Everything from Soup to Pili Nuts

Everything from Soup to Pili Nuts

The Spotlight Is In – For Philippine Cuisine

by Beverly Jones

I will be honest and upfront, I used to write so many features about different luxury restaurants in different hotels and in different countries but I must say this one is totally organic. Don’t get me wrong; what I meant is this will be as easy as pie because I apparently grew up cherishing and loving all these type of foods.

Next thing I know, I had several titles that I had in mind. Guess my mind couldn’t just stop thinking about the savory sopas, to the international superstar chicken adobo, down to the indigenous pili nuts that makes me the ‘busy popcorn on a skillet’. I actually want the title to be ‘EAT and FUN’, apparently, because Philippine Tourism tagline is apparently “It’s more fun in the Philippines” but then again I thought that everyone already knew it. I thought of ‘COOK TO PERFECTION’ as most Philippine dishes are cooked perfectly but how about those that you don’t need to cook. Like fruits best served fresh. So I thought of making it ‘GOING BANANAS’ where Philippines is famous for, which means being excited but it can also mean behaving crazy so I scraped it off.

Then I thought of something natural – Filipinos eats with utmost passion, from a wide variety of breakfast choice like tapsilog, a mixture of tapa for tap (dried or cured beef) sinangag for si (garlic fried rice) and log for itlog (fried egg), because of the craze for this wildly delicious meal that thrills your appetite in the morning, tap-si-log has spawned many other dishes like chick-si-log (chicken-sinangag-itlog), bangsilog (bangus/milkfish-sinangag, itlog) cornsilog (corned beef-sinangag-itlog).

The Spotlight Is In – For Philippine Cuisine

Another superstar Filipino breakfast is Pandesal, it maybe the greatest thing since sliced bread, but Pandesal actually originates earlier in 16th century when Philippines was under the Spanish regime.

A bit buttery, milky, velvety soft in the inside, with a munch of crunch on the outside, this yeast-raised bread is loved and desired by all Filipinos, wherever part of the globe they are and is starting to get more and more famous with foreigners all over the world.

Equally famous like Bruno Mars, are other mouth-watering breakfast like lugaw – thick rice porridge from boiled strips of fresh ginger, topped with fried and crispy garlic and either mixed with fresh chopped chicken, boiled egg or beef ligaments for another spinoff called goto, both best served with tofu, meat, calamansi, patis (fish sauce) and soy sauce.

Philippine Mango

There is also champorado – sweet chocolate rice porridge made by boiling cocoa and sticky rice with evaporated milk and sugar to sweeten and served with either milk powder at the top or with tuyo (dried fish) – or both. Another sumptuous meal is sopas - is a soup dish filled with diced or shredded boneless chicken meat and elbow macaroni noodles, often milky and creamy.

They say, you eat breakfast like a king, and lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper, but in the Philippines I am spilling you the beans – we eat like a royalty whenever we want to, whenever it makes us happy and satisfied and that surely extends even on lunch and dinner plus in-between which we called merienda (light snacks) and/or desert.

Numerous well-known viands for lunch and dinner includes Chicken Adobo – an omnipresent Filipino dish in vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and other spices. Chicken Inasal- grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass, calamansi, salt, pepper and garlic, beef Bulalo – made with big bones of beef relished until the bone marrow, Kare-kare – beef meat or oxtail with sumptuous sauce made from crushed peanuts, eggplants, banana blossom and string beans add more interesting textures, Laing – the primary Bicol dish made of taro leaves cooked in rich coconut, Pinakbet – union of different vegetables like squash, eggplant, okra, bitter gourd, tomatoes and shrimp paste mixed with bits and pieces of meat.

Sinigang na Hipon

Sinigang - stew of fish, prawns or beef in delectably sour soup by fruits like tamarind, kamias or tomatoes and accompanied by vegetables like kangkong and string beans.

And other toothsome viands like lechon, bicol express, caldereta, mechado, menudo, dinuguan, tinola and other signature recipes that will surely make you ask for more.

Like what I told you about Merienda, there are so many kakanin and other Filipino desert that will fulfill your cravings such as ubeng halaya, leche flan, biko, turon, sapin-sapin, pastillas, sago, gulaman, halo-halo which is perfect for the perennial heat of summer. You should also know about the scene-stealer of Christmas season, puto bumbong –chewy purple mountain rice steamed in bamboo tubes and served with margarine or butter and (panocha) concentrated brown sugar and bibingka – rice cake made with luscious coconut milk and sugar, garnished with salted eggs, white cheese, grated coconut and butter.

The stage will not be complete if the spotlight will not shine on a Philippine exclusive nut – Pili Nuts. Just a food for thought – the Philippines is the largest commercial cultivator of Pili nuts, a rich buttery tasting nut, indigenously growing in the volcanic soil of the Philippine peninsula, Bicol Region’s virgin rainforests of Mt. Bulusan. Pili nuts is often underestimated but in reality, it is a rich source of heart-healthy omegas that can prevent cardiovascular diseases.

This may sound as nutty as a fruitcake but seriously; it contains all 8 essential amino acids that support healthy blood sugar levels, growth of muscle tissue, hormone production, liver detoxification, brain balance, energy resistance, and nerve cell health. It is high in calcium, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium for healthy bones, muscles and nerves. It also contains more Vitamin E than any other nut in the world, which is famous for skin beautification and antioxidant properties. Vitamin E also protects the body from turning cholesterol into plaque that may help prevent cardiovascular and thrombotic diseases.

So when you think about Philippine Cuisine once again, remember it is not just built on smiles and fun, as every recipe and dish is crafted with warmth, unique tasty flavors and the renowned Filipino hospitality for a full savory experience. But then again, I still think that any food that makes you smile – is indeed worthwhile. You may have heard about Korean food, Thai food or Japanese food and other Asian famous flavors but if you want to know now ‘what’s in’ – it’s surely the Philippine Cuisine.

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