Friday, February 12, 2010

Global Gastronomy Gal: First Stop- The Philippines

I have to admit, I did grow up being 'different' in the food department. Living in a country town in from the late 80's onwards didn't readily allow access to a large range of multicultural or different food. I'm lucky that my parents were foodies and although this did cause me a lot of grief in the early days, (i.e It is not cool to pack dolmades into your kid's lunchbox on the first day of school in a country town in the early 90's), I am now thankful for the introduction I got into many different cultures. We did have some great Chinese restaurants, which to this day serve better Chinese food than I have ever eaten in Brisbane, but that's about where the buck stopped. Luckily, Dad frequently took us on trips to Sydney and metaphorically we ate our way around the world.

I am still as obsessed with food as ever and have decided to do a Global Gastronomy Gal segment that will take a sneak peek at my favourite foods from other countries and hopefully provide you with a snapshot of what is eaten in the real homes of these countries.

Global Gastronomy Gal Part 1: First stop the Philippines.

One of my best friends (C.T) is Filipino so I have often eaten her Mum's (A.T) cooking when I go round to visit her. In fact, when we were growing up, A.T's dishes were devoured year after year by hungry girls at C.T's birthday party who wanted more noodles than A.T could cook.

When thinking about this segment, it dawned on me that I have never really had Filipino food anywhere else. Not only that, additionally, I have never really had the opportunity to have Filipino food anywhere else because I have never seen a Filipino restaurant.

Why is this? The Philippines aren't far away, and they are located right near Malaysia and Indonesia- and it is quite common to see Malaysian and Indonesian restaurants... hmmm. something to investigate.

When I was at home on holidays, I was lucky enough for A.T to invite me (and some other friends) around for a little pre-Christmas celebration. When C.T asked us what we wanted A.T to cook, I suggested (or begged)- traditional Filipino dishes please! A.T kindly agreed to my request and we ended up feasting on a banquet of beautiful dishes, fili noodles, sinigang and adobo.

Sinigang is a beautiful soup or stew that is characterised by its sour flavour. According to wikipedia - It bears some similarities to Indonesian sayur asem,Vietnamese canh chua, and Thai tom yam. Sinigang also bears some similarities to — but should not be confused with —singgang, a tamarind soup dish from Terengganu, Malaysia.

The sinigang was delightful- the pork absolutely melted, and the sourness of the soup was refreshing.

The noodles have always been a favourite- they are packed with chicken, celery and carrot and are great for kids and lovely when you want something simple to much on.

My favourite, was of course the adobo. Adobo are "typically, pork or chicken, or a combination of both, slowly cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, crushed garlic, and black peppercorns, and often browned in the oven or pan-fried afterward to get the desirable crisped edges. This dish originates from the northern region of the Philippines. It is commonly packed for Filipino mountaineers and travelers. Its relatively long shelf-life is due to one of its primary ingredients, vinegar, which inhibits the growth of bacteria." There is extra information available on wikipedia and details the differences between Filipino adobo and Spanish adobo.

In our case, A.T used chicken wings, and the result was fabulous! The wings were packed with such flavour, and it was very different to a usual marinated chicken wing. The flavour had much more depth and the whole piece was thoroughly flavoured- not just the skin. The meat was also really tender- definitely how I will cook my chicken wings from now on! Absolutely delicious!

After eating A.T's food last time, I decided that the best way to investigate Filipino food and culture, was to get C.T's point of view. As you know, the best cultural knowledge comes from the common household, so what better way to find out all about Filipino food and bring you the first Global Gastronomy Gal post.

Interview with my dear friend C.T on Filipino Food.

C.T Is half Australian, half Filipino and grew up with her mother cooking delicious Filipino food, and regularly visiting her family in the Philippines.

What do you think characterizes Filipino food?

Depending on what region you are from, this will mainly contribute to staple ingredients available to you. Hence, you can say that regions next to the sea will be heavily based on seafoods- schrimp, fish etc. People based in the mountains will rely on ground crops such as potato, yams (like a sweet potato), and casaba ( a yellow type melon.) There are also live stocks such as chickens, pigs and ox. Depending on your wealth, some people will eat dog if they have to (my cousin told me this during my last visit.) Ohh and a popular delicacy is balut (pronounced balloot) It's a baby duck not yet hatched. It's commonly sold on the streets but also in restaurants. My Filo family love balut but I could not bring myself to try it. And don't forget rice! They eat it for breakfast lunch and dinner.

What are your favourite Filipino dishes?

My fav dish would have to be pancit. You eat it will calamnsi juice (a small citris fruit) all over it. I love the bitter tang to it. Mum used to have a calamnsi tree in our back yard at Jarmain (in Australia) but cut it down for some reason. She can't explain why to this day. Maybe it was too messy?

What was your favourite food as a child?

