I sense that any Filipinos about to read this are curling their fingers into fists right now, ready to lash out at another denigration of their beloved food. Filipino food is much-maligned. I myself might have been doing the maligning about Filipino cuisine. I might have even said out loud that “Filipino cuisine” is a contradiction in terms. I might have also said that it’s the worst food in SE Asia.
I’ve been too harsh. Without too much hunting around, you can find non-greasy adobo, tasty seafood, and world-class fruit. It helps that I’m not a picky eater, so if every time there are just a couple of the same good things to choose from, it’s OK. It bears mentioning that not once in 100+ meals did I ever get sick, and I ate at some very dicey places.
My beef with Filipino restaurants is that they cook all the food in the morning and so breakfast is warm, lunch is lukewarm, and dinner cold. (Noodles anywhere at any temperature always taste like gargling salt water.) I like humble Filipino restaurants anyway; they have an ambiance I miss. People are sweet, and we can all sit together with our cold food and watch cockfights on TV.
There’s always fast food—there’s ALWAYS fast food—but I never found it appetizing. (It’s funny that fast food places, even donut shops, commonly have armed guards.) USA is justifiably famous for being the king of junk food, but the Philippines has to be in the discussion. When I asked Filipinos what food they don’t like, some said, “Vegetables!” They’re also eating crazy things like liver cooked in blood, chicken feet (commonly called adidas—get it? Clever!) and intestines or congealed blood chunks on skewers cooked over a fire.
When I was by myself, only once in one month of traveling around did I pay more than 100 pesos (43 pesos = $1) for a meal. Portions are tiny, but that’s a good thing in the broader scope of things. The exception to all my simple meals was in Davao where I had a friend who made sure I ate very well and every friend of hers was a master chef. I pounced on every one of them: “What kind of vinegar do you use in your adobo? What about pandan leaves in your rice? Galangal: friend or foe?” Any glamorous food below is from the Davao area.
Why don’t you stay with me? You can follow along with RSS, subscribe to an email feed, see what’s cooking on Facebook, pray that I’ll say something worth remembering on Twitter and if you are really slumming it, there’s always Google+.