By Tetchie Herrera
I remember when I was still a kid, growing up in Manila, my life was filled with the wonderful smells of Filipino food cooking in our kitchen.
We would come home from school and be greeted with the smell of sotanghon, the bean-thread or cellophane noodles in yellow-orange broth colored with atsuete (anatto). There would be pieces of chicken, garlic, green onions, dried Chinese mushrooms and dried shrimps (hibe) in the soup. It was my brother Mar’s favorite, so my sister Eve and I would race with him up the stairs so we could be served first at the table and demand our favorite chicken parts.
Source: pinoycravings.comOr our maids would cook chicken or pork adobo, a dish by which the meat is first stewed in a marinade of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, whole pepper and bay leaf, until the sauce has but evaporated and permeated the meat. Sometimes, they would even cook fish, squid or even kangkong (water spinach, swamp cabbage, ong choy) adobo, using the same marinade.
On special days, like fiesta (feast day) of the local church’s patron saint, or Christmas or New Year’s Day, my Mom would splurge and roast a whole fattened pig, skewered with a bamboo pole, over coals in the backyard. This is called lechon, served whole on the table with an apple in its mouth. Later, it will be chopped in small portions and served with the crispy skin with the famous lechon sauce. Mouth-watering!
Or else, my Mom would cook a leg of ham in a large aluminum tub, usually the can where the liquid vegetable oil would come from, over coals in the backyard. She would marinate and boil the ham in a two-liter bottle of 7-Up and pineapple juice. When the ham is almost cooked, she would take it out of the marinade and put it on a tray. Then, she would heat an old-fashioned iron spatula over the hot coals, put it over a bowl of brown sugar, and spread the brown sugar over the cooked ham with the hot sizzling spatula. That’s how Filipino ham is cooked! It would be served with pineapple slices, parsley and cherries, like the one in the photo.
Filipinos also eat other meats, not only pork, such as fish, beef, goat, and shell fish. Their rellenong bangus or stuffed milkfish is a labor-intensive dish, in which the meat of the fish is scraped off its skin, so this is preserved whole. The fish meat is painstakingly cleaned of the tiny bones, and sauteed in garlic, onions, tomatoes, beaten eggs, shredded carrots, and soy sauce. When this mixture is stuffed in the bangus skin, push in the hard boiled eggs in the fish cavity. Then, wrap the stuffed fish in aluminum foil and grill in a hot oven until the top is browned, and serve.
There are so many Filipino foods that one can’t really put them all in this article. Suffice it to say that they are uniquely Filipino and not necessarily influenced by those cultures that left their mark in the Philippines. (Next week: Filipino Games)