting my Peace Corps blog in Peru (zachinperu.blogspot.com) and now I've relocated to Korea (teaching English) and promise to get off my ass and write something every once in awhile...
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