Especially when people hear about a place like Turo-Turo Philippine Cafe.
people tend to assume that Filipino food is something like Thai, or Malaysian - with an expecatation that it's spicy-hot.
Those with a little background might assume a more Spanish influence.
all, Indian food has its flagship dishes - perhaps butter chicken or
vindaloo. Italian food - pasta, pizza, risotto. Thai food - pad thai,
or green curry.
So what would represent Filipino cooking in a few succinct words?
Probably, "it's complicated."
While it is fair to say there are Spanish influences, there are also
Chinese, Malay, and even American components to modern Filipino cuisine
- in addition to diverse regional cooking styles.
And let's not forget
the Philippines' ancient connection to Pacific Island migrations.
Something as classically Spanish as adobo is eaten alongside
Chinese-style chop suey, or spring rolls (lumpiang shanghai.) Malaysian style
ingredients appear in Filipino dishes like
ginataang manok - chicken cooked in coconut milk with red chilli.
Perhaps if there is one Filipino essential ...
... besides rice, that is, (English has one word for rice ... Filipino has seven)
- it's pork.
- chopped pork with onions and chilli - to lechon baboy (a whole
spit-roasted pig, essential at big gatherings) - pork is much loved.
It appears in noodle dishes (pancit,bihon) and soups (lapaz batchoy
includes pork meat, pork liver, and chicharon - a form of crackling.) Pork also appears in entrees (the amazing tokwa't baboy; pork and deep fried tofu with
onions, soy sauce and vinegar.)
popular crispy pata is pork hock, cooked so that the meat is succulent
and tender and the crackling is crisp. Add sawsawin (dipping sauce) and
rice and eat it with your fingers, and you’re immersed in Filipino fare.
Only in the far south of the Philippines, where Islam is the dominant faith, is pork less commonly eaten.
Chicken and beef feature in plenty of Filipino cooking
... and fish – ocean fish as well as freshwater fish such as tilapia
and bangus. Lamb is not popular, and rare in Filipino fare, although
goat's meat features in a number of dishes.
While vegetables feature in many recipes, from vegetable-rich soups
like tinola or sinigang, to the classic pork-and-vegetable dish
pinakbet, there is a strong preference for cooking them: salads and
other raw vegetable dishes are not common, and a Filipino eatery like
Turo-Turo seldom sells a salad.
Likewise, there is an expectation that meat is well-cooked. The
European taste for rare-cooked beef, for example, is not traditionally
shared by Filipinos.
There are so many ways to define Filipino food
... and so many different flavours and variants, that finding a
defining dish is next to impossible. But one guaranteed to take the
eater back to the streets of Manila or the copra-scented provinces is a
There are many, many different ‘silogs – tapsilog, tocilog, bangsilog,
hotsilog, longsilog, the list goes on – but central to all of them is
meat, sinagag (garlic fried rice) and a fried egg (itlog.) The smell of
freshly fried garlic rice symbolises breakfast all over the
So what to expect?
The common lesson from first-timers coming to Turo-Turo to try Filipino food is ... don't bring any expectations. It's
generally not spicy-hot, it's generally not high in complex flavours or
ingredients, and Filipinos don't eat with chopsticks. They use a spoon