Filipino food is delicious.
Filipino food is delicious.
Honestly, some Filipino foods have supplanted life long favorites in my mental list of top-ten foods ever. This is a great website to get some recipes to get started with if you want to cook local foods or want to try out the cuisine before you move here.
A great place to start would be with Sinigang na Bangus. It’s a tamarind soup broth with vegetables and milkfish. You can make this recipe using 2 lbs of pork, cut into 1.5″ cubes instead of the fish, and then you have sinigang na baboy, which is in my top 5 favorite foods of all time. You may need to go to an Asian market to find tamarind bullion cubes or tamarind fruit, kangkong, and the radish (which is a daikon radish, not the little red ones) but honestly, everyone I know loves sinigang so it is worth the trip to find the ingredients.
If you are looking for something to make that will be a crowd pleaser, but won’t require a special trip, try Adobong Baboy. The recipe calls for pork belly, which we eat in the states, cured and sliced up in the form of bacon. You may have a hard time finding it as a slab in a US market, so just find a lean, 2-pound pork roast and cut it into chunks. If you are going to use chicken, you can use chunks of chicken or whole chicken pieces, but try to avoid the massively over-sized chicken parts from growth-hormone affected birds. You’d have to cook the dish so long to cook those giant pieces that the sauce would cook away. Actually, you may want to double the amounts of the ingredients that make up the sauce, because it’s really yummy over rice.
In complete honesty, I do make some modifications to certain dishes when we make it ourselves, and I eat around some things when we eat elsewhere. I don’t like fish or seafood, so some dishes that call for things like shrimp paste (like Bicol Express), I just make without it. It’s still really yummy. Or I substitute pork or chicken for fish in some recipes. Or, I just pass. My friends are used to my weird aversion to fish by now.
In the US, we are used to our butcher removing the skin and thick outer layers of fat from certain cuts of meat for us. That doesn’t always happen here. Sometimes, the butcher’s area in a grocery store will have cuts of meat that have had the skin and fat removed, and some that don’t. If they don’t have the option, you can ask them to cut it off for you, or you can do it yourself when you get home. (If you have a helper, they may actually be really stoked to have that outer layer of fat and skin. My driver uses them to make his own cracklins.) But when you are invited to someone’s home to eat, you may find yourself with a plate of adobong baboy that has chunks of meat that is mostly fat and skin, with a token amount of meat at the bottom. I have found that most people I encounter in the metro area have had enough exposure to Americans that they aren’t offended when I remove the fat and skin and leave it on my plate. However, if you find yourself out in the provinces or in a poorer home in the city and are treated to a meal in a home where food is sometimes scarce, you really should buck-up and eat it. You might get away with removing the skin in that situation, but the fat is seen as a choice part of the meat, with lots of flavor and much-needed calories. Leaving that behind in a home where people may face hunger would be ungracious, mystifying, and possibly insulting.