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The beginning 10 A food portrait of the Philippines 16 SAWSAWAN | DIPPING SAUCES. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 almusal | breakfast. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 46 sabaw | soups.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 68 ulam | everyday food. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 86 pagkaing dagat | seafood. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116 Pagkain pang Fiesta | party food. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136 inihaw | barbecue food.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 168 KANIN at pancit | rice and noodles. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 186 gulay at ensalada | vegetables and salads. . . . . . . . . 214 pulutan aT pica-pica | bar and finger food. . . . . . . . . 232 merienda | snacks.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 248 minatamis | desserts. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 282 inumin | drinks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 310 Housekeeping 326 Index 328 Acknowledgements 335

A food portrait of the Philippines omnipresence of pancit (noodles) and a soft spot for towering cakes are all illuminated in the annals of history and tales of the motley crews that left their mark. It is a fascinating saga — one of native tribes, Arab missionaries, Chinese merchants, Spanish conquistadors, Mexican viceroys and American GI Joes. These accounts form the backbone of this book, along with the legends, myths and folklore that run deep through Filipino cuisine. Personal stories also paint a picture of Filipino food ways. While those featured here centre on my own family’s experience, spanning three generations, two continents and a number of hearty eaters, the recipes come from further afield — from friends, families and top chefs from across the Philippines, who kindly shared their secrets. Others are formed out of memories of the countless dishes I have enjoyed over the years. Unlike many Filipino cookbooks that assume a large degree of local knowledge, this book aims to fill the gaps for people who have never tasted or cooked the cuisine before. The detailed recipes outline some of the tricks of the trade, such as how to get the most out of garlic, when to double-fry for best results and why vinegar should not be stirred, to name a few. These recipes are true to my understanding of Filipino food, but allow for a range of available ingredients, with both native and foreign substitutes offered. As you will quickly discover, Filipinos’ openness of heart extends to the plate. Food is for sharing, even with strangers, and no matter how much or how little one has to give. Come, it is time: kain na tayo. ‘Let’s eat!’

Meet a Filipino and you will invariably be asked: kumain ka na ba? 'Have you eaten?’ The inquiry is both greeting and invitation. Food is never far from Filipinos’ thoughts. There are few places where you will find more time dedicated to the topic: conversation about, preparation of, and enjoyment of food. There are myriad words in the native language describing the flavours and smells of the food that surrounds them. Many have no equivalents in English. Food is more than a pleasurable pursuit. It is the cultural language of the Philippines. The people use it to apologise, woo a woman, ask a favour or say thank you. It fills in social gaps and crosses borders of religion and class. Food is the best communicator for non-confrontational Filipinos; it is more palatable than words and flavoured precisely to their tastes. Its meaning is always clear. Filipino cuisine is unlike any other: a medley of unique native ingredients in creative combinations. Their love of sweet, which they meld magically with savoury, is defining, as is their expert use of vinegar, for which they have a seemingly endless arsenal of varieties and applications. While distinctive, its profile also lends confusion to foreign interpretations of the cuisine. It is not South East Asian, as many people know it. The Philippines’ past helps tell the story. Filipinos survived more than 350 years of colonial rule and weathered countless other visitors thanks to their unbounded hospitality. Instead of fighting, they received. Flexibility with new ways preserved the existing cultural flame. A preference for pork, the

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dahil sa iyo Because of you

(A beloved filipino song)

Sa buhay ko`y labis, ang hirap at pasakit Ng pusong umiibig, mandin ay walang langit  Atng lumigaya, iniwan mosa dusa,  Tanging ikaw sinta, ang akingpagasa. Dahil sa iyo, nais kong mabuhay  Dahil sa iyo, hanggang mamatay  Puso ko`y tanungin, ikaw at ikaw rin; Dahil sa iyo, ako`y lumigaya,  Pagmamahal, ay alayan ka; kung tunayman ako,  Ay alipinin mo, ang lahat sa buhay ko,  Dahil sa iyo  Kung tunay man ako,  Ay alipinin mo, ang lahat sa buhayko,  Dahil saiyo (a rough translation)

