One of the things that the locals seem to be quite curious about is what Filipino foods that I, as an American, like. There are a lot of formerly unfamiliar foods here that I have tried, some of the “stranger” ones being isaw(chicken intestines) and balut(hard-boiled duck egg with partially developed embryo inside). Of course, it can’t be generalized to say that all Americans prefer certain types of Filipino foods, but here are some of my favorite foods that I have discovered in the beautiful Philippine Islands!
Kilawin na Tanigue.
Kilawin, aka Kinilaw, is easily one of my favorite Filipino foods! It’s a bit unusual for us foreigners; if the raw fish of sushi already scares you then this probably isn’t for you. Kilawin is a dish consisting of raw fish(typically a white fish, such as tanigue) marinated in vinegar. Similar to the Spanish dish called Ceviche, the fish is soaked in the vinegar mixture for several hours and the acidity of the vinegar actually sort of cooks it – no heat involved! In addition to the necessary vinegar, I make my own kilawin with coconut milk, lots of red onions, tons of sili(chili peppers), cucumber, calamansi(the Filipino lime), ginger, garlic, and sometimes carrots. It’s super tangy and is perfect served chilled over rice!
Green Mangoes & Bagoong
Sorry if I’m about to drop a little Too Much Information, but since moving to the Philippines, green mangoes and bagoong is my new PMS craving! It seemed like such a strange combination when I first tried it – unripe mangoes and shrimp paste – but I gave it a taste and man, am I glad that I did! The sour yet slightly sweet flavor of the unripe mango just pairs so unbelievably perfect with the saltiness of the bagoong(shrimp paste). The flavors balance each other out so perfectly and it makes such a delicious merienda(snack). For me, the more unripe and sour the mango is, the better! I prefer spicy bagoong but my husband likes sweet ones, so we usually have an assortment of flavors each time we eat this. I’m not sure how easy it would be to find bagoong back in the US, but an easy substitute is to mix soy sauce and sugar together. Give it a try, I bet you’ll like it!
Speaking of bagoong, another one of my favorite meals is binagoongang manok(chicken with a bagoong based sauce). I found a delicious recipe for this a while back and it’s something I like to whip up when I’m craving something salty. The sauce is pretty simple; the main ingredients are coconut milk and bagoong, and then I just toss in a bunch of onions, garlic, and sili. A lot of people like to pair eggplant with dishes containing bagoong, but I don’t like eggplant myself so I always skip it.
Maruya is basically a banana fritter. The batter is comprised of flour, eggs, milk and I usually add a touch of vanilla or cinnamon when I make it. Once you mix the batter together, you toss in a bunch of saba bananas, a variety that I’ve never seen before in the US. It is then deep fried in a oil-filled pan until it’s a beautiful golden-brown, and then sprinkled with sugar. It’s extremely unhealthy, but it sure tastes good!
Sinigang is a yummy, tangy soup with a tamarind-based broth. Whenever we cook this, we always end up making enough to last for days! We use a mix for the broth just to make sure we get the flavor right, then toss in pork to boil for a few hours, and then when the meat is good and tender we add various vegetables. It depends what we have on hand at the time, but standard veggies that we include are tomatoes, garlic, ginger, string beans, and some type of leafy-green. This soup is perfect served over rice on cold days.
These are just a few of my favorites, ones that I liked so much that I had to learn to make them myself so I could have it anytime! My personal taste tends to lean more towards sweet and/or tangy foods and less towards salty things like adobo(although my husband swears my homemade adobo is the best he’s eaten).
There are many, many delicious Filipino foods that I love but haven’t attempted to make myself yet, such as crispy pata(deep fried pig’s knuckles), turon(deep fried spring roll stuffed with banana and jackfruit), lechon(roasted pig), taho(soft tofu and tapioca balls in a brown sugar syrup), bicol express(meat cooked in coconut milk with chilis and shrimp paste), and many more! There are also many exotic fruits that I’ve tried, like lanzones, mangosteen, and more. So, when you’re in the Philippines you’ve gotta make sure to try the amazing variety of foods that there are to be found here!