Filipino Cuisine: Recipes from the Islands by Gerry G. Gelle
During the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines, the preferred Austronesian methods for food preparation were boiling, steaming and roasting. The ingredients for common dishes were obtained from locally raised livestock. Chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green. Spanish and Mexican dishes were eventually incorporated into Philippine cuisine with the more complex dishes usually being prepared for special occasions. Some have been adapted or have come to take on a slightly or significantly different meaning. Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques, styles of cooking, and ingredients find their way into the country. However, the Filipino diet is higher in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than other Asian cuisines.
The Filipinos are gregarious and sociable people who love to party, and the food is often at the center of their many celebrations. Filipino food combines Eastern and Western ideas and is strongly influenced by Chinese, Spanish and American traditions. While it defies any singular characterization, Filipino food is sometimes identified by the way it fuses Asian and European ingredients. For example, in the robust and popular Pork Menudo dish, some recipes have it blending tomato sauce with soy sauce , while others have it combining cheese and bay leaf with soy sauce. Still, as with all other Southeast Asian cuisines, we often find local Southeast Asian ingredients like chilies, coconuts, shrimp paste , lemongrass , and fish sauce or patis present in Filipino cooking. Chinese traders, who have been going to the Philippines since the 11th century, brought with them not only their silks and ceramics from the Middle Kingdom for purposes of commerce but also Chinese cooking traditions like stir-frying and steaming. The Filipino pancit has its roots in noodle soup dishes from China, the lumpia finds its origins in Chinese spring rolls, while the siaopao and siaomai are similar to the popular Chinese dim sum dishes of steamed buns and dumplings.
THE WORLD IN A POCKET
However, a majority of mainstream Filipino dishes that compose Filipino cuisine are from the cuisines of the Ilocano, Pangasinan, Kapampangan , Tagalog, Bicolano, Visayan Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray , Chavacano and Maranao ethno-linguistic groups. The style of food making and the food associated with it have evolved over many centuries from their Austronesian origins shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines to a mixed cuisine of Indian , Chinese , Spanish and American influences, in line with the major waves of influence that had enriched the cultures of the archipelago, as well as others adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate. Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to fish curry, chicken curry, complex paellas and cozidos of Iberian origin created for fiestas. Various food scholars have noted that Filipino cuisine is multi-faceted and is the most representative in the culinary world for food where 'East meets West'. During the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines, the preferred Austronesian methods for food preparation were boiling, steaming and roasting. The ingredients for common dishes were obtained from locally raised livestock.
More than years ago, long before Spanish conquistadores staggered down their ships to kiss the shores of the islands, Filipinos were rowing out to sea in their little bancas, wading knee-deep in rice paddies, planting in their backyards and hunting in the woods. Whatever they gathered and caught they simply roasted, boiled or broiled over an open fire. The forests were abundant and the surrounding waters teeming with life; the Filipinos' idea of food included everything nature had to offer. Preferably seafood. Preferably fresh. Squirming, leaping, crawling-out-of-the-cooking-pot fresh.