"Must-Try" Filipino Foods!
Since my mid-twenties, I've been a big fan of learning about and trying new dishes from around the world. In my thirties, I've even attempted to cook these dishes. There are so many different flavors and spices to tempt your taste buds!
I first experienced Filipino food at my first full-time job post-college, when I worked for the American Red Cross. One of my coworkers would bring her Pancit (noodle dish) to the staff and volunteer potlucks. I was hooked on this meal consisting of veggies, rice noodles, pork, and amazing flavor! Around the same time, we welcomed my new aunt and her two children into the family, when they moved to the Midwest from the Philippines. We see my Uncle, Aunt, and cousins fairly often, and they always have a new Filipino dish for us to try. And almost everything I've tried so far is delicious (I say almost everything, because I wasn't a huge fan of the quail eggs!)
Even travel chef and TV host, Anthony Bourdain, agrees. In an interview with CNN Philippines The Source, he stated that Filipino "sisig is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole." Now, I haven't tried sisig yet, but read on for other Filipino foods that I have had the privilege to try. Plus, keep reading for a bonus: my Aunt's pancit recipe!
Check out that plate! Doesn't it look delicious? This photo was taken at a summer hog roast at my Aunt and Uncle's house. It's loaded with several types of Filipino dishes, along with a couple of American sides. Let's start at the top! You'll see Lumpia, which is my second favorite Filipino food, following Pancit. It's a mixture of pork, carrots, onion, and cabbage, rolled up in a Lumpia wrapper and deep fried. Lumpia is a bit like an egg roll; aromatic, crunchy, with a deep, salty flavor. Yum!
Moving clockwise, is Caldereta, which is a tomato-based stew comprised of beef, veggies, and potatoes. This was my first time trying Caldereta, and I liked it. However there was one flavor I couldn't put my finger on, and I found out later that it was liver spread. I've never tried actual liver (and have no plans to) but I didn't mind it in the Caldereta. This version of stew would make a nice meal on a frosty fall or winter night, here in the Midwest.
The next dish is green cabbage, and alongside that is Embutido, a Filipino meatloaf. What is special about this meatloaf? If you look closely, there is an egg and a sausage inside the pork. Raisins too! It's a unique combination and to me, it tastes both sweet and savory. I've heard that Embutido is good with banana catsup. which I'd like to try someday. I like bananas and I like catsup, so why wouldn't I like banana catsup?
Above the Embutido is my Aunt's Pancit, my favorite! At the end of this article is a bonus: her Pancit recipe. Next to the Pancit and underneath the Lumpia, is butter corn and veggies. It tastes just like it sounds. The surprise in this dish was the quail eggs, which are smaller than chicken eggs. My husband thought they were really good, but I just couldn't get past the fact that they were from a quail (silly, I know!)
Dessert in a Drink!
The hog roast was in the middle of a Midwestern summer, so it was warm and toasty outside. After we ate the main dishes, my cousin from the Philippines, brought out the ingredients for a shaved ice dessert called Halo Halo. She informed me that it was a street food sold in the Philippines. First, she shaved ice off a big ice block, and put it into the cups. Then she topped the ice with sweet potato, evaporated milk, custard, sweet purple yams, coconut gel, and sugar palm fruit. It was colorful and I couldn't wait to try it. It was cold and sweet, crunchy from the ice, but also soft from the sweet potato. Perfect on a hot day, and a nice way to end the hog roast!
Snacks and Candy!
After a recent trip to the Philippines, my Aunt and Uncle returned home with some goodies, and I was able to sample a few. The first sample was a crunchy snack called Sweet Corn. It is buttery and salty, yet sweet. It has the familiar flavor of a ripe ear of Midwestern sweet corn (just without the juicy kernels!) Both of my kids really enjoyed crunching on this treat.
The second sample was a Filipino candy called Yema. According to www.panlasangpinoy.com, "Yema is a type of custard candy made from egg yolks and condensed milk." This was my favorite . It was soft and sweet, and tasted almost like a caramel.
Lastly, I was able to sample tamarind fruit. According to www.thespruce.com, "Tamarind is a sour, dark, fruit that grows in a pod." After cracking open the pod and removing the string, you take the pulp off the seed. Just make sure not to bite into the seed! Tamarind can be made into candy, or into a paste that is used in other dishes. The fresh pulp that I tried was tangy and sticky. I'd like to try the candy version sometime!
The next time you get the chance, try out some Filipino food! You'll be glad you did. Or, check out the recipe below and try making your own Pancit. This recipe was kindly shared with permission from my Aunt and it's delicious! Cheers to trying new dishes and flavors!
Aunt Lhai's Pancit
- 16 oz. rice noodles, (dried noodles)
- 2 tbsp. cooking oil
- 1 medium onion, (sliced)
- 2 cups pork, (cut into strips)
- 1 cup carrots, (cut into strips)
- 3 cups cabbage, (cut into stips
- 2 cups green beans
- 10 tbsp. soy sauce, (adjust to taste)
- 5 cups soup stock
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 cloves garlic
- Soak rice noodles in cold water and drain when softened.
- In a wok, saute garlic and onion until golden brown.
- Add and brown the meat. Season with soy sauce, salt, and pepper.
- Add soup stock and let simmer until pork is tender.
- Add and cook vegetables.
- Remove meat and vegetables from the mixture.
- Cook noodles in the sauce for 3-5 minutes.
- Add meat and vegetables back and slowly mix thoroughly. Enjoy!