What is Filipino food and how does it taste?Chef explained

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There are approximately 12 million Filipino diaspora in more than 100 countries/regions, making it one of the largest diaspora in the world.

However, Filipino food is not as widely known as some Asian cuisines. Food lovers argue that adobo—chicken or pork stewed in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and pepper—should be as easily recognizable as Thai food, ramen noodles, and shrimp dumplings.

As more and more Filipino chefs gain international recognition, Filipino cuisine is becoming more and more popular. In 2015, Antonio’s Restaurant, at the helm of the Filipino Tonyboy Escalante, was the first restaurant in the Philippines to break into the world’s top 50 list, ranking 48th for the first time.

Sarsa’s motto is “Filipino Food Foresight”. The dishes at the Manila restaurant are (clockwise from the upper right corner): sisig, crab tortang talong (eggplant omelet), teppanyaki kansi (beef leg soup), chicken nose and (middle) beef caldereta.

Scott A. Woodward

In 2016, the Bad Saint restaurant in Washington, DC, opened by James Beard award-winning chef Tom Cunanan was named the second best restaurant in the United States by Bon Appetit magazine. In the same year, Margarita Fores of Manila was awarded the title of Best Female Chef in Asia by the 50 Best organization headquartered in the United Kingdom.

However, insiders said that the efforts to popularize food in the Philippines came from stereotypes abroad and domestic problems in the Philippines.

From Manila to Miami and Paris

Cheryl Tiu is a food journalist born in Manila and the founder of the Miami event website Cross Cultures. She attributed part of the problem to “hiya”, which means shame in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines.

A baker in Panderya Toyo sprinkled bicho (a local version of beignets) with sugar and cocoa powder.

Scott A. Woodward

“We have been colonized for so many years, and we have to think that imported things are better,” Tiu said. “Fortunately, today’s generation has always been proud and proud of our traditions.”

Tiu said that the TV did not help either.

“We have also received a lot of negative news because some of our dishes are’fear factorized’,” she said. “Many people associate all our food with it.”

On the tasting menu at Gallery by Chele, blue crabs are topped with fermented tomato sorbet, smoked fish dashi, and garnished with crystalline tibig (a local fig).

Scott A. Woodward

Some of these sentiments were echoed by the Philippine chef Erica Paredes in Paris.

“It seems that we never thought that our food would be enough to be on the global stage,” she said.

Fennel and sinigang grilled scallops (a clear sour soup traditionally made with tamarind) and Korean fried chicken with adobo sauce are just some of the dishes that Paredes made at the Parisian cafe Mokoloco, which gained Vanity Fair and other media during this period.

“Nowadays, many young chefs are more proud and enthusiastic about being authentic people, and this includes immersing in tastes that bring us happiness and comfort,” she said. “It’s as if we are waiting for permission, but now-no more.”

What exactly is “Philippine food”?

“We like our sour food,” said JP Anglo, TV personality and chef of Sarsa Kitchen+Bar in Manila when asked to define Filipino food.

The taste of most Filipino food is between sweet, sour and salty.

Cher Gonzalez

Chef at Chele Gallery

Like many cuisines, Filipino food has evolved based on tastes and needs. Cooking with sour agents helps preserve food in warm tropical climates. This is the same reason that fermented, dried, and pickled foods are also common.

“We get sourness from fruits such as tamarind, bats, and squid… We also have different kinds of vinegar,” Anglo said. “We also have our dried fish and our fermented shrimp, such as bagoong or ginamos, This brings a strong and spicy taste. “

Executive sous chef Carlos Villaflor picks fresh vegetables on the terrace of Gallery by Chele.

Scott A. Woodward

The Basque chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by Chele made the Philippines his home in 2010. Welcomed and celebrated by the local community, he made a candid assessment of the flavor profile.

“Most Filipino food has a very special taste between sweet, sour and salty-sometimes it is difficult for us foreigners to understand,” he said. “With chefs like JP Anglo and Jordy Navarra, it becomes more complicated and subtle.”

Many islands, many influences

The chef of Toyo Eatery in Manila, Jordy Navarra, ranked 49th in this year’s world’s 50 best lists. He said that Filipino food is difficult to define because it varies across the country-one with about 7,107 islands and 22 Regions and countries with 8 main dialects.

L: JP Anglo, chef of Sarsa Kitchen+Bar. R: Jordy Navarra, chef of Panaderya Toyo Bakery.

Scott A. Woodward

“One of the most beautiful aspects of Filipino food is its diversity,” he said. “There are various regions and islands that represent the food we eat all over the country… The more we learn and understand, the more we can express and share what we eat to the world and each other.”

History also played a role.

As the core of the pre-colonial trade route between China, India and Malay, the Philippines was a melting pot of cultures before the Spanish arrived in 1521. During the more than 300 years of Spanish rule-this period included the route between Acapulco and Manila that was influenced by Mexico due to the galleon trade-the dishes were heavily influenced by Latin influences and ingredients.

After Spain was defeated in the Spanish-American War in 1898, Spain ceded control of the Philippines to the United States. As a result, the Philippines began a period of American cultural influence, including English, and modern love for fast food, sweets, and processed products.

“Philippine cuisine can include peach mango pie from the local fast food chain Jollibee, even if we don’t have peaches,” Navarre said. “It may also mean using sinigang of sampalok (tamarind) Pork grown from trees in your yard and neighbors. “

Chef Jordy Navarra (middle, with his team at Toyo Eatery) said that staying open and surviving the pandemic is a feat.

Scott A. Woodward

Chef Anglo said that to improve his country’s food standards needs to start locally.

“I look at our Asian counterparts, such as Thailand, where the street food is incredible,” he said. “I also want to see this movement at the grassroots level.”

He said he wanted to highlight the street vendors-“little guys from the provinces”-who are cooking “amazing traditional dishes” so that they can also be successful. Then, he said, “Everyone around them can follow suit.”

The “authenticity” in the ever-evolving cuisine

One of the biggest setbacks of Filipino cuisine is the so-called “crab mentality”-a term widely used in the Philippines to describe the behavior of driving down successful people near you. (The term comes from the crab in the bucket, which tends to pull down crabs that are close to escaping.).

In the culinary world of the Philippines, this is often accused of being “untrue.”

Panaderya Toyo makes classic Filipino breads and pastries in a modern style. The recipe follows the local tradition of using sweet and chewy dough.

Scott A. Woodward

“For me, authenticity and tradition are two very different things,” Paredes said. “I cook based on my own experience. As a person who grew up in Manila, lives abroad, and now lives in France, using seasonal European products with Filipino or Southeast Asian flavors and spices is very authentic to me.”

Navarre said that he traveled to understand the meaning of Filipino food to people across the country. For him, truth is “ensure that we represent the people and communities that inspire us and our work.”

The chefs interviewed for this report agreed that if the taste is essentially Filipino—if it has comforting saltiness, sourness, and garlic flavor—then food is legal.

What’s next

“We are in the midst of a revolution, which is very exciting,” Gonzalez said. “The nuanced tastes, the use of textures, the fusion of traditional and modernist techniques-all these are enhancing the culinary scene.”

Perhaps the biggest carrier of the rise of Filipino cuisine is a group of unwavering chefs.

Gallery by Chele’s introduces a Filipino street food called taho, a dessert made with goat’s milk custard and fresh strawberries from Luzon.

Scott A. Woodward

“We own it,” Anglo declared. “Chefs like Tom Cunanan or Anton Dayrit in the United States did not say that this is their view of Filipino food or Fil-Am cuisine… This should be sports.”

“We need to be bold,” he said. “This is us, this is our food, and we like it.”




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