LIFESTYLE | FOOD

Beginners Guide to Filipino Cuisine

Michelle Baltazar

The best way to master Filipino cuisine is to dive straight into the deep end: gatecrash a Filipino birthday party, wedding or, if you’re brave enough, a town fiesta.


It is only in the middle of it all, with your plate in hand, staring at a long buffet table of meat dishes, and a much longer table for desserts, that you will discover a Filipino truism: there’s no such thing as too much meat or too much dessert.

Once you’ve overcome the cultural shock of seeing guests eat their mains and desserts at the same time, approach the buffet table. Go for the food tray that looks almost empty - it is guaranteed the same tray only minutes ago had adobo, kare kare or bistek.

A big occasion always calls for spit roast pork or lechon. You can impress your Filipino friends with your culinary knowledge by assuring them: “I love lechon!”

You can say this to them anywhere, even to Filipino strangers that you come across at bus stops, in the hospital or at church.

And now for the main meal, which is the dessert, try the Filipino fruit salad. It is the only 'salad' in the world that is 5% fruit and 95% cream and sweetened milk.

But if you're not shaking from the sugar yet, try some dessert: biko, puto kutsinta, bibingka, maja blanca, leche flan and turon. As many Filipinos will tell you, it is possible to eat all of it in one sitting.

But on that basic question: ‘what is Filipino food?’, don't expect a definitive answer.

An acceptable but still vague way to describe Filipino cuisine is to say it embraces the best of many cuisines, but inspired heavily by Spanish, Mexican, Indo-Malay and Chinese food.

Filipino dishes are not spicy or light in the stomach like many Asian dishes nor are they buttery or heavy in the stomach like many European dishes. It floats between the two, combining flavours from the East and the West.

If that answer does not satisfy you, don't ask for a more detailed explanation from your Filipino friends. They are too busy eating.


Marx Canoy's new cookbookAbove is taken from a new cookbook by Filipino-Australian chef Marx Canoy titled 'Marx Canoy's FOOD FEAST: Traditional to World-Class Philippine Cuisine. To attend the book launch this weekend, from 5pm-6pm, June 9 at Bankstown Sports RSL Club, email Michelle on michelle@australianfilipina.com.au. To reserve a copy of the book at $50 (RRP $59.95), email pcanoy@hotmail.com.

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