As a child, it was one of my guilty pleasures to indulge myself in watching countless travel documentaries. Back then, I would stare dreamily to the screen, imagining myself standing in Florence or maybe in Nice. As I grow up, reality starts to creep to me and I had doubts whether I could even come to these places. How can I afford it? I came from a simple family in the Philippines. We had enough to get by but had no means for luxuries. Given the unfortunate conditions in Philippines, I reckon that it will take years of hard work before I can save up for an overseas trip.
But then, sometimes fate just helps the dreamers turn their ambitions to reality.
I was dazed the moment I booked the flights.
For a second, it was surreal and surprising to realize that I will be travelling to these places.
Before the whole “operation” ( I label my trips as operation, to have that extra adventurous oomph), I decided to come home and spend Christmas in the Philippines.
Apart from seeing my family, spending time with them and catching up with friends, I did not miss the opportunity of indulging myself with my favorite Filipino foods.
Let’s start with the street foods.
Proven is chicken proventriculus dipped in batter and deep-fried. Another favorite is Isaw, which is barbecued chicken or pork intestine. Kwek-kwek are hard-boiled eggs coated in orange batter and deep fried, also a typical street fare.There no words how I can express my love for these, I’m always craving for them and I even tried to ask all Filipino restaurants in Australia if they served these. I reckon I must have ate hundreds of bags and skewers of street foods throughout my stay in the Philippines.
To be honest, I understand the sentiments of others with regards to the preparation of these street foods. Yes, I understand that there is possibility that these were prepared in an unsanitary environment hence, could possibly cause illness. It is completely up to you if you want to try them, but I can assure you that they are very good plus I’m still alive, free from any diseases.
Filipino merienda is also one of the things I was excited about coming home. Our merienda usually consists of various kakanin (rice cakes) as well desserts such as banana cue and turon.
Banana cue are skewered, deep-fried bananas coated with brown sugar while turon is a banana wrapped in lumpia envelope and then deep fried. Both dishes are really good especially when they are served hot.A popular kakanin, biko is a rice cake made from sticky rice, coconut milk and brown sugar garnished with latik ( coconut milk residue). This is one of my favorites as it is filling and also not too sweet.If you are not into sweets, there are also other options. Manggang hilaw at alamang is a favorite among locals. This is basically a green mango served with shrimp paste, a perfect marriage of salty and sour.If you opt for a savoury option, it is best to go for pancit. There many variations of pancit but for me, pancit palabok is my ultimate comfort food. This tasty dish consists of noodles with seafood sauce and topped with cooked shrimp, crushed chicharon (pork rinds), tinapa flakes (dried fish), fried tofu, green onions and fried garlic.While you’re at it, pair it with a serving of halo-halo (mix-mix). Normally, halo-halo would look much colourful than the photo I have. The halo-halo I have here consists of shaved ice, milk, sweet preserved beans, coconut meat and leche flan(creme caramel flan). Aside from the mentioned ingredients, it can also include pinipig (dry rice), jackfruit (langka), sweetened plantain (saba) and could even include ube ice cream (purple yam ice cream). It is completely up to the person to choose what ingredients they want for the halo halo.There are also Filipino version of junk foods.For lighter options, you can never go wrong with taho or puto. Taho is usually sold during mornings but are also sold during the afternoons in shops normally found in malls.
A taho peddler carries two aluminum buckets that hang from each end of a yoke. The taho has tofu base and is topped with arnibal (brown sugar syrup) and sago pearls.Puto is a simple but addictive dish. It is a steamed rice cake which can be topped with grated coconut or even cheese.
Here are also some of the main dishes I enjoyed in the Philippines.First up is the fried bangus (milkfish), the secret to this is in the marinade. We all have different versions of the marinade but my favourite is the one with soy sauce, vinegar and calamansi (calamondin). The fish goes well with the condiment we call toyomansi, a mixture of soy sauce and calamansi.One of the Filipinos’ homegrown brands. One’s childhood is not complete without craving for Jollibee’s Chicken Joy 🙂 .Definitely not the healthiest option but perhaps is the tastiest one, lechon kawali. It is usually made by boiling a portion of the pork (pork belly usually) and then deep-frying it. It is later served with steamed, white rice and sauces.For rainy or cold days, there are two soup-based dishes that I always crave. Tinolang Manok consists of chicken, malunggay leaves, green papaya wedges and chilli pepper leaves. This dish is incredibly tasty and healthy at the same time. It is best to simmer the chicken for a long time to allow the flavour to come out.Lastly, the dish I craved the most, where I would never tire of the flavour: Sinigang. Sinigang is a sour and savoury soup which consists of meat and vegetables cooked in a sour broth. Pork, shrimps and fish are the most common protein used in this dish while kamias, tomato and tamarind are commonly used as souring agent. Sadly, it is hard to find ingredients to make this dish abroad so I certainly had a lot of Sinigang while I was in the Philippines.
Save some room for dessert! One cannot miss Brazo de Mercedes. It is a meringue roll filled with creamy custard filling that tastes like a dream ( for me). Surprisingly, it does not take long to make and the steps are not complex at all.To finish off a meal, I usually drink at least two glasses of buko juice. How I miss the taste of the coconuts from the Philippines! There is nothing more refreshing to me than a glass of buko juice with bits of coconut meat in it.
I’m truly grateful that I was able to spend a month in the Philippines. I will miss my family, friends and Filipino food. Who knows when I’ll be back again, but I will always remember that month as one with fun-filled memories.
I forgot to mention.
Aside from being delicious, Filipino food is also incredibly cheap. You can buy a lot with $10! So, I hope I have encourage some of you to come to Philippines and try out Filipino foods.