Filipino Food Appreciation Lessons

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Adolf Aran, Jr., President of the Food and Hospitality Events Specialist Inc. organized a quarterly Filipino food forum entitled "The Filipino Cuisine: Why we eat what we eat, Then and Now" which I have attended. I have never learned in history why Filipino food is such and have grown up getting used to having "Filipino food" from Barrio Fiesta and Jollibee when I dine out.

Adolf Aran, Jr.


All these thoughts I had about "Filipino food" were slashed immediately the moment Alex Orquiza, a doctoral candidate in history at the John Hopkins University, started to discuss history with his talk called, "Pacific Exchanges: Filipino food culture and the response to Americanization." He showed samples of food print ads during the American Period which shows how much the American influence has affected the Filipino's choice of food. Even Magnolia Ice Cream should only be eaten by those with light complexion.

Alex Orquiza

Orquiza also showed menu of high class hotels in the Philippines during the 1900s on what they serve on banquets. Surprisingly, the hotels during those era served French food! They don't use much of our local ingredients or even a local dish for festivities like lechon was not on the list! The few Filipino food that went on the menu shown were lapu-lapu, Cafe Lipa, Cafe de Batangas and mango which I found very interesting. Imported food must be really cheap at that time to be able to have a majority foreign food on the menu.

Menus of different occasions in high class hotels during the American Period in the 1900s.

What about Filipino food making it to the US? According to Orquiza, there was a book that states during the 1900s there were fish with coconut sauce, pork with coconut sauce, lechon, adobo and dinuguan which found their way to the US. This information is impressive! He also showed a slide which quoted Edith Moses in 1908 that describes how Filipinos love feeding their guests with plenty of food and the goodness of carabao milk that makes one forget how (ugly) a carabao looks like.

Quote from Edith Moses in 1908


Owner of Purple Yam (a popular Filipino restaurant in New York whose Adobo is on the list of the must-try food in New York), Amy Besa, said "Our food is characterized by sour flavors." She gave an example through her restaurant's best-seller adobo. She said that adobo is sour and salty, not sweet. She explains that putting sugar on adobo will ruin its taste because it's not supposed to be sweet. She also gave another examples like sinigang and kinilaw which needs sour fruits, and not sachet powders, to make it sour.
"When you feed people, nourish them and make them healthy," describes Besa, "mass produced food is not bad but if it's unhealthy, it's bad." She also notices how despite our country has very rich soils, we do not have a lot of vegetarian food. Another thing she points out which I agree is that the usual vegetable dishes we have are boiled vegetables, pinakbet and ensalada. I have to personally add, crispy kangkong to this list of usual vegetable dishes. Sometimes I don't understand why despite the richness of our soil, we have so few native vegetables in our market and the quantity of our vegetable is low which makes it as expensive as meat. These expensive vegetables make a lot of Filipinos opt to buy meat since cooking meat gives one more food than vegetables which shrinks when cooked.

Cyrene Dela Rosa who stayed in the US for a long time came back to the Philippines to try as much Filipino food as she can to observe the trends of Filipino food. She showed so many slides of Filipino food on which she photographs on her very food trip while discussing what's good in the restaurants she have tried and on how a simple dish like laing can be reinvented into something Filipino-Italian like the laing pizza in Bicol. She points out the different halo-halo which she has encountered on her trip like the Pampanga Kabigting Halo-halo has pastillas and Bicol's halo-halo includes cheese but it's the local cheese only that will make it taste good. She also showed a slide of the crops people sell in Baguio which now includes blueberries (aside from the usual strawberries) which is only P7.00 a kilo!

Cyrene Dela Rosa

Pictures from L-R: Home-cooked meals in Cecile's friends' house, Mely's sisig and barbecue chicken ass in Pampanga, and different products found in Baguio's market - strawberries, carrots, tupik (a Filipino delicacy which sadly, I've never heard, seen or tried yet), blueberries and a store that sells ube, strawberry jam, etc.