Long have I endured in my life The pain and sorrows from love arise Then you came and redeemed me, my dear, My only hope in my darkest fears Because of you, I yearn to be alive Because of you, ‘til death (you) must realise In my heart I know there is only you And ask my heart, you’ll know that this is true Because of you, I found happiness That to you I offer this love that is so blessed Though indeed I may be a slave For loving you so true It matters not to me, because everything is In my life because of you


Tailor-made In the philippines, food is all about customisation. You will never find one dish per person (as in Western restaurants) or a centrepiece (as in a roast at home). Instead, tabletops are laden with options. Guests start with an empty plate and choose their own culinary adventure. At its core, this interactive eating style is based on sauces, known as sawsawan. In Filipino, the word sawsawan literally means ‘to dip’. Watch and you’ll see Filipinos dunking everything from breakfast items through to midnight snacks. Think crispy pork kawali doused in a tart mix of native vinegar and garlic, or crunchy green mangoes used to scoop up sticky bagoong (shrimp paste). Sawsawan can be traced back to the tribal communities of the Philippines’ past, where communal dining reigned. The use of intense flavours to give oomph to simple dishes, such as seafood or soups, is also reflective of indigenous practices and native ingredients. Today, the tradition of communality continues and food is a partnership between cook and eater. Where foreign chefs set rules, Filipinos prefer to set the tone. An experienced cook knows just how sour to make sinigang or salty adobo; they also expect guests to fine-tune each dish with sawsawan. On the Sawsawan Ingredients and Flavourings list (pages 26–29), you’ll find suka (vinegar), toyo (soy sauce), patis (fish sauce) and kalamansi (native citrus). The collection is telltale of Filipinos’ love for salty, sharp and sour flavours. Solids, such as sliced onions, pickled green papaya, whole chillies and chopped tomatoes also feature prominently. These are served individually or swirled into addictive combinations with sauces. As with meals, sawsawan ingredients are placed on tables, along with mixing bowls, for individuals to prepare for themselves. While some people pour sawsawan over the top of their meal, others prefer to bathe food in pools of sauce, usually with their fingers. Then, they wait a moment before taking a bite, allowing the disparate flavours to come together. By Western standards, Filipino recipes are improvised. Don’t be daunted by this prospect — start with sawsawan and you’ll quickly learn that it all comes down to balance. Just let your taste buds be the judge.

25 Dipping Sauces

Sawsawan ingredients and flavourings The following basic ingredients are the building blocks of almost every sawsawan. They are also common flavourings found throughout the length of Filipino cuisine and are key to authentic flavour. Most are available from dedicated Filipino grocery stores or try your local Asian grocery store. In some recipes alternatives have been listed, although where possible, try to get the real thing.

Suka | Vinegar

the native vinegar listed is a guide. Rice or apple cider vinegars are widely available substitutions. In these cases, follow the vinegar listed as the two differ significantly in acidity. Also, choose the best quality you can find; cheap vinegar is typically overpowering and masks other flavours.

Sourness (asim) is at the heart of Filipino cuisine. At the top of the list (with kalamansi) is native vinegar. There are four main vinegar varieties: sugarcane, coconut, coconut palm and nipa palm. Vinegars are used as much for sourness as for their distinctive flavour. It is difficult to describe the outstanding complexity, character and individuality of each native variety; suffice to say, it’s no wonder Filipino cooking evolved around this base. Vinegar is used to marinate, pickle, cure and braise, and also as a dipping sauce, particularly for fried dishes. Today, distilled products abound, but they are a poor substitute for organic unrefined native vinegars. Spiced regional vinegars, such as pinakurat and sinamak, are popular, too. Certain Filipino dishes call for a specific vinegar, but they are largely used interchangeably. In recipes,

Sukang puti | White vinegar Literally ‘white vinegar’, sukang puti is a distilled (refined) native vinegar, usually from nipa palm. Sukang iloko | Cane vinegar Made from fermented sugarcane syrup, cane vinegar has a mild flavour and is a light amber colour. Despite its base, it has no residual sugar, thus is no sweeter than its vinegar counterparts. It takes its name sukang iloko, from the province of Ilocos, a major producer. It is also known as sukang maasim, meaning ‘sour

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vinegar’. Rice vinegar is comparable in mellowness and a good substitute.

length of the cuisine, from savoury dishes to sweet drinks. It can be very difficult to source overseas. Depending on the recipe, lemon, lime or kumquat can be used as a substitute.

