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Filipino Food, A serious question...

What are people perception of Filipino food? Why hasn't it caught on the way other Asian cuisines has in the US?

Andrew Zimmern has mentioned that he believes Filipino cuisine is the next big thing for the US food scene. Having grown up eating Filipino dishes and believing that it does have a lot to offer I don't see this happening.

As much as I love my culture's food it's not the most sophisticated cuisine. I liken it to soul food of the south. It's comfort food. I noticed many restaurants trying to "elevate" it by trying to make it fancy food. I think this is the wrong approach. It's not meant to be eaten this way. To truly elevate a filipino dish, all that's truly needed would be to use the best ingredients possible.

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  1. My experience with Filipino food is limited to lumpia made by a lady I used to work with. They were so good, but I have to say I don't seek Filipino food out. Maybe, because there aren't as many restaurants as other cuisines? What are some dishes that a novice should try? I'm going to put Filipino cuisine on the list of new things to try next .

    4 Replies
    1. re: SilverMoth

      That's tough. Lumpia is probably a good gateway dish along with various BBQ meats and perhaps pansit (noodle) dishes such as bihon or canton.

      The soups are good as well such a nilaga or sinigang.

      My favorite would be kare-kare but it may take getting used to.

          1. re: Chichibaka

            Hey, Pancit Palabok is one of the tastiest noodle dishes I'd ever had.

      1. You're right. It is comfort food. I love a good pork adobo, tokwa't baboy, menudo and the blood dish(I don't recall the name)

        2 Replies
          1. re: superfuture48

            The Filipino places I've been to don't serve it. When I've had it, it was homemade and delicious but it has to have at least one hot pepper; more is better. I forgot to add lechon baboy to my favorites. The only thing I won't touch is balut(sp)

        1. I agree with both your affection for Filipino food and your evaluation that it's not a "sophisticated" cuisine, but rather a hearty, comfort cuisine. The strong pungent and fishy flavors that make it so delicious also probably turn a lot of people off from it - processed food can make people really used to blandness. Thai food for the masses caught on partly because they could get away with removing the pungent flavors and amping up the sweetness, but that approach would fail really hard with Filipino food.

          I love chicken chicharrones (dipped in vinegar), fried chicken, and lumpia from Max's in LA, fried fish or sausage over rice with eggs for breakfast - even the Filipino places that serve food from a steam table still often taste really good to me! Desserts are also really bizarre and fun, like bright purple taro ice cream topped with canned fruit and jelly items (almost like Vietnamese che).

          1. It might be because I've grown sick of it, but I don't enjoy Filipino food much. The flavors don't stand out to me, and it's just not appealing.

            The LA Times had an article on Filipino food a while back: http://www.latimes.com/features/food/...

            From the article:
            "Mary Jo Gore, a Filipino chef instructor at the Cordon Bleu school in Pasadena and a friend of the Manzkes from Patina, says part of the problem is aesthetic. Filipino food, she says, is comfort food. "Visually, it's not very appealing. It's stewed and brown and oily and fried." "

            I agree, except I don't find it comforting. I do wonder what my opinion would be if I didn't grow up eating it.

            ATK has a recipe for chicken adobo made with coconut milk. I've never had adobo that way before, and I do want to try it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: erichalias

              I think it's delicious, but I'd have to agree with the assessment that the aesthetics are part of what's getting in the way of Filipino food catching on.

              1. re: erichalias

                What have you been eating that you have grown sick of? I have to be honest, were I eating Ilocano food every day I probably not so keen on Filipino. But the Malay-Spanish dishes of the Tagalogs and the famously intricate dishes of the Pampangueños has me coming back for more.

              2. I find Filipino food to be generally too heavy, fatty, greasy. And I rarely want to eat that way. Plus the fish that seem to be often used are tilapia and milk fish - fish I prefer to stay away from. Maybe "elevating" Filipino food could mean making lighter versions and using higher quality fish.

                1. It is overly simple to peg Filipino food as just homestyle comfort food. The large variety of stuffed dishes (chicken galantina, rellenong bangus/alimasag, batute), roulades (morcon, embutido) and intricate pastries (ensaymada, brazo de mercedes, empanadas de kaliskis) require a keen eye and a dexterous hand. Arroz a la valenciana and pancit palabok are sights to behold. A meal of raw scallops cured in coconut milk and calamansi with lemongrass and ginger, hearts of palm crepes, roast suckling pig and a duck egg leche flan is authentically Filipino and undeniably sophisticated.

                  But most Americans don't get to see that variety. As a few here have pointed out, they know lumpia and pancit, but beyond that there aren't many opportunities to try crisp twice-fried pork belly binagoongan, silky soft lengua estofado, or fresh spring rolls with peanut garlic sauce unless you know a Filipino foodie with the time on his hands. Even if you live in a major city, Filipino restaurants tend to be rare and very informal if they exist at all. But if there are no Filipino chefs who are willing to take the risk on opening an ambitiously traditional restaurant, perhaps Americans will be begging their Filipino friends to invite them over for a taste of puckery achara or tart adobo. Slate is predicting that sour foods are about to take the nation by storm, so perhaps this is the moment for Filipino vinegar and citrus-based dishes to take center stage.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: JungMann

                    Even Puto Calasiao is made in three days.

