HOW TO NOT BE DUMB, OR FILIPINO FOOD 101

Twice I have heard foreigners comment negatively on Filipino food, and my instinctive reaction is “Are you dumb?

Isn’t it a bit unfair to judge an entire cuisine only after a week’s stay, without possibly even sampling traditional home cooking? Honestly, these are the kind of people I would sell to Satan for a piece of dried fish.

Let me set you straight: We have food other than pork, and even if we don’t, how bad can that be? Lechon, motherfucker.

Rice or kanin is the ultimate staple, and food is mostly a matter of what goes with rice, or what is locally known as ulam.

Here is the first part of some of my favorites. Believe me when I tell you all these taste like they came out of God’s kitchen. Have I ever let you down? Believe, crispies.

Tokwa, fried tofu with a most amazing onion, garlic, and chili gravy, made from a mixture of oyster sauce and mayo. If I die tomorrow, this will be my last meal.


 Hipon, steamed shrimp, really sweet, seasoned with salt; lots of fantastic seafood here from fish, mussels, squid, crab, to the son of The Kraken. I am allergic to seafood but risk life every time. These are just so damn good.

Hagod, absolute celebration of vegetables, sauteed with a bit of pork but it is optional, all dressed in a heavenly sauce made of bagoong or ridiculously glorious fermented shrimp paste.

Nilaga, bony bits of beef and vegetables, peppercorns, simmered for hours to produce an immaculate broth, best eaten on cold days; also good when you are desperate for comfort in a bowl.

Ginataan, the star can be any protein, even vegetables, cooked in fresh coconut milk, spicy and so creamy you can go to bed with it. Life changing.

Read Filipino Food 102 here.

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44 thoughts on “HOW TO NOT BE DUMB, OR FILIPINO FOOD 101

          1. That is a tough question, lechon probably tops the list, with adobo following a close second. But more than meats, the pinangat, bicol express, pinakbet, bagnet, tinola, larang, bulalo… we can go on and on lol

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  1. ok, now I’m starving and it isn’t even 10AM here. So thank you very much. I used to love shellfish but alas I have an allergy and won’t tempt fate. Thank God I can still eat regular fish and squid and octopus. All the food and the spices look amazing, I can practically smell it. The answer to the question “what goes with rice?” is obvious: EVERYTHING! The blackened fish! Wow. The nilaga looks amazing. When’s brunch?

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    1. hello, close to midnight here and cravings are whispering to me too! i am also allergic to seafood but life is short, i just take drugs and hope for the best. the fish is grilled tilapia and nilaga, i had for lunch earlier. what is your favorite dish from there?

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          1. In the United States, I don’t think we have a “cuisine” of our own, we’ve borrowed everything from everywhere else. I’m not a huge fan of burgers unless I make them, and french fries make my stomach turn. But Sunday I made a baked eggplant dish with sweet red peppers and garlic and mozzarella. Today it’s cold, I think I’ll make creamy potato soup with onions and a little bacon, because that’s what’s in my house, it’s quick, and I like it. But my favorite thing to eat is either fried chicken or grilled ribeye steak. I like just about any typical U.S. breakfast food. And did I mention rice? I cook a wicked fried rice. *rice high fives you back* but I also like it plain, or with a little butter & soy sauce.

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            1. i guess food is all about influences and adaptions. in ancient times, our trade with neighboring asian countries reflected in our food. further, we have been colonized for over 300 years by the spanish, then the americans and japanese for a little bit. more food mix up. your baked eggplant sounds delish, never had it but would love to try! big fan of potato soup and steak. omg, am so hungry now.

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      1. It is. From the looks of it though, it’s slowly gaining ground now. Our food is being discovered by the likes of Anthony Bourdain. It may just be a matter of time before it gets the credit it deserves.

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    1. hi lucas, seeing is one thing but tasting, i assure you, is life changing. come around one time and let us eat! travelers often overlook us for other south east asian countries like vietnam and cambodia, but here awaits a box of treats for the explorer. not perfect, but that is where the greatest travel stories come from right!

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  2. OMG these looks sooooo good! I don’t remember eating any of this. I miss my Filipino family in Hawaii, the get togethers, and the food! I can cook a few things (guissantes, tupig, pinakbet, pancit, etc), but mostly the simple stuff (plus I’m limited to the kind where I can find the ingredients locally).

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    1. that is great! i haven’t tried making pancit, you are cool. there is really a family thing going on with our food. every thing is family sized, parties are always over catered, and it is important people get to take some home. i wish you can see your family in hawaii again and that they will cook these for you.

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      1. Yes! It was always family style either made by the family or like you said catered out (but I think my Auntie always knew the person who catered, so it was like they were still within the family)! And you’re so right! We’d always leave with a plate or two or gallon sized ziplock bags with food 🙂 Thank you, I hope so too, that’ll be my next planned vacation, hopefully within the next year or two.

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  3. Hello There… all look delicious, aside from seafood (which I love…Oh! Sorry about your allergy, but you are doing the best thing by risking your life for it) I wouldn’t mind sampling the first and last dish – I love fried tofu…. and I LOVE coconut! Yumm! Feed me!

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  4. I don’t even recognise some of the stuff on those plates but they all look awesome. And I agree with you, not just about filipino food but in general. I’ve seen people in a chinese restaurant wanting to order steak, egg and chips…. who knows. I guess the important thing is it’s their loss. Right? We get to eat the good stuff and if they want macdonalds burgers then there’s more goodstuff for us 🙂 Enjoying your posts by the way.

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    1. many thanks. one of the best things i like about food is that it is constant discovery. sometimes the ugliest dish proves the most delicious. other times we end up falling in love with something we never thought we would even eat. it is great!

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  5. As a Filipina American, I really enjoyed this post!! And even Anthony Bourdain said on his show that the lechon in the Philippines was the best in the world!

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  6. Sorry for another gushing comment haha but really liked this post too! So easy to read, makes me smile and genuinely interesting. Since these are more traditional dishes, are they homecooked? 🙂

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