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From street food to fruity desserts: Seven foods representing cuisine in the Philippines

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The culinary experience is the hallmark of every traveller’s journey across the globe; to really immerse oneself in traditional culture is to taste its flavours where the nation’s heart and soul radiates, say the Filipinos.

Cuisine in the Philippines is an integral pillar of the national heritage and a massive asset to the cultural development of the country. Plus, it’s a very varied asset, given that a nation which boasts more than 7,000 islands has a large range of cultural nuances to choose from and an extensive conglomerate of varying geographical formations to bear fruits and vegetables and necessities of all sorts. The Philippines, in fact, can take pride in celebrating an array of indigenous flavours and a medley of international cuisines blended with influences from all over the world and all of their previous colonisers.

I flew to the Philippines just shortly after visiting Taiwan and whilst the former has a very heavily Chinese cuisine, which I appreciated but not as much as I had hoped, Filipino cuisine really topped all my expectations, offering a vast array of flavours from distant lands exploding in one single meal.

From what I experienced Filipinos tend to really cherish and enjoy the ritual of a meal. They tend to eat “family dining” style, hence sharing several different plates across the whole table in a loud unison of “have some of this”, “no try this”, “more of this now!”. Needless to say, I ate a lot and tried all sorts of things along the way.

Being the Philippines is an archipelago, the fish is absolutely stunning. You can try several different types of lobster and crab at every corner, as well as differing sorts of fish soups. Also, pork and rice is a must - no meal is complete without a big bowl of rice. There’s a strong Indian influence when it comes to the use of curry for example, and a strong Spanish influence with meat, sausage and meatballs.

But aside from these more traditional meals, here’s a brief round-up of my culinary favourites between street food and desserts!

Street Food

Street food markets are quite the attraction across the islands of the Philippines and they offer very strange foods not often found in restaurants. The smell of the boiling oil, the people yelling, the summer late night atmosphere... There’s something slightly movie-like to it all.

Taho

Street vendors yelling “Tahooooooo” is a very common experience when roaming around the food markets of Manila. Taho is a snack/drink made of condensed milk with corn kernels or fresh soft/silken tofu and sago pearls, together with caramel and molten brown sugar.

Isaw

Isaw is made from barbequed pig or chicken intestines. This creepy delicacy is also accompanied with addidas, atay or balunbalunan - chicken feet, chicken liver, and chicken gizzard respectively, grilled and then skewed on a stick. Unless you actively think about the fact that you’re eating intestines, it isn’t creepy at all. The texture is very rubbery so it’ll be hard to keep that thought out of your mind.

Betamax

If you thought of a cassette when you read the above word, think again. In the Philippines Betamax is actually street-food slang for grilled chicken blood. As you may have picked up from the Isaw spiel, Filipinos like to make sure that none of their chicken goes to waste. Hence, they ended up learning how to coagulate chicken blood by leaving it to stiffen into a gelatinous substance and then grill it and, again, skew it on a stick.

Although it sounds everything but alluring, grilled chicken blood has no taste at all and best complemented with vinegar and chilli mixture.

Balut

“Baluuuuuuut” is something else you’ll hear being yelled left and right along the street markets in the Filipino evenings. This street speciality is actually a developing fertilised bird embryo from either a duck or chicken that is boiled and eaten from the shell.

The fertilised egg is incubated between 14 and 21 days, which means that the chick may be partially showing by this time. Whilst eating the egg it is common to find it’s formed feathers already.

Below is a video of me trying the delicacy.

Desserts

For those who’ve read my culinary reviews before, and/or are *lucky enough* to know me in real life, it comes as no surprise that, for me, in order for a nation to win at cooking, their desserts must be delicious.

Although South East Asia has a very strange way of doing desserts, I must admit that the Philippines currently deserve the medal for the best desserts.

Ice-cream

Filipinos enjoy a special rendition of ice-cream known as Sorbetes. It is uniquely made from coconut milk, unlike other iced desserts that are made from animal milk, and sold by street hawkers, providing you with a delicious escape from the scorching sun. Typical flavours served are along the lines of natural fruits rather than creams, like mango, avocado, melon, jackfruit, coconut and strawberry.

Other than the typical sorbetes, Filipinos also have ice-cream but their speciality is ube ice-cream, a creamy bright purple delicatessen. It is ice-cream made from purple yam, a very common purple rendition of a sweet potato.

Halo-Halo

Halo-halo literally means “mixed together” and as a dessert it is exactly that, a mix of many ingredients in one big bowl. It is a very popular and made of shaved ice and evaporated milk and then a random assortment of extras, which vary from sweet beans to the unmissable coconut, then tubers, fruits and jelly. 

Halo-halo #foodie #foodblogger #halohalo #pinoy

A post shared by Anne (@asplashofscrumptious) on

Tupig

Tupig is one of the many native Filipino delicacies you give away to friends and relatives. It is a very ancient food prepared in a very simple manner in huts along the street. It is native to the region of Ilocos Norte, where indigenous cuisine blends with Spanish cuisine. Tupig is a sticky rice and coconut patty wrapped in banana leaves and grilled with brown sugar.

Speaking of coconuts, known as Buko in Filipino, the Philippines has a lot of them and does very many great things with them, too. Various types of coconut cakes and coconut drinks can be found across the island and delight your warm day with a bit of sweet freshness. 

Sofia travelled to the Philippines with a direct flight from Heathrow to Manila with Philippine Airlines. She was hosted by the Philippines Tourism Board and travelled through the north of the archipelago. As it says on the website: Iit's more fun in the Philippines!




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