Sukang tuba | Coconut palm vinegar Tuba, the sap collected from the coconut palm, is fermented to make an alcoholic drink (lambanog) as well as vinegar, known as sukang tuba. It is a golden colour and can be very sour.

Patis | Fish sauce Patis is a thin, amber-coloured liquid made from fermented fish with a pungent fishy smell and strong flavour. The Philippines shares the ingredient and a passion for it with its South East Asian neighbours (petis in Indonesia, nuoc mam in Vietnam and nam pla in Thailand). In the Philippines it doubles as a flavouring and seasoning; it is served as a dipping sauce for guests to fine-tune the flavour of a dish before eating, and is frequently used when cooking instead of salt. Its flavour also changes subtly as it cooks.

Sukang niyog | Coconut water vinegar

Water from the mature coconut (niyog) is fermented to make coconut water vinegar or sukang niyog. It is a cloudy white vinegar with a slight sweetness. Sukang paombong | Nipa palm vinegar Made from the fermented sap of the nipa palm, sukang paombong is a mild cloudy white vinegar. It is named after the municipality of Paombong in Bulacan province, a major producer. It is also known as sukang sasa, from the word sasa, for nipa.

Toyo | Soy sauce While toyo arrived in the Philippines with the Chinese merchants, it now is firmly Filipino. Even some foreign dishes have been indigenised through the addition of soy sauce, much like soy and kalamansi marinated American-style fried chicken. Like fish sauce, it is used as a flavouring, for seasoning and as a dipping sauce. It also adds colour and for this reason, many Filipino dishes have a brown tint. Soy sauce comes in grades, from light to dark, as well as sweet. Light soy sauce is the most common type used in Filipino food; dark is sometimes used for a more intense colour.

Kalamansi | Native citrus Kalamansi (also calamansi or calamondin) is the country’s pride and joy; the national citrus is a stalwart flavouring and prime souring agent. Native to the Philippines, the small, green, round-shaped fruit releases significant juice (and seeds) for its diminutive size. Its flavour is unique — a blend of lemon, lime and mandarin, with a twist. Kalamansi is primarily used as a dipping sauce — squeezed over food at just the last minute for a sour smack — but it runs the

27 Dipping Sauces

Bagoong | Shrimp/fish paste

Sibuyas | Onions

Bagoong refers to a broad category of pungent liquid sauces and viscous pastes made from fermented seafood. It is an acquired taste that morphs into addictive. In Filipino cookery, there are two main types: bagoong alamang, made from shrimp and bagoong isda, made from fish. Bagoong alamang is the most common and is used extensively in Filipino food as a flavouring for dishes, a garnish or as a condiment for dipping. It is also found in other South East Asian cuisines, including Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian. Fresh bagoong alamang is widely available in the Philippines at the market. Elsewhere it can be bought bottled — labelled as either fresh or sautéed — from Filipino grocery stores. Bottled fresh bagoong is often horribly artificially coloured; if using, rinse in water to remove the excess saltiness. Bottled sautéed bagoong (essentially, bagoong cooked with onion, garlic and other ingredients to a sticky paste), is available in sweet, regular and spicy variants and is the choice for recipes here.

There are five varieties commonly used. In the Philippines, brown onions are considered sweeter and milder than red; traditionally, brown onions are used raw (in salads), while red or sibuyas Tagalog (a variety of Asian shallots) for cooking. White and spring onions (scallions) are used as a garnish.

Manggang hilaw | Green mango Green or immature mangoes are picked before they have ripened into sweet fruit. They should be very hard, with darkish green skin and light green to faintyellow flesh. Avoid fruit that smell noticeably sweet. In the Philippines, the crunchy sour flesh is diced as sawsawan for fried dishes, julienned for salads, used as a souring agent for sinigang or savoured as a snack dipped in salt or bagoong.

