As Americans, we get to experience a wide range of cuisine. From Ethiopian to Israeli, French to Comfort food, we’ve got it all. And we love Asian Cuisine. Chinese food is what we order when we’re tired or have no Thanksgiving plans and Pad Thai is available at our neighborhood bodegas. We’ve sampled more Asian cuisine than Confucius! Now there’s an Asian Cuisine growing in popularity Americans are not as familiar with.
Filipino food is some is one of the most varied cuisines on the planet. This is because the Philippines, though small, is one of the most diverse countries on the planet. And since the 90’s more and more Filipinos have moved into the United States (the Philippines is one of the top four “sending countries” since 1998) introducing their eclectic cuisine to the States.
The Philippines is a country with over 80 ethnicities, 170 languages and the richest biodiversity in the world. The country’s culture is a blend of Chinese, Indonesian, Spanish, Mexican, American and its own Malayo-Polynesian origins.
The most popular Filipino dish amongst Americans is lumpia. Lumpia is influenced by the Chinese spring or egg roll. It is stuffed with an assortment of vegetables including turnips, carrots, sprouts and minced onions combined with meats like shrimp, beef or pork. The Filipino lumpia contains fewer ingredients than a Chinese Spring or Egg roll, leaving a fresh taste in your mouth with hints of the Philippine’s tropical flavors.
Tropical flavors like those in the refreshing beverages like the Cantaloupe or Gulaman and Sago drink. The Cantaloupe beverage is made up of freshly shaved Cantaloupe with water, ice and sugar. The Gulaman and Sago drink is mixed with agar gelatin and tapioca balls/pearls. These sweet, cool drinks are a perfect compliment to your main course.
Or, try the popular and delicious Sinigang soup. This tasty soup is loaded with ingredients! Sinigang soup incorporates fish, pork, chicken, shrimp, or beef. While all these options are delicious, this soup’s tamarind base couples best with shrimp. Just look for Sinigang na Hipon (Hipon means shrimp) for this dish and reach for your largest spoon.
Having grown up in California’s Bay Area, Filipino food is nothing new for me. However, I was thrilled to learn how limited my experience of Filipino food really was. Having eaten my share of lumpia and pancit sotanghon, my mouth was watering while learning the vast selection of Filipino food. Not to mention the exciting collection of Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and Indonesian influences on Filipino food. Lesson learned, eat more Filipino food.
Try the paellas, the curry-based kare-kare, and the sweet dessert halo-halo. The halo-halo is more than worth exploring and is a delicious example of how eclectic Filipino food really is. This dessert is sweet and savory mixed with nangka (jackfruit), kidney beans, plantains, garbanzos, custard, corn kernels, milk and ice cream. Halo-halo is often topped with shaved ice, nuts and fruit; this dessert is delicious and romantic.
The more celebratory dishes are lechón (roasted pig), sapin-sapin, pinakbet, puto and tapsilog. All dishes feature the sour, tangy and vinegar taste so particular to Filipino food, which is as “fusion” as you can get. The best part about Filipino Cuisine is you can explore new flavors in dishes you already love.