As a child, I loved all the sweet stuff. A family friend always used to make polveron and give them to us when we would visit her. They are made from milk powder and sugar. They are invidually wrapped and they tend to crumble in your mouth like sand, if it has not lost form in your hand. If you are ever in the Philippines, check out- Goldilocks Philippines. Even go to their website. It's the most famous bakeshop in the country. During our visit to the Filies in 2004, we tried my bring back a few delicious boxes of polveron and brownies into Aus but we got them taken off us at the declaration point at the airport. So disappointed!! They went straight into the bins.

Halo Halo was probably my fav as a kid. It's a sweet treat drink on crushed ice. I used to get excited when I would hear the food processor grinding in the kitchen, it would only mean one thing! Mum was blending the ice for halo halo. I used to have the standard version of just ice and like a sweetened evap milk but as I have grown up, I have taken a liking to having to works of sweet preserved beans and jelly. It's very colourful.

Other faves include ube halaya and suman.

Do you have any family traditions?

Family traditions include annual family reunions.During my visit last year, I attended one. There were about 50 members. The tradition is that hosting is taken in turns. The host is then responsible for catering for the entire party. Guests then give money contributions to the host -I don't know if this is compulsory though.

Are there any Philippino food festivals/traditions?

When I was a kid, there was a large Filo community in Gunnedah and surrounding areas. I remember celebrating Filo independence day on the 12th of June every year (independence from Spanish rule). I remember, we would all meet in a hall. There was tables and tables full of food. Pretty sure everybody was to bring a dish and everybody would share. I, along with all the other kids, would participate in tinikling (traditional dancing in between 2 bamboo logs.)

Is eating Fili food in the Philippines different to eating it in Australia?

According to mum, Yes, there is difference between eating Filo food in Australia compared to the Philippines. She says that the authenticity is not there in aus. Even when you make it the traditional way. This could be due to the different produce available in Australia. Authenticity might also be altered due to Australian style cooking methods with a quick and easy approach. (mum does not want to admit that this may be a factor)

Is it mainly the woman's role to cook the food?

Yes, it is mainly a womens role to cook. I've never seen a male Filo cooking before come to think of it.

What are your thoughts on why Filo food is not as popular as some of out other Asian neighbours?

Both mum and I are unsure as to why Filo food is not as commercially popular as other Asian countries. Mum said that there are a few Filo restaurants in Blacktown in Sydney. She knows Filo people who go there but not necessarily westerners. Maybe they are not as entrepreneurial?

Does the food differ according to the region in the Philippines?

(A.T answered this question)
Yes, filipino cooking differs from region to region. Where we live, it is usually bland in terms of taste. When you go south, they use a lot of coconut cream, chillies, etc. The availability of produce explains the differences of types of cooking. Those that live near the sea, they even just pickle the raw fish with coconut cream vinegar, chillies and away they eat.

Some provinces, they produce a lot of corn, or yam and that's their staple food.

A.T was also kind enough to share her Adobo recipe- WOO HOO! So here it is- and let me tell you, there are stunning results!!

Adobo recipe

1 kg chicken wings
1/3 cup vinegar
3 tbsp soy sauce
3 cloves garlic crushed
salt, pepper
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup water

1) combine all ingredients in a pot and let it stand for at least 30 min

2) simmer covered for about 45 min or until meat is tender and sauce is caramelised.

5 fabulous comments:

Lara said...

There are a couple of Filipino places listed in this year's Brisbane Budget Bites (and last year's too, for that matter). One also came up when I searched the Yellow Pages. Aside from that, maybe you could try some of those restaurant review type sites (whose names escape me now) to see if there are any others around town.

I remember eating great Chinese food in Gunnedah whilst on a family roadtrip in the early 90s, it's great to hear it's still good! I do think we have lots of fab Chinese places here in Bris though. :)

Anonymous said...

Check out Railway Asian. It is a hole in the wall restaurant right next to the Zillmere train station. They specialise in Filo food. Last time I was there I had the Crispy Pata (deep fried pork knuckle) and the tamarind fish soup (maybe sinigang, can't remember the name). They also have the favourites like adobo, the the dish with the black pudding and many more that I can't spell or pronounce. They only have about 12 seats, split 50/50 inside and on the footpath, but seem to do a good take away trade. The owners are very friendly and ready to help if you are unsure what to order.

As far as other Filo things go, there is Best Friends supermarket in the Valley for all your Filo groceries, and the Barrio Fiesta at Yeronga every year around June.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Thanks for sharing that, it was an interesting read! :) I love adobo, and thanks for the recipe! :)

SOL's view said...

I think I have a recipe for adobo pork which I tried once but wasn't particularly impressed. I think your recipe looks different, so maybe I'll give it another go. :)

Rabbit Sim said...

I do think Filipino food is much underrated.

I can't get enough of Goldilock's polvorone! They are the best!

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