The Filipino cuisine combines Spanish-Mexican, Chinese, Indian, Japanese and even American influences that have affected the regional cuisines of different ethnic groups in the Philippines.
Seafood is one of the staple foods of the Philippines. Fish and vegetables are the simplest case and is often part of every meal. Fish is simply roasted and eaten with rice. For larger fish, it is usually prepared as sinigang na isda (a sour soup), paksiw (simmered fish with pepper and vinegar) or inihaw (grilled fish). Shrimp, crab and lobsters are expensive, while shellfish is traditionally considered as poor manís food. The equally popular bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) is a dish that is rejected by European visitors because of its intense smell.
Philippine national food: Pansit
Photo:Joybell Deloy / AP
Popular foods in the whole country include Pansit (long noodles with chicken, pork, shrimp and various vegetables) and adobo which is a stewed pork, beef or poultry consisting of vinegar, garlic, onion, pepper and soy sauce or coconut milk, depending on the region. For special occasions, roasted suckling pig, commonly known as lechon in the Philippines, is served. Other popular dishes are meat or fish kebabs or inihaw (broiled); and fried or grilled tapa (air-dried and salted beef which is seasoned with coconut vinegar). Kare-Kare (oxtail and/or beef in peanut sauce) is also very popular. The food is not strongly seasoned as in other Asian countries, but a lot of coconut milk is used. If meat and vegetables are cooked with coconut milk, the result is guinatan. In the province of Bicol, it is often highly spiced or hot and is called Bicol express which is very similar to Thai curry.
Chinese origin foods include pastries filled with meat or vegetables (Siopao). On birthdays, noodles (Pansit), which symbolizes long life, is served. Spring rolls (Lumpia) or the small Lumpiang Shanghai (Shanghai Lumpia) are also of Chinese origin. Arroz caldo (rice with chicken), although with a Spanish name, is also due to Chinese influence.
Dishes such as Spanish ensaymada (sweet butter pastry with cheese) and pan de sal (bread rolls) are often served as snack (merienda). Hopia (pastry with bean paste), Pancit canton (stir-noodles) and rice cakes like puto or bibingka are also famous. Puto is often eaten with dinuguan (a soup made of pork and blood). Another very popular snack is the Balut. It is a cooked fertilized duck egg.
Main beverage with meals is clear water, but this is more and more displaced by soft drinks. More expensive imported wine is generally consumed only by the affluent population. Other strong alcoholic drinks include tuba, the fermented juice of the coconut palm; Basi and Lambanog-spirits, which are made from rice or palm trees; and the milder rum from sugar cane.
Somebody with a European taste has to get used to the intensive use of sugar in many Filipino dishes. Even a world-renowned ketchup manufacturer had to exclusively increase the sugar content of ketchups to be sold in the Philippines.
Because of the Spanish and American influences, spoons and forks are used as eating utensils, however no knives are used. In the rural areas, eating by hand (kamayan) is still predominant especially with traditional snacks.