Nov 12, 2010

What do Filipinos cook for themselves at home?

Dear Filipino,

I've had lumpia before, and that's it. Could you please tell me about Filipino cuisine?  Everyday eating, not what the restaurants pump out.  I'm especially interested in hearing what families cook for themselves, more than what they cook for guests.  Has a Filipino Brother-in-Law, But Boy is He Worthless.

Thank you!

Itchy Ishy

P.S.  Filipino, lots of people start blogs and lose steam. I'm really looking forward to yours, so don't quit on me. Good luck with the questions!

Dear Itchy Ishy,

Believe it or not, what you see in typical Filipino restaurants are also the dishes ordinary Filipino families cook for themselves on a daily basis.  Except for a few fancy Filipino restaurants, most Filipino restaurants serve the home-cooked variety.

The most popular are the following:

You have all types of adobo (typically marinated in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic): chicken adobo, pork adobo, chicken-pork adobo, adobong pusit (squid), adobong hipon (shrimp), adobong isda (fish), and other variations.

Then you have the sinigang series, which are soups characterized by a really sour flavor, usually by using tamarind, calamansi (Filipino lemons), or guava, and a generous heaping of all sorts of vegetables.  Like adobo, they can be sinigang na manok (chicken), sinigang na baboy (pork), sinigang na hipon, sinigang na isda, etc.

Because Filipinos love soups, you have the nilaga (really soupy stew), typically with beef or pork and made healthy by vegetables like bok choy.  And the really yummy chicken tinola.

You can also have kare-kare, kinilaw (ceviche), ginataan (all sorts of stuff cooked with coconut milk), all sorts of barbecued meats marinated in soy sauce and vinegar, and all sorts of pansit (noodles), which can be cooked in different styles: palabok, bihon, batchoy, etc.

Honestly, the list of viands is really almost a mile long because of the different styles, regional versions, permutations, combinations of Filipino cooking as richly influenced by the Chinese, Spanish, Americans, Japanese, South Asians, Malays, and many other cultures.   And frankly, I don't have the inclination and time to really go through this list exhaustively right now, but might go back to it later down the road if another reader asks a more pointed question.  (So keep returning, 'k?)

But note, Ishy: There is one thing you can't EVER forget to serve in a Filipino meal:

RICE.  And lots of it!

P.S.  The Filipino doesn't plan to quit on you, Ishy, but then again, The Filipino has made other plans in his past that, because of one circumstance/reason/excuse or another, he had to abandon.  But let's not dwell on this quitting thing and let's just keep wishing each other well, 'k?

P.P.S.  Did I mention you have to serve RICE, and lots of it, every meal?

P.P.P.S.  I'm sorry you have a "worthless Filipino brother-in-law"?  Are you sure you're feeding him enough rice?

Got a question for The Filipino?  Email him now at


Unknown said...

I usually cook torta, chicken-adobo and pork sinigang regularly. My Caucasian husband can actually cook the sinigang on his own as they have pre-packed sinigang soup base sold in Asian stores nowadays.

Unknown said...

(you forgot the dinuguan, the filipino)
there are tens of nameless dishes that we cook at home too. whatever is available at the market or the pantry, we stir-fry, stew, grill or fry.

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