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Everything you need to know about Filipino food

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Everything you need to know about Filipino food

story by: Anna Sarjeant

We won’t lie, Philippine cuisine is notorious, but not particularly ​for favourable reasons. Until now that is. Back on the map and ready to show the world what really gets conjured in the kitchen, get ready for a taste sensation of Spanish influence and Asian ingenuity. 

1. Breakfast
Lechon time! No we kid, that's an entire roasted pig - belly, trotters, eye balls and all. Not something you want to wake up to. It does make a damn impressive centrepiece though - if you're ever putting on a Filipino spread.

Longganisa & Tocino: Instead try longganisa, a Filipino–style sausage and tocino which is sweetened cured pork. Add grilled tomatoes, a couple of eggs, some garlic fried sinangag (rice) and start your day right.

Diner’s tip: Load up on the tocino, the thin strips of pork are marinated for days (yes, days) in a mixture of sugar, salt, garlic, oil and then fried until super crispy. Excuse us while we salivate. 

2. Elevenses

Sinigang: Time for some hot broth don’t you think? Sinigang is the Philippine’s answer to hot and sour soup. Made from tamarind paste and calamansi, which is a Philippine lime, salty chunks of pork are added to balance out the tart undertones. A splash of coconut milk later and all taste boxes are ticked.  

Diner’s tip: There are numerous variations on the traditional sinigang, to include salmon, shellfish and a vegetarian variety often made with veggie dumplings.

3. Lunch

Pork Adobo: There’s nothing better than slow cooked pork belly, right? Wrong. Pork adobo is slow cooked pork belly and then some. With adobo, the meat is simmered for hours in a fatty broth of salt, vinegar, black pepper, bay leaves and garlic, then lightly browned and served over a cloud of white rice. It’s melt in your mouth belly pork, with crispy skin and flesh that dissolves like butter.

Diner’s tip: This is a relatively easy recipe to make at home. Join a Philippine cooking class and impress all your NZ friends with Filipino adobo. 

4. Lunch Dessert

Leche Flan: Richer than its Spanish equivalent (crème caramel) Filipino leche flan uses condensed milk and ample egg yolks, making it dense and delicious. Spanish crème caramel uses an average of four eggs per recipe, but this little beauty uses ​a casual dozen​ - yolks only. Add to that a syrupy caramel glaze and you have a dessert worth scouring the streets of Manila for.

Diner’s tip: If you like Argentina’s famed dulce de leche, you’ll love this. It’s basically an entire serving of dulce de leche caramel disguised as a ‘pudding’.   

5. Afternoon sugar hit

Ube Ice Cream: Eat it because it’s cool. No pun intended, we’re talking about its rad purple colour. And it’s not a wish-washy purple, this one’s electric. Made from the root crop, ube (a purple yam), the colour might be outrageous, but the flavour is relatively delicate.

Diner’s tip: Don’t expect a Ben and Jerry’s explosion of sugar and sweetness, ube ice-cream adheres to the Filipino palette.    

6. Dinner

Chicken Afritada: Another recipe influenced by Spain and dare we say improved by the Filipinos, afritada is a tomato-based Spanish stew and the best comfort food you’ll find in the Philippines. Commonly made with chicken, peppers, carrots, onion and rich stock, it’s simple cuisine at its most sensational.

Diner’s tip: Remember those calamansi limes? It’s time to squeeze them into your spirits in the form of a Calamansi Whiskey Sour; the Philippine’s most loved beverage, and a great drink to complement afritada.

7. Dinner Dessert

Halo-Halo: A real hodge-podge combo of this n’ that, Halo-Halo not only translates to ‘mix mix’, it really is. The foundation is shaved ice and ube ice-cream and after that, anything goes. Expect sweet beans, fruits, tapioca, jackfruit and guava paste. Or maybe sweet potato, coconut, kidney beans and chickpeas. It’s like playing Russian roulette with your taste buds, but the good news is, it’s always tasty.

8. Midnight snack

Balut: Maybe we should rename this as 'one for your nightmares’. Balut is a duck embryo that’s boiled and then eaten out of its own shell. The ideal age of the embryo is 17 days because the duck has not yet developed to have a beak, feathers or claws, and the bones are soft.

Diner’s tip: Add some vinegar. For the love of god, add the vinegar.

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