Bawang | Garlic Garlic is used without restraint in Filipino cuisine. It is found in almost every dish in some shape or form: chopped with vinegar for a punchy sawsawan, fried crisp as a garnish, or sautéed in guisado (sofrito) for the backbone of a dish. After oil, garlic is typically added to the pan first. Filipinos favour the intense, golden flavour that longer cooking produces.

Kamatis | Tomatoes Native Filipino tomatoes are slightly sour (as opposed to sweet), firm, with a mottled green and red skin. Tomato can be served simply diced as sawsawan or sliced in salads, it makes up one-third of guisado (sofrito) with garlic and onions to form the backbone of numerous Filipino dishes, and flavours countless others as a cooked ingredient or rich sauce. In some regions, it is used as a subtle souring agent for sinigang.

Silis | Chillies The two main types of chillies used in the Philippines are the hot short red siling labuyo and milder long

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Laurel | Bay leaf

green siling mahaba. Siling labuyo (literally ‘wild chilli’) is similar to the Thai bird’s-eye chilli, but shorter and more fiery. It is increasingly hard to find the genuine article. Siling mahaba packs about the same punch as jalapeño, but is longer, thinner, lime green and slightly curly. Chillies are widely used throughout Filipino cookery, but conservatively compared to other Asian cuisines. Dahon ng sili, chilli leaves, add a peppery taste to a number of soups.

Bay leaf, or laurel as it is called in the Philippines, is a common flavouring in adobo, as well as tomato-based Spanish-inspired dishes, such as morcon. It is used both fresh and dry, but dry is more widely available.

Achuete | Annatto seeds Annatto are small, hard dark red seeds from the achiote tree and are native to South America. They were brought to the Philippines via the Mexican Galleon Trade. They are prized mainly as a colourant. When crushed to a powder, soaked in water or vinegar, or steeped gently in oil, they release an intense red pigment, which give a number of Filipino dishes their trademark look. It also adds a delicate flavour — slightly sweet and peppery — which becomes noticeable if you look for it.

Luya | Ginger Ginger, an aromatic rhizome, is a popular flavouring used in a variety of forms and dishes. From finely grated to slivers and whole pieces, it is stirred into sawsawan, stir-fried or added to soups.

Luyang dilaw/lengkuas | Turmeric Literally ‘yellow ginger’, luyang dilaw is another rhizome, but less widespread than ginger. It is typically used fresh for subtle flavour and as a yellow colourant, in which case it is grated and squeezed first to release the pigmented juice.

Catsup | Filipino ketchup Catsup is used in much the same way as ketchup or tomato sauce. The key difference is the base made of bananas instead of tomatoes. Taste-wise, they are very similar, but catsup is sweeter and a touch spicy. Catsup is artificially coloured red and it is easy to mistake the two; however, catsup is slightly translucent with a glossy sheen.

Tanglad | Lemongrass Lemongrass is not a primary flavouring in Filipino cuisine, but it is signature to certain dishes and used to a greater extent in some regions. The herb has a distinctive citrus perfume, but is not acidic. Typically, it is tied into a ‘knot’ or the white part bruised to release its scent, then discarded after cooking.

29 Dipping Sauces

Atcharang Papaya Pickled green papaya Served alongside the roasted, grilled and deep-fried meat classics of the Philippines, there’s sweet, tart, pickled atchara. Shredded green papaya and vinegar alone constitute atchara, but carrot, capsicum, ginger and even raisins and pineapple frequently find their way into this pickled condiment to add colour and zing. Atchara is my personal favourite sawsawan.

Makes: about 3–4 cups

1 green papaya, peeled and seeded 1 small carrot, peeled ½ small red capsicum (pepper), seeded and very thinly sliced ½ small red onion, very thinly sliced 2 tablespoons fine salt 750 ml (25½ fl oz/3 cups) nipa or apple cider vinegar 165 g (6 oz/3⁄4 cup firmly packed) dark brown sugar 170 ml (5½ fl oz/²⁄3 cup) pineapple juice 10 cm (4 inch) piece ginger, peeled, halved and cut into fine matchsticks

Where does it come from?

