Kumain ka na ba? – Have you eaten? – is the common greeting used in the Philippines, which should tell you right away that food plays an important role in Filipino society. Their cuisine is as vast and varied as the more than 100 ethnolinguistic groups found on the 7,641 islands that make up the Philippines, and reflects the culture, geography, and history of the country. To get a better sense of the breadth of Filipino cuisine, we met with Philippine Consul General Zaldy B. Patron and asked him to walk us through it.
“Early Filipino society recognized food as an important component of their societies and used it to mark significant occasions,” he explains. European explorers recounted the generous meals prepared for them, and how they signified the high status of visitors, something that still occurs in Philippine households today.”
“People welcome their relatives, friends and, sometimes, even strangers into their homes to partake in the food they prepare during the many festival celebrations that occur throughout the Philippines. Food, therefore, becomes a means to build social relations within the communities,” Consul General Patron adds.
Even the way food is eaten is linked to social relations. “Pre-Hispanic Filipinos were recorded to eat with their hands, something which is still done even today and is considered a communal experience.”
Influences from China, India, Japan, Spain, and America are evident in the dishes found in Filipino homes. Depending on where you are in the country determines what is prepared. “Most Filipino dishes have either pork, chicken, fish, or other seafood. Coconut milk, shrimp paste, garlic, vinegar, fish sauce, and tamarind paste, are some essential ingredients and condiments,” says Consul General Patron.
For Filipinos, breakfast can a simple affair of bread, cheese, and coffee, sometimes accompanied by dried meat, fried fish, and fried rice with fried egg. Lunch and dinner are variations on dishes made with vegetables, meat, or fish. And there’s more, too, he says: “Filipinos love to snack in the morning and afternoon, which means some of us can eat up to five times a day.” Snacks range from sweet rice cakes to turon, made with saba banana and brown sugar, to halo-halo, shaved ice with sweet fruit and toppings.
If you haven’t eaten yet – or even if you have – you’re in for a treat! Alberta boasts a robust Filipino culture, with amazing chefs and restaurants in both Calgary and Edmonton. They’ve shared with us here some of their favourite dishes, all of which are reflections of the rich culture and community they come from.