San Francisco Chronicle
Get Acquainted with Filipino
YOU love sushi, consider yourself
a pho aficionado, and can point visitors to the best pad Thai in a
10-mile radius. So why haven't you tried palabok yet?
are more than 84 million people living in the Philippines, and Filipinos
comprise the second-largest Asian population group in the United States,
trailing only ethnic Chinese. Yet outside of the Filipino community,
most Americans would be lost at sea in a Filipino restaurant.
is a defining characteristics of Filipino culture; even their greeting
in native Tagalog translates to "Have you eaten?" Filipino food is
reminiscent of other Asian cooking, but may most closely resemble
Vietnamese fare. This has less to do with actual dishes than it does
that both cuisines harbor influences from colonization, Vietnamese from
France, Filipino from Spain.
Filipino staples are like those found
in other Asian cuisines - noodles (wheat, rice or "glass", made from bean
threads) and rice, both steamed and fried. Fish and pork are the most
Breakfast starts with
tocino (pronounced toh-see-no), bright red and slightly sweet
pork loin. Longanisa, a finger-length sausage also popular in
Hawaii, is an item commonly available for breakfast. Tocino or longanisa
with fried eggs, rice, fruit and hot chocolate constitute a "typical"
Filipino breakfast (in the United States). In the tropical climate of
their native country, people eat a half-dozen small meals a day, but
Filipino-Americans have adjusted to the U.S.'s "fewer-but-larger"
Other meals contain some
familiar items, such as siu mye (siomai) - virtually identical to
the Chinese dim sum on which it is based - as well as some
familiar-sounding items that surprise, like Filipino spaghetti.
The latter is made with finely ground beef and sausage in a sweet tomato
sauce - not unfamiliar, but not like any spaghetti from Italy.
said Mary-Ann Ortiz-Luis, president of Clarmil Manufacturing, "when
considering that Filipinos are almost 90 percent Roman Catholic and have
strong orientations toward family and food, we are the Italians of
Clarmil Manufacturing, a family-owned company, is the
manufacturing arm of Goldilocks, which owns and operates
170 bakery/restaurants in the Philippine Islands, and 14 more in the
United States, including four in South Bay, two in the San Francisco
area and one each in Concord, Vallejo and Sacramento.
to spaghetti, Filipino cuisine does include more "Asian-like" noodle
dishes. Palabok is a base medium rice noodles stir fried and
topped with fresh shrimp, tofu, pork, hard boiled eggs, green onions,
shaved dried cod fish and a complete surprise - chicharones, similar to
Mexico's popular fried pork skin, which showcase the Spanish influence.
while some describe palabok as an "acquired taste" because of the shaved
dried fish, there's usually not a lot of it, and the dish is well
balanced and milk in flavor. Sotanghon is another composed noodle
dish, similar to palabok but without the dried fish (among other
things), so it's a little less adventurous.
many Filipino delicacies, lechon kawali loses something in the
translation - it's deep-fried pork belly (think slab bacon, but not
smoked), but it's actually simmered and dried before being fried, then
served with vinegar and atchara ( a cross between piccalilli
relish and sauerkraut, with shreds of cabbage, carrots and red bell
pepper in sweet vinegar sauce).
Anglos are familiar with fried lumpia, know as Lumpia Shanghai
because of their resemblance to narrow egg rolls. While lumpia are
filled entirely with pork or shrimp meat, "fresh" lumpia is like a
plate-sized crepe stuffed with julienned cooked vegetables and napped
with a room temperature caramel sauce. (It's one way to get kids to
eat their veggies.)
To get closer to
the edge, bopis or dinuguan will stimulate the palate.
Bopis is "variety (or organ) meats" long-braised in a vinegar-based
sauce (somewhat like an adobo), and is meltingly tender and flavorful.
Based on a concept popular in German and Irish cooking, dinuguan
is slow-cooked stew in a sauce consisting of blood.
very nutritious", said Ortiz-Luis. "Your serum iron (the iron level in
your blood) will go way up". The sauce looks almost like chocolate and
tastes like rich brown gravy - one would be hard-pressed to guess how
healthy it is.
One other unexpected custom of
Filipino culture is its treatment of avocados as a dessert component,
perhaps best exemplified in avocado shakes. Made with fresh
avocado pulp, coconut milk, tiny tapioca and lots of ice, the avocado
flavor comes through loud and strong, and is interesting when sweetened.
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