It’s no secret that Filipino cuisine is a rising star in the food world, but there’s one question that seems to linger in the minds of those who are tempted to try it: What exactly is Filipino food?
Often referred to as the “original fusion cuisine,” the dishes draw inspiration from Spanish, Malaysian, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and American cultures. Bridging the gap between the world’s favorite flavors, you’ll find the typically sweet, salty, and sour ingredients to be accommodating for nearly every palate. This is perhaps the main reason why Google searches for “filipino food” have doubled since 2012, and are more frequent than ever.
While the world has finally become aware of what Filipino food has to offer, F.o.b (“fresh off the boat”) Brooklyn’s chef Armando Litiatco has known its potential all along.
Litiatco grew up in Daly City, a large Filipino community in California, where he was exposed to “amazing Filipino food and restaurants” from a young age.
The versatility of this cuisine means every restaurant serving Filipino food does things uniquely. At the modern Filipino-American restaurant Lasa in Los Angeles, brothers, co-owners, and Filipino-Americans Chad and Chase Valencia describe their place as being centered around family. They offer traditional Pinoy dishes like sweet and savory pancit noodles and a goat meat stew called kaldereta. On the opposite coast, NYC’s Jeepney is known for funky signature dishes like the Dampa Fry (a whole fish with chiles and escabeche sauce) and its award-winning Chori Burger.
At F.o.b, Litiatco incorporates a method of cooking called “Ihawan” which means “grill house.”
“We like to say we do Filipino backyard cooking on a Sunday afternoon,” he says.
But Litiatco think there’s a common misconception about Filipino food: that it’s unhealthy and full of fat.
“It’s not heavy! It’s not fatty! It’s full of vegetables and naturally gluten free (except the soy sauce),” he adds.
If you’re craving some Filipino food, here are some recipes to try out in your own kitchen:
Paul Qui’s Pakbet (Pinakbet, Filipino Vegetable Stew)
This vegetable and meat stew, created by Austin chef Paul Qui, might just become your new favorite comfort food. The key ingredient is a special Filipino sautéed shrimp paste, which you’ll probably use for other Filipino recipes. Get our Paul Qui’s Pakbet recipe.
Champorado (Filipino Chocolate Rice Pudding)
You’ve probably had your fair share of rice pudding, but now’s your chance to indulge in some chocolate rice pudding. The beauty of this dish (adapted from cook and photographer Jun Belen) is that it’s versatile. Belen recalls enjoying it for breakfast alongside buttery rolls and fried salt fish, or chilled as an afternoon snack. Just be sure to use good-quality chocolate for the best results. Get our Champorado recipe.
Salmon-Miso Sinigang (Filipino Sour Soup)
With this dish, you’ll get a good feel of how Filipinos work with sour. This seafood soup, developed by blog writer Marvin Gapultos, is a unique version of the classic Filipino dish called sinigang, with a few modifications like adding lime juice, salmon, and miso. Get our Salmon-Miso Sinigang recipe.
— Head photo: Project Adobo.