Cuisine of the Philippines

By Richard Marrison

History of Philipino Cuisine:

The Republic of the Philippines, an archipelagic country of Southern Asia, consists of almost 7,640 islands categorized into three geographical divisions Luzon, Mindanao, and the Visayas.

Apart from the massive number of islands, the Philippines is well-known for its unique and multicultural cuisine. The cuisine came along with the Austronesians, who in 3200 BCE came from Southern China and Taiwan to settle in one place, now known as the Philippines.

The Austronesians brought rice cultivation and other needful farming practices that helped people survive by producing the primary staple food. Till today, rice is their staple food and is hardly missed from any of their meals.

Inspiration for the Philipino Cuisine:

As the changes in the culture of the Philippines, the cuisine and the technique kept on changing, and it made it hard to know the exact recipe and cooking. However, going back to history, it had the influence of numerous other countries and ancient cities, including China, Arabia, India, and Spain, majorly caused due to the agricultural trading of the Philippines with these countries.

Most rice-based dishes have been inspired by Indian cuisine, including bibingka – a baked rice cake, puto – a steamed cake with rice flour, puto bumbong – a purple rice cake steamed in bamboo tubes. These dishes are primarily from Southern India.

They have also been inspired by Chinese cuisine as they have had trade relations since the 9th Century.

Another famous dish that has been inspired by the British during the Seven years’ war was the Kare-Kare. During this war, from 1762 to 1764, the British had control over Manilla and had Indian sepoys prepare food without enough spices.

From around 1566 until 1899, they were influenced by Spanish culture and cuisine. They applied Spanish cooking techniques and used their spices sofrito as tomatoes, onion, corn, potatoes, avocado, annatto, peanuts, chili powder, pineapples, and garlic around the 16th Century.

A quick note on Sofrito: Sofrito, the most commonly used spice in the Philippines, is the sauce made with a blend of vegetables, herbs, and spices, including garlic, onion, tomatoes, and peppers. It is used to add flavor to fish, meats, rice, beans, and stews.

Again in 1899, the Americans controlled the Philippines as per the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish- American war. The Philippines was introduced to fried chicken, hot dogs, ice cream, instant coffee, evaporated milk, and hamburgers by the US soldiers.

The Philipino cuisine was influenced by Japanese cuisine as well. The most famous one was the Halo- Halo (mix-mix), a cold dessert made by crushing ice, condensing milk, and mixing it with beans, sago, coconut strips, pinipig, yams, taro, and gulaman. This dish became one of the unofficial national cold desserts of the Philippines.

Philipino Cuisine:

The cuisine of the Philippines consists of more than a hundred different cuisines from different ethnolinguistic groups. But, most of the mainstream cuisine comes from the groups and tribes of the archipelago, including Tagalog, Bicolano, Visayan, Pangasinan, Maranao, and Ilocano.

Their cuisine has been inspired by their Austronesian origins, including simple dishes, chicken curry, and complex cocidos – an Iberian origin dish. However, the most famous Filipino dishes include tapa – cured beef, adobo – chicken, Lechon- whole roasted pig, longganisa – Philippine sausage, Calderara – meat stewed in the liver paste and tomato sauce, Machado – larded beef, afritada – chicken mixed with vegetables, and sinigang – meat or seafood mixed in sour broth.

A quick note on Cocidos: It is the most desired soup inspired by the Spanish. Cocido is prepared by slow-cooking meat – beef, chicken, or pork alongside beans, banana, sausages, and vegetables.

Evolution of cooking and serving techniques:

The cooking techniques initially only included boiling, steaming, and roasting the ingredients from the locally raised livestock. They used little spices, and the color of the dish would mostly be yellowish with thick peanut sauce.

It has taken a massive turn and modification with the modern techniques, variety of ingredients, and recipes. It has managed a unique and particular taste of its own with the combination of salty, sour, sweet, and spicy.

Also, eating with the hands instead of using chopsticks or spoons is a unique technique used by the Philipinos. However, the fascinating part of the Philipino cuisine is how it is served in a banana leaf.

A large banana leaf is placed on the table, and all the prepared dishes are placed on top of the banana leaf. People take the food with their left hand and reach it with their right hand up to their mouth, and this process is named Kamayan.

The dishes prepared include their native products Pili nut – a buttery-tasting nut, Kalamansi- a Philipino lemon, and Ube halaya – a dessert made from mashed purple yam.

They mostly have three meals a day agahan – breakfast, tanghalian- lunch, and hapunan- dinner. They also take light snacks in between these meals, which are known as Merienda.

National food the Philipinos:

The Philipino cuisine, though inspired by multiple cuisines all over the world, has a particular dish, Adobo, a chicken mixture with vinegar, sauce, spices, including ground pepper, corns, and bay leaves.

However, adobo can also be prepared with pork, fish, beef, and other types of meat. In most cases, the meat is fried after it is stewed to add crispiness to the outer layer.

The word Adobo was the derived from the Spanish word adobar, which meant pickling sauce or marinade. The Spanish were impressed with the marinating process of the meat done by the Philippines, and the word Adobo was invented by Pedro de San Buenaventura, a Spanish writer.

Like the dish, the cooking procedure of adobo is also delicate. The ingredients need to be balanced. For instance, too much vinegar will make the dish taste like sour stew, while too little vinegar will make it taste like a slice of plain boiled meat.

The Philipinos follow few specific steps to prepare their national food that attracts and impresses people worldwide. The most crucial step is to cover the cooking pot, and the timing has to be correct. It should be left uncovered for the first 10 minutes of cooking and covered until the adobo is cooked.

However, every region of Philippines has their way of cooking and preparing adobo. The spices – ginger, turmeric, vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, fish sauce, and bitter melon-are the must-have spices in the Philippine cuisine and adobo.

Recipe for the National food of the Philippines – Adobo

The Philipinos follow about ten specific steps to prepare their national food. The Adobo could be made with chicken, fish, beef, or any other meat.

Here are the simple yet effective steps to be followed while preparing a delicious Adobo. The steps include gathering the ingredients and utensils up to serving and enjoying the dish.

Step 1: Begin with gathering the essential ingredients and utensils – chicken

breasts, rice, vinegar, carrots, cloves of garlic, onion, cooking pan, measuring cup,

and rice cooker

Step 2: Heat the pan and pour oil enough to avoid the chicken from sticking to the


Step 3: Cut down the chicken breast into proper cubes to make it look uniform.

Marinade the chicken cubes by adding salt and black pepper, and place the chicken on the pan.

Step 4: Ready the rice and place it in the rice cooker for cooking

Step 5: Cut the onion into cubes and mince the garlic.

Step 6: Cut the carrots in uniform shapes to make them look delicious and proper.

Step 7: Prepare the sauce by adding soy sauce and vinegar. Add about ½ a cup of soy sauce and ¼ cup of vinegar to the chicken pan. Stir the sauce to mix it well with chicken and carrots.

Step 8: Let it cook by covering the pan after 10 minutes of cooking. Put the lid on and let the ingredients simmer for about 6 to 7 minutes.

Step 9: Check on the rice.

Step 10: Enjoy the delicious dish!

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