Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Urban Eats - Filipino Food 101

By: Cindy Johnson of She's Spicy, a food blog.
I have been traveling since I was a little girl. Most of my travels consisted of visits to my family in the Philippines. Where we live, is on the main land about two hours north of the capital city of Manila. I am thrilled to write this piece about Filipino food because, A) It’s my heritage, B) The food is beyond amazing, and C) There’s a lot of history behind it.

Now if you’ve had Filipino food before you will notice that it has strong cross-cultural influences. This is due to the long history of foreign traders and conquerors. From Chinese to Malayan, Spanish to Indonesian, Filipino food recipes are a mix of foreign cuisines. 

Like other cultures, Filipino’s associate food with family. The more food there is - the better. To them it’s a labor of love. If you’ve ever been to a Filipino fiesta or party you can’t miss the oversized table with a dozen different dishes.  

In the Philippines we eat about five times a day: Breakfast, Lunch, Merienda (afternoon snack), Dinner, Pulutan (snack, usually accompanied with liquor or San Miguel beer). Where Merienda and Pulutan is often picked up, a.k.a. fast food or street food. Everything else is made at home.

Commonly used spices and sauces are Toyo (soy sauce) and Patis (fish sauce). These are used to make stir-fry, soup bases and dips. Chilies, garlic, onion & ginger are also used to add a bouquet of spice and flavor. 

The ultimate staple of Filipino food is rice.  It is served steamed and paired with almost every meal. Left over rice is generally used to make garlic fried rice or chicken congee, also known as Arroz Caldo. You may be surprised but rice is consumed so much that it is served during breakfast. Rice flour is also used in many desserts such as Puto (steamed rice cake) or Biko (sweet rice cake topped with caramel sauce).  Some of the most common Filipino dishes include:

Lechon: Whole roasted pig

Pancit: Stir-fry noodles with vegetables and either pork, shrimp or beef (see left)

Adobo: Chicken or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce

Kaldereta: Meat stew in tomato base

Lumpia (Spring Rolls): Mix of ground pork or beef with vegetables wrapped and deep-fried. Then served with a sweet and sour chili sauce.

Bistek: Thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi (native fruit resembles miniature limes), then fried with onions. 

Merienda/ Pulutan: Marinated BBQ kebabs, Lechon, Lumpia and Puto (see right) is popular but also Taho (warm beancurd also known at tofu, with caramel and tapioca pearls)

Now that you know a little bit about Filipino food where can you find the best Filipino food in Toronto? 

Remely's Restaurant: 4830 Sheppard Avenue East, Scarborough  
Aristokrat BBQ Restaurant: 355 Wilson Avenue, North York

Also stay tuned to my new food blog, She's Spicy as I will be posting personal family recipes that you will just love. -- Cindy Johnson


  1. The Best food!

    Drive up and down Bathrust St. From St. Clair to Steeles. You'll hit most of the Turo Turo style Pinoy fast food joints.

    Other Good Pinoy Rest.
    Barrio Fiesta @Sheppard n Lapsley Scaborough
    Orcel Foods @West Dr. Brampton
    Kusina @ Hwy 5 n 10 Mississauga
    Oriental Mkt @ Confederation n Dundas
    Aristokrat Mississauga, just behind Oriental Mkt in Mississauga
    Somthin Sweet 4 U @Terry Fox n Bristol Rd Mississauga

    And Me: I Import some of the ingredients

  2. I don't think I can make any of this - so I can't wait to try the real thing at some of these places! Thanks Alfredo.

  3. ...Forgot to mention. Max's of Manila Restaurant. The Philippines' most famous restaurant is opening in Vaughan. Somewhere along Steeles and Hwy 400 near Vaughan Mills IIRC. I'll keep you posted Lisa.

  4. Thank you for sharing this... Filipino Food is awesome!

  5. Great Post! Filipino Food is definitely one of my faves. :)


    Pinoy Food on Queen West! Downtown