Using a mandoline, julienne the green papaya and carrot, then cut the carrot in half. Place in a bowl with the capsicum, onion and salt, and toss well to combine. Set aside for 15 minutes for the salt to extract the liquid. Place the vinegar, sugar, pineapple juice and ginger in a large saucepan and bring to the boil over high heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Meanwhile, place the papaya mixture in a sieve and squeeze to extract the excess liquid. Add the papaya mixture to the vinegar mixture, return to the boil, then remove from the heat. Pour into a large sterilised airtight jar (see page 326) and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for 3 days before serving. Once opened, atchara will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.

The name atchara (also achara and atsara) is derived from achaar, the Hindu term for ‘pickle’. Similar pickled fruits and vegetables can be found in nearby countries, such as the Indonesian acar.

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Bawang at suka Garlic and vinegar dipping sauce This all-purpose sawsawan is particularly good served with fried meat and fish.

Makes: 2 ⁄ 3 cup

125 ml (4 fl oz/1⁄2 cup) native or rice vinegar 5 garlic cloves, smashed 1 teaspoon salt flakes, plus extra to taste 1⁄ teaspoon freshly cracked 4 black pepper 1⁄ teaspoon caster (superfine) 2 sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl and season with extra salt, if desired.

Toyo, suka at sili Soy, vinegar and chilli dipping sauce A variation of toyomansi, this is the sawsawan of choice to serve with crispy pata (page 156).

Makes: 2 ⁄ 3 cup



80 ml fl cup) soy sauce 80 ml (21⁄2 fl oz/1⁄3 cup) coconut or apple cider vinegar 1 long green chilli, seeded and thinly sliced on the diagonal 1 red bird’s-eye chilli, seeded and thinly sliced on the diagonal 1⁄ onion, very finely chopped 4

Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl. Set aside for 3 minutes before serving.

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Toyomansi Soy sauce and kalamansi dipping sauce Toyo (soy sauce) and kalamansi (native citrus) are served individually as dipping sauces or rolled into one to become toyomansi. Another all-purpose sawsawan, it is great served with inihaw na liempo (page 185), beef bulalo (page 80) or alongside fried eggs.

Makes: 3 ⁄4 cup


125 ml (4 fl cup) soy sauce juice of 1 kalamansi or 1⁄ lemon or lime, plus extra 2 to taste 2 red bird’s-eye chillies (optional), whole or finely chopped

Combine the soy sauce, kalamansi juice and chilli, if using, in a small bowl. Add extra kalamansi juice to taste, if desired.

Matamis at maasim Sweet and sour sauce This is not your standard thickened sweet and sour sauce, but it is a very good all-purpose variation. Try with lumpia Shanghai (page 238) or kekiam (page 243).

Makes: 3 ⁄4 cups

115 g (4 oz/1⁄2 cup firmly packed) brown sugar 2 tablespoons cane or apple cider vinegar juice of 2 kalamansi or 1 lemon 2 red bird’s-eye chillies, seeded and finely chopped (optional)

Place the sugar, vinegar and 80 ml (21⁄2 fl oz/1⁄3 cup) water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar, then cook for 2 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Remove from the heat and stir in the citrus juice and chilli, if using.

35 Dipping Sauces

Garlic and vinegar dipping sauce

Soy, vinegar and chilli dipping sauce

Soy sauce and kalamansi dipping sauce

Sarsa ng lechon Liver sauce On the island of Luzon, no lechon (whole roasted suckling pig) is worth its salt without sweet, vinegary sarsa ng lechon. It also partners with lechon kawali (page 159). Here's a cheat’s version with liver spread in place of fresh pork liver.

Makes: 11 ⁄ 2 cups

2 tablespoons vegetable oil 8 garlic cloves, crushed 1⁄ onion, finely chopped 2 100 g (31⁄2 oz) liverwurst or liver spread 80 ml (21⁄2 fl oz/1⁄3 cup) palm or apple cider vinegar 55 g (2 oz/1⁄4 cup firmly packed) muscovado or dark brown sugar 3 teaspoons salt flakes 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper 35 g (11⁄4 oz/1⁄3 cup) dry breadcrumbs

Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the onion and stir for 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the liver spread and stir to combine. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper and 375 ml (121⁄2 fl oz/11⁄2 cups) water. Bring to the boil over high heat, then gradually stir in the breadcrumbs. Reduce the heat to low–medium and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until thickened. Season if necessary. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool before serving or refrigerate until needed.

