Decoding the Filipino Menu 4: The Pinoy Meal

Okay, now that you’re feeling more adventurous after your foray into Pinoy breakfast and merienda, you’ve mustered up enough courage to try the unfamiliar territory that is the main Philippine cuisine. But truly, it doesn’t take that much courage if you like Asian food as it’s almost similar to Thai, Chinese, Vietnamese and Indonesian food.

Philippine cuisine also has its local version of the familiar fried chicken, pork chop, grilled meat and beef steak. You can start from there and slowly work your way up to some of the more “exotic” items that you will frequently encounter in a Filipino restaurant including:

Photo courtesy of Bubblews
Pork adobo
Adobo, the most popular Filipino dish, is pork marinated in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, pepper and garlic. Also available in chicken or a combination of both.

Photo courtesy of Affordable Cebu
Lechon (“leh-chawn”) is that charcoal-roasted pig dish that makes any meal or gathering special (except if your faith does not allow eating of pork, etc.) The best part of the lechon is its crispy skin (that's mine!) Depending on what region you eat your lechon, it can be eaten with or without soy sauce or pork liver sauce. Also available is lechon baka (beef) and litsong manok (chicken)

Photo courtesy of The Hungry Excavator
Sizzlig sisig
Sizzling sisig is made from diced and grilled pork parts (head, cheek, and liver), chili peppers, vinegar, lime, salt, soy sauce and topped with egg yolk. It is served with liquid seasoning or hot sauce. Sisig is a favorite among beer drinkers. 

Photo courtesy of Panlasang Pinoy
Crispy Pata
Crsipy pata (“pah-tah”) is pork knuckles rubbed in seasoning, deep-fried to a crispy, crackling taste. It is served with achara (“ah-chah-rah”) or pickled green papaya and soy vinegar dipping sauce. Once again, the skin is mine!

Photo courtesy of  Lahat Sarap
Bicol Express
If you like spicy dishes, hop on the Bicol Express made with pork cooked in coconut milk, shrimps and chilies. 

Photo courtesy of Panlasang Pinoy
Afritada (“ah-free-tah-dah”) is chicken or pork cooked in tomato sauce with carrots, potatoes, bell pepper and green peas.

Photo courtesy of Latest Recipes
Pork menudo
Pork menudo (“meh-noo-dough”) is pork and its liver cooked in tomato sauce with potatoes, bell pepper and green peas.

Photo courtesy of Pinoy Kamayan
Rellenong Bangus
Rellenong bangus (“bah-ngoose”) is stuffed milkfish that is a labor of love because it takes a lot of time and patience to take out the fish meat without damaging the skin. The stuffing is usually carrot, pepper, green peas and raisins. Other variants are: chicken, squid and crab.

Photo courtesy of Golden Recipiz
Kare-kare (“kah-reh”) is thick stew made with oxtail, ground toasted rice, banana blossom, eggplant, string beans, peanut sauce, Chinese cabbage and fermented shrimp paste.

Photo courtesy of Lahat Sarap
Bulalo (“boo-lah-loh”) is beef shanks and marrow bones in a broth served with corn and green onion.

Photo courtesy of Market Manila
Sinigang is soup made sour by tamarind, guava or green mangoes. It is cooked with pork, beef, chicken, milkfish or shrimp as well as string beans, taro and pepper. It is served with a fish sauce dip.

Photo courtesy of Pure Pinoy Recipes
Chicken Tinola
Chicken tinola (“tee-no-lah”) is stew made with ginger, onion, green papaya and chili pepper leaves. (My personal favorite!)

Photo courtesy of Lutong Cavite
Laing (“lah-ing”) is made with dried taro leaves and morsels of meat cooked in coconut milk, chili and shrimps. 

Photo courtesy of Salu Salo
Pinakbet (“pee-knack-bet”) is a shrimp-and-mixed-vegetable (okra, eggplant, bitter gourd, squash, tomatoes) dish with some bits of pork thrown in.

Filipino food is not static. Considering the country has many regions, one dish will be different from one region to another. The adobo can be saucy in one province but dry in another; the Bicol Express can be mildly hot in one but scorching in another. And that’s the beauty of Pinoy cuisine---there’s always something to discover. It’s a never-ending journey to culinary nirvana (with a side trip to your blood pressure monitor). Kainan na! (Let’s eat!)


Next in the series: The Pinoy Dessert

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