My Filipino food is bland.
Remember kare-kare in my past blogs? This is actually one of the pitfalls of not knowing the cuisine beforehand. If you eat that dish WITHOUT the shrimp paste, I would not be surprised if that will be your reaction. In fact, it will not make sense at all.
There are food items in Filipino cuisine that needs to be paired with something – even if it sounds bizarre. Champorado (cocoa porridge) and tuyo (dried fish), puto (rice cake) and dinuguan (pork blood stew), the list goes on. Also, Filipino food allows you to season your meal according to your taste. If you go on a typical carinderia, you’ll get soy sauce, ground pepper, vinegar, banana ketchup or even request items like chilies and calamansi if needed. This is true if you’re eating mami (noodles) or silog meals (any meal that is served with garlic rice and egg, tapsilog or beef strips, being the most popular).
Now to address that the food is overly salty or sweet, there’s actually a good reason for that – a very important reason. Rice.
Rice balances the flavors of main dishes. If you eat adobo on its own, it can be really salty. Rice not only dampens the strong flavors from the dish, it also makes you full. Basically, the idea why dishes are saltier or oilier is you get a small amount of this “viand” (which is a Philippine English term for a dish goes well with rice) and balance it out with rice’s bland profile. This also explains why Filipinos eat with a fork and a spoon as opposed to a knife.
For Filipinos, you just can’t take rice away from any meal. It would be incomplete without it. Filipinos can’t get over with their obsession with rice. As Mikey Bustos would put it (by the way, please look for his Filipino tutorial videos on YouTube, they’re really funny), bring a Filipino a bucket of KFC and have him eat it with just that, he’s like a puppy without a bone. Odd fact, even McDonalds here in the Philippines serves chicken with rice (also with fries to top the carbs).
Speaking of carbs, some people even eat their instant pancit canton with rice. Ever heard of the unlimited rice gimmick in our fastfood chains? That’s pretty common here. That might be going off a tangent here, but that’s how we are so obsessed with rice.
So to wrap this up, is Filipino food bad? I still stand that tastes in food are subjective in nature. Filipino food, all along, is practical, humble yet unapologetic. Think this way, you might not touch your leche flan with a ten-foot pole because of the reputation you might hear about Filipino food, but you dig the pudding and it’s like the same thing. Yes, there are bad reviews. But my hope is restored in our cuisine after seeing reviews from Zagat, Buzzfeed, even chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain. Gone are the days that we are just known for balut and Jollibee. Andrew Zimmern even darely declared that Filipino food was going to be the next big thing. At last, I felt that we finally have that redemption that we really need. I hope that I gave you enough insight as I address the misconceptions surrounding our cuisine and culture.
As I have stated in the last blog, the obsession with authenticity should be redirected to integrity instead. What does that mean? I think for one thing, it’s all about serving quality food that’s not overly cheap that you’ll say you are short-changed but not too lavish that you’re just paying more for ambience instead of the food. We are proud that we are striving to keep our food as close as to what Filipinos eat at home – humble, yet fulfilling, and we will continue to do that as we help raise our Filipino pride in the food world.
Again, if you love Filipino food as much as I do, please visit one of our stores in Rockdale, Marrickville and Fairfield today! Gee, I really like to have a leche flan right now. Until next time!