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Annatto oil A number of Filipino classics, such as chicken inasal (page 177), pancit palabok (page 211) and kare-kare (page 150) are characterised by a reddish colour or finish. Natural red annatto oil is the secret ingredient. Making annatto oil in advance greatly reduces the legwork later. Annatto seeds are available from Filipino and Mexican grocery stores.

Makes: 1 cup

250 ml (81⁄2 fl oz/1 cup) vegetable oil or 250 g (9 oz) butter 60 g (2 oz/1⁄2 cup) annatto (achuete) seeds

Place the vegetable oil and annatto seeds in a frying pan over low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture just comes to a simmer, about 1–2 minutes. If using butter, heat the butter until just melted, then add the seeds and cook for 1–2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to allow the flavours to infuse for 1 hour. Strain into an airtight container discarding the seeds, then seal with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Sinamak Ilocos-style spiced vinegar Bottles of sinamak, a mosaic of chillies, garlic and ‘blue ginger’ or galangal soaked in vinegar, line just about every table in Iloilo province, where the spicy vinegar originates from.

Makes: 11 ⁄ 2 cups


4 cm inch) piece galangal, peeled and julienned 30 red bird’s-eye chillies, stems removed 4 garlic cloves, bruised 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) palm or apple cider vinegar

Place the galangal, chillies, garlic and peppercorns into a sterilised airtight jar (see page 326). Pour over the vinegar and seal with a tight-fitting lid. Set aside for at least 3 days before using.

39 Dipping Sauces

bayanihan The native influence

In the philippines, the past holds hands with the present. Tradition is cherished, superstition prevails and native foods crowd the plate with foreign additions. More than 7000 islands are categorised into three main regions: Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. While the Philippines is further divided into fortytwo major ethnic groups, the diverse dialects, folklore, arts, crafts, social systems and eating habits are a source of richness rather than division. Filipinos are bound by a common esprit: bayanihan. The word, derived from bayan, meaning nation, town or community, does not have a oneword English equivalent. At heart, it is about sharing — what you have, what you don’t, the good times and the bad. It informs how Filipinos eat — dining is communal and food is always offered. The agreement stems from an ancient subsistence existence where resources were limited. Today, it underpins the Filipino psyche of generosity and hospitality. If bayanihan is the framework, utang na loob (loosely translated as reciprocity) are the transactions. Outsiders misconstrue gifts and services rendered as bribes. To Filipinos, repaying or advancing favours is a sign of gratitude. Food is often the currency. ‘Come, eat with me!’ they ask by way of thanking. The reply is always yes, even if one has just eaten. Nature is another binding knot. Agriculture provides for many families who, like generations

before them, live by the seasons. Progress moves apace and Christianity reigns, but pagan respect for the land and sea runs through the country’s ravines and creeks. The advent of numerous Filipino fruits, vegetables and animals is documented in the folklore of different tribes. The stories are still told centuries on. Catholic celebrations were adopted with comparative ease during colonial rule; the social Filipino embraced the excuse to celebrate. Today, the country observes Chinese and Muslim festivities in tandem with Christian events. The fiesta, as any celebration is known, is bayanihan brought to life. Naturally, fiestas include special fare and lots of it. Young and old swoon over native rice treats, known as kakanin — excitement for age-old delicacies has not diminished. Foreign dishes absorbed into Filipino cuisine have been adapted with local ingredients, but traditional fare remains largely unchanged centuries later. Native packaging is also alive and well. Steamed rice is sold in bundles wrapped in woven coconut leaves and sticky rice kalamay is sold in mature coconut shells. Folk traditions and modernity sit side by side in the Philippines, not as foreign objects, but as friends.

During Christmas and holy days, Filipinos offer food to anitos (spirits of the dead) and diwatas (sprits of nature), who dwell in the seas and mountains. Mythical creatures and fable characters reside here, too.

7000 Islands by Yasmin Newman (ISBN 9781742705637)  

Published September 2013. A beautiful and evocative comprehensive cookbook on Filipino food, as well as an insight into the culture and hist...

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