Kulinarya Qatar 2016 Family Day and Year-End Bazaar opened last December 16, 2016 on a high note in that cool open-air Garden Terrace of Westin Doha Hotel and Spa. No less than the Ambassador of the Philippines to Qatar together with the organizers led the ribbon cutting ceremonies. Surprisingly, a lot of other VIPs were also present including the Ambassadors from Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. It could be the first Filipino Community event in doha which was attended by a large number of dignitaries from our ASEAN neighbors.
After the short program, and after doing my “stage-father” role to my son who together with his classmates performed during the opening ceremonies, it’s time to go around the food booths with one thing in mind – to answer the ultimate question: WHAT REALLY IS A FILIPINO FOOD? Read my pre-event blog here: A JOURNEY TO FILIPINO CULTURE AND CUISINE.
A few readings here and there gave me some insights that i’m not aware of before but facts common to people who love to prepare food.
The Filipino style of traditional cooking is usually reduced to boiling, steaming and grilling. And with our simple lifestyle then, our ancestors invented ways to preserve food using salt and vinegar which are evident in most of our local delicacies. Until we are colonized by different countries which made significant influences even on the way we prepare food (like the use of soy sauce from China and spices from other countries). Later on, our food had evolved naturally all throughout the different regions of the country.
BISTEK TAGALOG (Pinoy-style beefsteak)
Bistek (Spanish: bistec) is a Mexican dish of pieces of salted and peppered sirloin, usually flattened with a meat tenderizing tool, covered in bread crumbs and fried. The dish is usually served in tortillas as a taco. In the Philippines, bistek Tagalog, a specialty of the Tagalog region, is typically made with onions and strips of sirloin beef slowly cooked in soy sauce and calamansi juice. It is known in the Spanish-speaking world as bistec encebollado or bistec tagalo. (wikipedia)
PINAKBET (mixed vegetables steamed in shrimp sauce)
The word is the contracted form of the Ilokano word pinakebbet, meaning “shrunk” or “shriveled”. The original Ilocano pinakbet uses bagoong, of fermented monamon or other fish, for seasoning sauce, while further south, bagoong alamang is used. The dish usually includes bitter melon (ampalaya). Other vegetables used include eggplant, tomato, okra, string beans, chili peppers, parda, winged beans, and others. Root crops and some beans like camote, patani, kadios are also optionally added. The young pod of marunggay is also added. It is usually spiced with ginger, onions, or garlic. A Tagalog version usually includes calabaza (kalabasa). Most of these vegetables are easily accessible and are grown in backyards and gardens of most Ilocano households. As its name suggests, it is usually cooked until almost dry and shriveled; in Tagalog version, the flavors of the vegetables are accentuated with shrimp paste. (wikipedia)
LUTO SA GATA (dishes from coconut milk)
In tropical countries like the Philippines, we saw coconut milk as a good alternative for animal milk. In food preparation, coconut milk is also a common ingredient in curry dishes that are popular in many asian countries like India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and many others. Being ingenious, Filipinos would find any edible plants appetizing once cooked with their secret ingredients like coconut milk. And for the case of banana blossoms which are endemic in many places in the country, cooking it with the use of coconut milk was soon discovered and became popular.
We have a lot of other dishes using coconut milk as base. From langka (jackfruit), gabi leaves (taro), kamansi (rimas or breadfruit), kalabasa (squash), and even with meat — the list could go on.
BALBAKWA (beef knuckles or knees or tail and skin)
Balbakwa or balbacua is a famous Visayan/Mindanao dish. Out of the many influences from various dishes, it is understandable that a specific region would eventually develop a recipe using the techniques and ingredients that are common to them.
There is something about the thickness and almost gluey yet savory consistency of Balabakwa’s soup which goes well for lunch. You can almost always find balbakawa being served on roadside eateries all over the Visayas. The look could be mistaken as that of bulalo (filipino stew) which is made of beef shanks and marrow bones.
PANSIT (rice noodle)
In Filipino cuisine, pancit or pansit are noodles. Noodles were introduced into the Philippines by the Chinese and have since been adopted into local cuisine. The term pancit is derived from the Hokkien pian i sit ( or ) which literally means “convenient food.” Different kinds of noodles can be found in Filipino supermarkets which can then be cooked at home. Noodle dishes are also standard fare in local restaurants. Food establishments specializing in noodles are often referred to as panciterias. (babylon)
SISIG (diced meat)
Sisig is a Kapampangan term (from the province of Pampanga) which means “to snack on something sour”. It usually refers to fruits, often unripe or half-ripe, sometimes dipped in salt and vinegar. It also refers to a method of preparing fish and meat which is marinated in a sour liquid such as lemon juice or vinegar, then seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices. (wikipedia)
Sisig also refers to “sizzling” thus the name which is best served using a sizzling plate to warm it.
BARBEQUE (grilled meat/meat skewers)
For Filipinos, it is common to have all parts of the plants useful (like the coconut from its roots up to its leaves serves many purposes). We don’t throw anything that we still see useful and economical. As well as in food, it is quite unique in the Philippines to see street foods frying or grilling not only the meat but also the inner parts like the liver, intestines, and even chicken feet!
The most common is the meat barbeque which is even served in restaurants thus claiming its own place as one of the popular dished in the country. Barbecue chicken consists of chicken parts or entire chickens that are barbecued, grilled or smoked. There are many global and regional preparation techniques and cooking styles that originally originated from this.
BOPIS (beef lungs and heart)
Bopis (bópiz in Spanish) is a piquant Philippine dish of beef lungs and heart sautéed in tomatoes, chilies and onions.
This spicy Filipino dish has Spanish origins, but the meaning in its original language and even region of origin are lost. (wikipedia)
TOKNENENG (deep-frying orange batter covered hard-boiled eggs)
Tokneneng is a tempura-like Filipino street food made with chicken eggs and is usually served with a spiced vinegar-based dip. A popular variation of tokneneng is kwek kwek which is traditionally made with quail eggs. Due to their similarities, the two are often confused with some people calling tokneneng “kwek kwek” and vice versa.
LUGAW (rice porridge)
Congee is a type of rice porridge or gruel popular in many Asian countries. When eaten as plain rice congee, it is most often served with side dishes. When additional ingredients, such as meat, fish, and flavorings, are added while preparing the congee, it is most often served as a meal on its own, especially for the ill. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation. Despite its many variations, it is usually a thick porridge of rice largely disintegrated after prolonged cooking in water. (wikipedia)
SO, WHAT REALLY IS A FILIPINO FOOD?
It is simply the use of whatever is available in one’s backyard cooked in the most applicable style using a technique that depends on the required amount of time: “adobo” using soy sauce or “paksiw” using vinegar is the quickest, up to the most intricate way that includes marinating a meat overnight and slow cooking on medium fire.
Filipino dishes are indeed influenced by many culture but can still be found unique by the use of some local ingredients. One thing is for sure, Filipinos love to cook and it will always be part of our culture and our everyday life.