Search This Blog

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Yum yum

As a new resident of the Philippines, I want to learn the foods of my adopted country, so that I can learn about Filipino culture and eat good food.

Acceptance Criteria: Eat lots of food and ask questions so I can learn to make it all myself.

For the most part the Filipinos I've met and work with are cheerful people. Every morning I hear "Good morning ma'am" (sounds like mom), "Hello Miss Ingrid" and all with big smiles. And I think food is pretty important to them. Each week in the office they hold a Merienda--which translates to mid-afternoon snack. They bring in food and eat and socialize and laugh out loud all afternoon. They celebrate birthdays, weddings, and babies, which is awesome. One of the things I talk about as a coach is that if we spend something like 90% of our lives at work then those people should be like our second family and we should treat them accordingly. They definitely understand that concept here.

The native Filipino food really isn't that much different from what I'm used to; they prepare things similarly and they use the same spices, etc. However, they're not averse to using every piece and part of whatever the animal is they're cooking and that is definitely different for me. They will eat salad for breakfast--or at least serve it in the morning--but otherwise, it's chicken, pork, lots of Australian beef, and local fruits and vegetables. The influence of their colonizers has had a lasting impact; some Western and Spanish items remain part of the fabric of their society--English language and fast food restaurants and Spanish food like empanadas and adobo.

But the Asian influence is also huge. Chinese and Japanese , as well as Malaysian and Thai, are apparent in a lot of the food; there's just usually a little Filipino twist, like calamansi. Interestingly, Filipinos don't all like hot chili sauces or cook with chilies. I went to lunch with some people from work and we ordered spicy sisig--pork cheeks fried with chilies, garlic, ginger, bell peppers and onion--which they thought was too spicy, while I thought it was scrumptious with just the right amount of chili kick.

Noodles feature pretty large in Filipino cuisine (spaghetti is served in a lot of places, including fast food places), in both rice and flour form, and there is a lot of rice--white, brown and black. They do a LOT with rice. In fact, they do so much with rice I'm surprised I hadn't heard about some of this back home where we use rice mainly as a side dish or a base for a stir fry or curry. Some of what they do with rice is pretty ingenious and most of it delicious.

There is plain rice, fried rice (like in Chinese food), rice pudding and sweet sticky rice; arroz caldo--basically rice soup--and immense paellas, but then there is carioca, which is fried coconut rice balls and halo halo, rice cakes (not those dry crunchy things), and rice custards. Necessity really is the mother of invention.

Another place to find food, outside of restaurants, fast food joints and the street vendors, is the local Saturday open air markets. The Salcedo Village market in Makati is small but jam packed with so much fresh seafood, and fruits and vegetables as well as ready to eat foods it's hard to see it all. I've gone three times and still miss some of the vendors each time.

The market is also multi-cultural. In addition to Filipino, Moroccan, Japanese, Chinese, and Indian foods are represented. I recognize a lot of the things I used to search for back home and had to go to specialty markets to find. Here they are staples.

There are fresh fruit smoothies (basically orange julius' with fresh fruit), ice cream--with flavors I have never seen, local dishes ready to eat while you walk round and the things you've heard about or seen (#TAR anyone?) like century eggs.

Shaved meat wrapped in naan or chapati and, of
course, oyster omelette or fried pigeon for your brunch. Lumpia is also big here and it comes in many different shapes and sizes with fillings both sweet and savory. Lumpia Shanghai is very popular.

The seafood is so fresh it's alive. The clams are squirting at you, the shrimp are wiggling and the fish are sometimes still opening and closing their mouths, unless they have been grilled and stuffed with salad. And the novelties like Japanese pancakes are fun if not so novel. It really is a pancake; you get two and your choice of filling--jam or chocolate, etc. They are good though and the vendor has an amazing piece of equipment to make many of them at the same time. It's a nice finish to a morning of munching.

I thought I might actually lose weight while I was here and not in the clutches of the vast American sugar empire, but I didn't realize that the hold sugar has on this country is just as tight if not tighter. I think Filipinos have a real sweet tooth. Things here are so sweet sometimes, it is just too much for me. And then there is a lot of fried food too. Fried chicken is ubiquitous and not just at KFC.

They not only fry those coconut rice balls for carioca, they dip them in simple sugar sauce and then drizzle more caramelized sugar on top of them. Everything seems to have sugar added on top of sugar and in large quantities. I have also noticed in the smaller grocery stores, aisles with cookies and candies outnumber those with beans and canned meat and the produce area is far fewer square meters then the prepared food aisles. I'll have to see if that's true in other stores.

I haven't had the opportunity to try any recipes for myself yet since I only have a single burner hot plate. But the new condo has a stove with 4 burners and an oven so I'm looking forward to cooking again soon.

So I haven't tried all the food that I want to yet, but I sure will work on it. I've got another 11 months so I'll work on that while also bumping up my exercise to offset all the calories. Mabuhay.

No comments:

Post a Comment