Foodies Unite

Trip Start Feb 27, 2007
1
5
30
Trip End Jun 01, 2007


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Flag of Philippines  ,
Monday, March 12, 2007

As you might guess, this entry is all about foods.  The food available here in the Philippines is one of the most unique things one can experience.  In a land saturated by American language and culture, filipino cuisine is an oasis where culture shock can really take hold.
Since arriving here, I have made it a point to eat like a filipino at every meal.  I have been drowned in soy sauce and calamansi juice, stuffed with bagoong rice and dried fished, and I've washed it all down with the freshest fruit and buko juices I can get my hands on.

Easily, the most readily available food item aside from rice is fresh fish.  You can get it pretty much anywhere, and it never disappoints.  However, one rarely orders fish by itself.  Usually, the fish dishes I've had were served at the same time as at least two other kinds of meats (most often pork and chicken).  looking at such a feast spread before me is one of the best things I've experienced here.    For example, this pic shows a lunch I had at a restaurant by Lake Sebu, close to where I'm staying.  The main dish is Tilapia, caught fresh from the lake and grilled.  Also in the photo is a cauldron of Sinigang, a soup flavored with tamarind and ginger, and full of chunks of chicken and vegetables.  At the top left is a plate of kinilaw, a dish made of raw tilapa, also caught fresh that day, and mixed with onions, coconut milk, and cucumbers.  Finally, you can see two staples of my diet, which apply to 80% or more of my meals here - steamed rice and San Miguel beer.  The second pic is from the same meal, but it also shows both the presentation, which I liked, and an appetizer-like dish called chicharron - it is like pork rinds only worlds better.

This next picture is of my friend, John - the husband of Nanette, with whom I am staying.  He teaches nursing at the nursing school, and is an all-around good guy.  Here, he is cooking up a massive pile of Bihon, a dish of vermicelli, sliced carrot, onion, and lettuce, and chicken.  As he is cooking this dish for a rural purok, we had no access to a kitchen and had to cook the bihon over a ghetto chinese-made camping stove.  Nothing like the flavor of kerosene to spice up a meal.  Seriously, this stuff was good.





And of course I could not forget this dish.  This pic is the stuff of dreams.  Jews beware, this is how the Philippines rolls - Lechon, or slow-roasted pig.  The skin is crispy and salty, and covers a layer of creamy pork fat.  Under that you will find some of the softest meat you've ever tried.  This stuff gives me the feeling like I believe in magic again - it's that good.  
Lechon comes in many variations, but once it is served, it is usually gone just like *snap* that.  It is even common to take all the unfinished meat after the meal, deep-fry it, and then continue eating on into the night.  Most of the time it is reserved for special occasions, but I think I've had at least four since I arrived.  Really, pork just might be one of the things filipinos do best, and I've gotta say it has gone straight to my heart, figuratively and literally.

Finally, it would be terrible of me to not present some balance to my description of food here.  Filipino food does have its negatives, and one of the biggest ones if the extreme amount of bones in every dish.  No matter what you try here, you will eventually end up with something like a rock crunching in what you are eating.  Personally, I am ok with bones only when they are found in steaks or ribs.  But here, people seem to not have caught the de-boning wave.  Chickens are chopped up, bones and all. and thrown into the pot.  Fish are rarely filetted, and you sometimes end up pulling more bones out of your mouth than it's worth. 
Another problem - well, not really problem, but simply strange - is that there seems to be no concept of fresh orange juice here.  This stuff is orange drink (I got this one from a McDonalds), and it is everywhere.  It consists of 3 ingredients  - sugar, water, and orange no.5 (thank you to Dave Chapelle for the product research).  I guess this deficiency balances out the other amazing fresh fruit juices you can get here.






Although there is much more I could go into on the subject of food, I really need to get out of this internet cafe.  I will try and add more in later entries, but until then, be well...
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Comments

isydoesit
isydoesit on

JUICE?
I'm slamming Buko juice like it's my job! I pour that stuff all over myself every day! That's how we roll in, um, Chicago.

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