The Filipino population is made up of different ethnic groups that were bred into different subcultures. Different tongues so to speak. Filipino food offers variety as it caters to the diverse and distinct eating needs not just of the Filipino people but as well as foreigners from different countries. Sometimes spicy, sometimes sour, sometimes salty -- Filipino food is just pretty much out-of-the-box! Filipino cooking reflects this cultural combination. The result is an exotic blend that is characteristically unique though the variety of regional dishes and never ending source of gourmet surprises.
Cooking styles and seasoning also vary from region to region although all the basic cooking methods such as boiling, roasting, frying, steaming and sauteing are used. The use of heavy sauce is not a traditional Filipino style of cooking but can be traced directly to Spanish influence. Some of these heavy thick sauces are however reserve for town fiesta, Christmas and other special occasion. Today, there are millions of Filipinos living all over the world, but despite their easy adaptable to their new environment they still have retained their tail for Filipino food.
History and Influences
Malayo-Polynesians during the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines prepared food by boiling, steaming, or roasting. This ranged from the usual livestock such as kalabaw (water buffaloes), baka (cows), manok (chickens) and baboy (pigs) to various kinds of fish and seafood. In a few places, the broad range of their diet extended to monitor lizards, snakes and locusts. Filipinos have been cultivating rice since 3200 BC when Austronesian ancestors from the southern China Yunnan Plateau and Taiwan settled in what is now the Philippines. They brought with them rice cultivation and a lot of other various traditions that are used in forms today. Trade with other Asian nations introduced a number of staples into Philippine cuisine, most notably toyo (soy sauce) and patis (fish sauce), as well as the method of stir-frying and making savory soup bases. Spanish settlers brought with them chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and the method of sautéing with garlic and onions. Although chili peppers are nowhere as widely used in Filipino cooking compared to much of Southeast Asia, chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green, again distinct from the cooking of neighbors. Vinegar and spices were used in foods to preserve them.
Spanish (and Mexican) dishes were eventually incorporated into Philippine cuisine with the more complex dishes usually being prepared for special occasions. Some dishes such as paella or arroz de valenciana remain largely the same in the Philippine context. Some have been adapted or have come to take on a slightly or significantly different meaning. Arroz a la cubana served in the Philippines usually includes ground beef picadillo. Philippine longganisa despite its name is more akin to chorizo than Spanish longaniza. Morcon is likely to refer to a beef roulade dish not the bulbous specialty Spanish sausage. While there were some Chinese in the Philippines before the Spanish, a significant Chinese population grew only after the Spanish established themselves. Chinese food became a staple of the panciterias or noodle shops that sprang up in the nineteenth century, but were often marketed with Spanish names. The influence of comida china (Chinese food) is seen in dishes like arroz caldo (congee), morisqueta tostada (an obsolete term for sinangag or fried rice), and chopsuey. Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques, styles of cooking, and ingredients find their way into the country. Traditional dishes both simple and elaborate, indigenous and foreign-influenced, are seen as are more current popular international viands and fast food fare.