                    I find it funny that Westerners complain about the bland Filipino food. But then, they don't realise that their bland Cavendish banana that they love to import is the blandest tasting banana which, in the Philippines, is served to hogs! LOL

                  2. Part of the problem is wealth, or lack thereof of Filipino business people who travel aboard.

                    But the bigger problem is the lack of an iconic and symbolic Filipino food item.

                    With Korean, you have Korean BBQ.
                    With Japanese, you have sushi.
                    With Chinese, you have (shit) all sort of stuff, egg rolls, fried rice, chow mein, etc.
                    With Thai, you have pad thai

                    But with Filipino what is the one food item where, if you played food-word association, you would say when someone says "Filipino ... ______"?

                    11 Replies
                        1. re: ipsedixit

                          That is *way* too exotic for most people!

                          1. re: klyeoh

                            That's way too exotic for most Filipinos!

                        2. re: klyeoh

                          Yes! Adobo is a method of cooking:ANY meat, seafood, fruit or vegetable is braised in a mix containing 5 general items: vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, black pepper and salt. The recipe can be dry or sauced, spicy or mild with the addition or substitution using these five basics. No two adobos are the same.

                          I've learned a lot of Filipino history and cooking methods and recipes from a great cookbook: The Adobo Road by Marvin Gapultos

                          The food is complex and diverse with countless variations and globally influenced. It would be great for people to appreciate and understand more about it.

                          1. re: windward

                            More than macaroni soup, the enduring memory I have was a *sweet* cold macaroni dessert salad served during a Christmas dinner I had in Las Piñas, Philippines, 4 years ago. I think it consisted of pasta, sweetened condensed milk & cream! One of 3-4 types of desserts served at the table at the end of a heavy meal!

                            1. re: klyeoh

                              Sounds like a noodle kugel to me!

                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  Yaaaaagh!! NO NO NO!!
                                  It's sweet and contains noodles, but that is the only way that such a dish would even be similar to a kugel - and in fact, a kugel made w/ s-c milk would be waaaay too sweet for most balabustas (and their offspring, too!) Kugel is "gently" and subtly sweet, served as it is as a side dish, not a dessert - and it contains cheese and eggs, and is always baked. :) And then we have the savory kugels...spinach, 'shroom and onion, and a million other varieties, which are not at all sweet.
                                  Sorta the same analogy as stating that a chile-baked queso rice is like rice pudding...common denominators, but that's IT.

                            2. re: ipsedixit

                              Based on the answers here and how threads like this have played out before, I think you're going to get a lot of adobo, lumpia, pancit, even if those aren't my favorite foods.

                              But be that as it may, French food still gets by without a single iconic food item and Indian food remains popular even if much of it is brown or beige. The lack of wealth in the Philippines is a real problem for those living in the PI, but it has also led to significant populations of guest workers across the globe who bring Filipino cuisine, even on a limited basis, to areas it had not previously before been seen.

                            3. I don't know....

                              A lot of Filipino food is simply not very good or interesting.

                              I've been to the Philippines and I live in Dubai where there's a large Filipino expatriate community and I have a Filipino maid who likes to cook.

                              I just don't find Filipino food interesting, tasty or well developed. It is comfort food for the Filipinos but a lot of the flavor and texture combinations are bizarre and not geared towards non-Filipino tastes (it's not just the West that hasn't caught on to Filipino food, it's pretty much everywhere else in the world). Much of it is bland and mushy and features offal and liver as one would expect from an impoverished country. I have had a few dishes that were tasty and enjoyable, especially the steamed buns stuffed with barbecued pork and boiled eggs, but I think that's about it.

                              Whatever one's feelings are, it's highly unlikely Filipino will become the next destination cuisine. It doesn't have the complexity or spices or flavors of other SE Asian cuisines or the developed history of French/Italian.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: Roland Parker

                                Although I do like the dishes I mentioned earlier in this thread, I have to agree with your description of the food.

                                1. re: Roland Parker

                                  Then there's Indonesian food, which can very greatly from region to region (and from mild to spicy enough), yet it's also not quite well-known around the world, save for those calling regional "neighbors", the Netherlands and Suriname home. Unlike the average Filipino dish, there are plenty of Indonesian offerings that don't have ingredients to scare away, well in this case, people in the US. Though, one question remains: what did William Howard Taft eat?


                                  1. re: Roland Parker

                                    LOL... You must have limited yourself to "Street foods"?

                                    But then, I'm not surprised that you have much exposure to "bizarre" food. Filipinos in general have the tendency to offer the food they know are bizzare to foreigners... some even would go far by tricking the unsuspecting foreigners to eat balut and dinuguan

                                  2. Here in Canada Filipinos are our largest group of immigrants-hard working good natured family people that we're Happy to have around-but their food is awful gunk and the few places that serve it are infamous for poor service and indifferent products.

                                    This has actually held me back from visiting the place-flights are cheap but having lived in Central America with it's dreadful excuse for food I'm not eager to repeat the experience.