Pictures from L-R: Different types of lechon from different places - regular lechon, Zubuchon and Rico's spicy lechon, Bicol's specialties - halo-halo with cheese, monay putok with meat inside.

The increasing homemade baked goodies sold through internet or bazaars that is becoming highly popular around the metro like the Macademia Sans Rival made by someone in Valle Verde and the Custaroons made by Gigi were also pointed out by Dela Rosa as a potential booming food industry because of these people's innovative ideas. She also notices the increasing good selections of wine being offered in the restaurants today.

Found member and Past President of The International Wine and Food Society Manila Ladies Branch, CJ Juntereal read an article regarding this visitor who came to the Philippines to try our food find Tsumura as the best place to eat but Tsumura serves Japanese food which is quite weird. She explains how there are lots of mediocre Filipino food so quality is always important no matter what happens. She admits that sometimes a lot of people accepts the mistake they did in their dish but still serves it because they need to earn but it should not be the case. She encourages restaurant owners, cooks and chefs to strive hard and give quality food because this is something which we Filipinos have and should be proud of.

CJ Juntereal (with Alex Orquiza on the background)


Executive Chef of Circulo and Milky Way Restaurants, J Gamboa raises the question if we should cook for ourselves or for other people which is what he faced during a cooking competition in Hong Kong. According to him, "We (Filipinos) are used to aggressively seasoning our food." The food they made during the competition was very salty according to the judge and told them that they're cooking for themselves. He said that they (chefs) should know the history of Filipino food as discussed by Orquiza but when they're at the kitchen, all they think about are cooking techniques, modern equipment and knife cut. However, he stresses an important point between the difference of simmering and boiling. Simmering is a common technique in cooking Filipino food since we love clear soup and we want soft meat. If soup is boiled, it results to cloudy soup and stringy meat. He also discloses about Les Toques Blanches Philippines, which he is the director of education, that is a group of chefs sponsoring teachers to study about culinary trends and practices.

Chef J Gamboa


JJ Yulo, who is a blogger and food entrepreneur behind Pinoy Eats World, tells us how important it is for Filipinos to know where their food is coming from and the story behind it. In his food tours, he brings people to the provinces to try what these people made at home and tell them the stories behind the food. Aside from Filipino food, he said, he also tours Filipinos to try Philippine's Korean food while showing them the TV series "Jewel In the Palace" during the meal to explain to them what they're having. I hope someday I'll be able to join one of the tours and write about it. I'm very sure, it will be a remarkable gastronomic experience.

JJ Yulo


Besa closes the discussion on what we should do to enhance the traditional ways of cooking Filipino food, how to make Filipino food popular and make it known to the world. If Filipino food becomes popular, it will put the Philippines into the map of must-go-to-places and help our economy the way other dishes like Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Italian and American cuisine has made a lot of people go to their places just to taste the authenticity of the dishes.

From L-R: Alvan Young, Cyrene Dela Rosa, CJ Juntereal, Chef J Gamboa, JJ Yulo, Amy Besa, Chef Romy Dorotan, Alex Orquiza, Adolf Aran Jr.


I have realized through this talk on how important it was for my high school to teach us how to make Filipino dishes like longganiza, tocino and krispy kang kong because it was part of our culture. Somehow making these dishes enhances the Filipino in me and makes me proud we have these dishes. However, due to the popularity of baking, the lower batches were made to bake cakes and cookies instead of making Filipino dishes. I hope that school administrators who teaches home economics will be able to attend one of these forums for them to realize the gravity of teaching how to make Filipino dishes to their students. We should love not only to eat Filipino dishes but to make them perfectly for Philippines to be part of the world's culinary map to somehow help boost our economy and uplift the lives of our countrymen.


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1 comment:

  1. Many thanks for this great recap! How I wish I could've attended this marvelous forum but your post gives a wonderful overview of the topics discussed.

    ReplyDelete

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