Finding Filipino in food

I never imagined I’d enjoy the kitchen.

My parents were great providers, which meant growing up, my sisters and I never needed to do any chores and get our hands dirty; and if they did get dirty, some one was always around to clean us (and clean up after us). Cooking therefore, was something we were oblivious to. We ate whatever was on our plate and very little questions were asked about how it was prepared by the kusinera (the help in-charge of the kitchen and everything it involves) who was supervised by my Mama.

For 26 years it was like this.

It was only less than three years ago when I moved away from home did I really start grasping what it’s like to support your Self.

Cooking came even later because fortunately in Singapore, food is everywhere. There are massive open-air complexes called ‘hawker centres’ that house many stalls selling a myriad of cooked, inexpensive food from all over Southeast Asia and India; and nearly every nook and alley in the street you will find a bustling café, busy bar or overpriced restaurant serving East Asian, European and North American food. No Filipino food – despite the few hundred thousands of Filipinos living here.

But what is Filipino food anyway?

Nearly all our neighboring countries have clearly defined cuisines, characteristic ingredients and distinct flavours respected, understood and craved for globally. The Philippine cuisine, however, seems quite nebolous in its actual taste and identity, only pigeonholed to the unappetizing balut or greasy, deepfried viands and super sweet desserts. However, there is much more to the Philippine cuisine than high cholesterol, fat and diabetes. It is by all means, reflective of its geographical location, history, and the numerous indigenous and foreign influences, the strongest influence being the Spanish. The Spaniards colonised the country for many centuries and with them they introduced Mexican and South American flavours and styles, which was infused in the dishes the Filipinos have then adapted as their own; each province having their own rendition and own speciality. In many ways, the Philippine cuisine symbolizes the Filipino people: fragmented, constantly evolving, and a little bit of everything.

As a long weekend treat, I made a little something of my own, that tastes like my own, with a little bit of everything – scallop and chorizo ibérico over lemon garlic couscous.

-ET

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