What is Filipino Food?
Filipino food is not Chinese food. If it is, our Adobo (marinated meat) would be steamed chicken with soy sauce. It is neither Spanish food. If it is, we wouldn’t be eating rice like breathing air. Filipino food is not American food. If it is, Jollibee would have bigger servings. True? If you don’t agree with me, next time you’re in NY try convincing the hotdog vendor that his dogs are not american hotdogs… in fact it is German because that’s where all the sausages come from. Then brace yourself.
Filipino food is filipino food. Adobo was just named adobo by the Spaniards because they can’t name the beast. Kinilaw (raw fish in vinegar and spices) has been with us for thousands of years that when the Japanese witnessed it wiggling on our native bamboo table they attacked Pearl Harbor just to get to us… a pretty smart move I tell you. And Sinigang (fish soup) is definitely a Filipino original because if you ask from what region this fish soup originated, you are definitely promoting a royal rumble, you should have brought a ring with you.
But then what is Filipino food really? I’ll give two points in the meantime.
Firstly, it is food for the crazy. You can’t just eat the salty-sour Dinuguan (blood and guts stew) by itself, you have to eat it with the majestic – Puto (rice cake). There you go, you became beauty and the beast at the same time. You can’t just cook Kare-Kare (tripes and ox tail in peanut sauce) with enough salt to taste, you have to cook it bland and then eat it with the salty Bagoong (shrimp paste) as a condiment. You crazy, woman?
Secondly, it is food for the lazy. Filipino food is made for Juan Tamad… and has a tendency to just put in any ingredient that is conveniently available. Would you believe me? No? I’ll prove my point. Adobo is a dish where you don’t do any cooking at all. You just throw them all together in a pot, put it on the fire, wait for the fruit to fall on the ground and- Voila! It’s cooked! Did you do any cooking? No. Except for putting vinegar in before the whole blob dries up. Ladies and Gents, Juan tamad can now eat Adobo. If you are telling yourself that it is just me exaggerating, stop right now thank you very much, here’s another dish. Bulalo (beef shanks and marrow soup) is a dumper’s food like Adobo. Dump all the meat and bones in the pot and after 3 hours, dump the rest of the vegetables, cook for a little bit and Bob’s your uncle. You dumpster.
Crazy and Lazy could have been your cat and dog’s names but when it comes to cooking, those words mean cutting edge while painless. It’s crazy because it’s bursting with flavors. It’s lazy because it is chill out food. That’s me saying I want to live.
Anthony Bourdain on his recent trip to the Philippines was asking the question, ‘What is Filipino food?’ again and again and I felt so bad that no one can describe to him what we are eating! Somehow in the end, it turned out that we have a food identity crisis. And I wouldn’t even start talking about the Filipino identity. I’ll die of hunger before I can stop talking and start shoving food in my mouth. Don’t you just hate it when you’re supposed to eat and you can’t stop talking?