                                    1. With a Filipino family next door. There are some amazing smells coming out of their house from food. And when they grill, "Oh My".

                                      1. Oftentimes people say that Filipino food is limited to salty, sweet, sour. Guess what, the only tastes that we recognize as humans are umami, salty, sour, sweet and bitter. A lot of people seems to be confusing aroma and visual cues for taste...

                                        Just saying.

                                        What many people also fail to see is that Philippine cuisine tend to be very regional. When you go to a Filipino gathering, you see the same dish because most of them are either the easiest to do or the food that takes too much time to prepare(hence, you only see them at gatherings)

                                        Void of vegetables? Northern Luzon cuisine is full of vegetables particularly string beans, squash, tomato, shallots, and eggplant

                                        Full of meat? Grilled milkfish is actually popular among Filipinos. It's just that it takes more than one hour to grill one fish.

                                        Again, what are "best ingredients"? That s very subjective. In the West, the most common preservative used is sodium ..which is not good to the health in huge amount yet Western condiments and "ready to go food" have very high sodium and cholesterol content. Even the ranch and dips that accompany Western Salads have very high sodium and other artificial preservatives in it. In the Philippines, vinegar, a natural preservative is extensively used.

                                        Too much cholesterol? I think the different between Philippine food and other is that Philippine foods bring out the cholesterol from the meat so our eyes can see it (through long simmering); whereas in other cuisine would rather have them unseen (beef has higher cholesterol content than pork and chicken) but does not necessarily translate to less cholesterol. It's just well hidden.

                                        Want proof? Try simmering even your lean beef, let cool and see how much oil goes on top after cooling it.

                                        Balut? Heck, they eat it too in Vietnam and China. It's just it has been attached to the Philippines as if it is eaten 3x a day like rice. In China, they have this black egg called Century Egg. I'd rather eat a non-GMO balut than a hormone laden and GMO corn fed chicken or turkey from the US.

                                        In the end, why do Filipinos have to have their cuisine validated by GMO-eating North Americans (Canada and US)? Who the hell cares if they don't want it? Let them stick to their GMO and hormone-laden "quality" food (and for most part, they don't know their food is GMO and hormone-laden and anti-biotic fed)?

                                        Now, that is more bizarre than helmet, betamax, adidas, dinuguan, bagoong, patus, isaw, balut, etc

                                        No wonder North Americans are fat and the poor even fatter.

                                        In addition, a lot of Asian food "presented" to Westerners are in their most INAUTHENTIC form. The wasabi served in many Asian restaurants is not real wasabi but an imitation. Why let Filipino food suffer the same just to please Westerners? If one has noticed, a lot of Filipinos disdain "Filipino food" meant to appeal to non-Filipinos.

                                        ONe thing I realised, too, is something that many Westerners forgot as regards to the value of food. Westerners throw a lot of things, but Filipinos impart to their children to not waste food because many people are starving. Meanwhile, the common mantra nowadays in the west is to make all crops GMO to feed the world...which obviously isn't happening...because GMO feed the pockets of CHEMICAL corporations like Monsanto. If GMO is the answer, why does America have homeless and hungry people and about 40 million in food stamps? 90% of Americas crop is GMO and their meats are processed en masse. Rather than having their chickens, turkey, cows roam, they are crammed in a small space and they basically sleep, eat, wake to their manure.

                                        Watch Food, Inc. You can complain Filipinos eat offals and aborted duck eggs....but how many westerners know that their food are GMO and their meat have been eating their manures and fed lots of anti-biotic (which in turn make a lot of people resistant to anti-biotics). At least Filipinos know what the heck their eating; while Westerners don't have a clue anymore

                                        1. Filipino food occupies the same order of cuisines to me as Middle European/German food, Central American food, British food - it's what the natives like to eat, this one very much included, though not everyone wants to explore the extremities! Balut, durian, mushy peas … ummm, pass. But I WILL have some more of that crunchy-skinned pork shank, please! I do think the problem is often execution, a lack of enthusiasm about doing the best job on a dish you can, allowing it to fall away from rich and savory into stodgy. A bunch of us had a meetup at a Puerto Rican place not long ago, and while there were some truly good items the food, as someone observed, was all varying shades of brown, and too much of it tasted that way; this reminded me immediately of another group dinner at a Polish place some years ago, when one guy said the same thing about that food, though it wasn't starchy or boring. You just gotta like brown.

                                          However, I know Filipino cuisine has stuff that is exciting, if only because of the buzz I get from visiting a nearby Filipino market, with its amazing assortment of fresh fish and great produce, and a lot of other canned, frozen or fresh items I want to try. I'm sure it's like Chinese food, in that it's rarely outstanding unless there's a significant Chinese population to support it and demand excellence.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            I don't think I ever expected to see mushy peas compared to balut and durian.

                                          2. I don't think it will be the next big thing until Filipino restaurants get better about what they do. Despite a huge community, the few restaurants where I live are mostly not very good and don't compare to a good home cook.

                                            Thankfully, I have one place near me which is an old fashioned lunch counter in a medical office building that makes a couple of great dishes (daing na bangus, dinuguan). They display their regular diner menu for the general public and have the Filipino menu at the cash register.