Filipino food: the fast and not so fast

A Filipino feast

A Filipino feast

My first food impressions of the Philippines were not great. On the congested and seemingly interminable journey from the airport to Quezon City (where Oxfam has its offices), you’re assaulted by billboard after billboard advertising all manner of fast- and processed foods. Cheese ‘n’ chix. McDonald’s. Instant noodles. KFC. Chicken sausages. Jollibee. It occurred to me that perhaps I’m somehow invented my dreams of Filipino food after a taste of chicken adobo many years ago.

Thankfully, on closer inspection, it turned out that real Filipino food – the kind that is served at home and in the vast majority of small, non-franchised eateries everywhere you look – is nothing like those hoardings would lead you to believe. Sweet, sour, salty, spicy and a million other things I can’t name – Filipino food has it all.

Yes, Filipinos do love their fast food – but no more than most! Everywhere you go – even the smallest town – you can be (almost) sure to find some kind of chain restaurant, be it Jollibee, Chowking or familiar old McDonald’s.

And yes, Filipinos do love instant coffee made with powdered creamer and tons of sugar – but after a few days, I developed a taste for the overpowering sweetness of Nescafe’s 3in1 blend, so I’m not going to complain.

We were lucky enough to eat a lot of real home cooking during our trip. During the work part of it, two extremely talented cooks – also highly involved in the anti-APECO movement – did all of the cooking, meaning that we had fresh, delicious meals three times a day that were the total opposite of fast food. And, it turns out, my dreams of Pinoy cuisine were not in vain. Filipino food is every bit as delicious as I’d hoped it would be.

I could ramble on for AGES about the amazing things I tried and the best meals I ate, but I’ll save that for another post. Instead, I’ll leave you with two of my food highlights:

  1. Sisig – or pig’s face: when this proposition was first put to me, I have to admit I wrinkled my nose. I mean, how much can there be to eat on a pig’s face? It turns out I needn’t have worried. There’s lots to eat on a pig’s face, and cooked Pinoy-style with onions, lemon juice and soy sauce, it is good.

    Sisig - or pig's face

    Sisig – or pig’s face

  2. Lobster – for an avowed fish sceptic, being back in a country where fresh sea food is a mainstay was decidedly good for me. I ate tons of fish and loved it, as I always do. I even tried extremely fresh lobster, after I got someone to show me how to tackle it. As for the effort to pleasure ratio? Totally worth it.
All that remained of the lobster...

All that remained of the lobster…

Filipino dishes I can’t wait to try at home