Specialty Food Magazine

JAN-FEB 2012

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Page 114 of 159

the stir-fry technique that is so popular in today's Filipino cuisine. In 1521, the country's character was dramatically altered with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator sailing under the flag of Spain. Two decades later, the Spaniards renamed the islands in honor of Prince Philip of Spain, the future King Philip II. The robust legacy of the Spaniards, influenced themselves by exploration of Mexico, brought to the Philippines chile peppers, tomatoes and foods sauteed with onions and garlic. After more than 300 years, at the end of the 19th century, the U.S. claimed the islands. In 1946, the country reclaimed its inde- pendence as the Republic of the Philippines. The archipelago, with about the same land mass as Arizona, sits in the Pacific Ocean, about 500 miles off the coast of Southeast Asia. "Traveling to the Philippines and tasting the different palates and sets of flavors in each region is like a journey through history and a discovery of how our country came to be," says Mitchelle Dy, a market specialist for the Philippine Tourism Office in New York. "Like our culture, our food is a combination of influences and adap- tations of flavors and cooking techniques from the many distant visitors and conquerors that inhabited us. Starting with a Malay base, it is mostly a mixture of Hispanic, American and Asian cook- ing styles adapted to mesh with the local produce." The humid climate ensures abundant crops of tropical fruits like mangoes, papayas, bananas, coconuts and pineapples. The prox- imity to water provides plenty of fresh seafood, including milkfish, tilapia, grouper and sea bass along with shrimp, squid and shellfish. Bold Flavors: Sour, Sweet and Salty In Filipino cuisine, big bold flavors are the norm, Dy notes, adding that what sets it apart from the slow, subtle flavors found in other Asian cuisines is the sudden jolt characteristic of these tastes. While similar to other Asian cuisines, Filipino food is less spicy, shares many commonalities with Spanish foods and has distinctive com- binations, such as very salty ingredients added to sweets, that make it distinctive. Breakfast dish champorado, for example, has flavors similar to Mexican champurrado, a hot chocolate drink made with cream and thickened with corn flour. In the Filipino porridge, coco- nut milk replaces the cream and is thickened with glutinous rice, and Nowhere is the Filipino taste for sour foods more apparent than in adobo, considered to be the country's national dish. Preparation involves marinating pieces of meat in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns. JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2012 113 the dish is often topped with dried salted fish flakes. When chile peppers are not aggressively used, salt, vinegar and garlic are added liberally in preparing foods and as condiments. Sides of soy sauce, vinegar, shrimp paste and fish sauce are widely served to accompany and further intensify food. No Filipino would eat kare-kare, an oxtail and vegetable stew, without a dab of bagoong, or sauteed shrimp paste, on each bite. And when a recipe calls for garlic, you can be sure that it will arrive in generous heaps. Vinegar is indispensible to many dishes. Willie Juan explains that sugar cane, the Philippines' second-largest export crop, is the source of much of its vinegar, as is the sap of coconut palms, another important crop. Vinegar is essential in marinated uncooked fish dishes, or kinilaw, and paksiw dishes, where the fish is simmered in vinegar, often with ginger and other seasonings. And vinegar mixed with bird's eye chiles, soy and crushed garlic is a common dipping sauce for fried foods, like crispy pig's trotters (pig's feet). Nowhere is the Filipino taste for sour foods more appar- ent than in adobo, considered to be the country's national dish. Preparation involves marinating pieces of meat in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves and black peppercorns. The meat is then cooked in the marinade. Contrary to the myth that the dish was introduced by the Spanish, adobo is an indigenous preparation that began long before the arrival of the Spaniards, who named it after their word for marinade. Further, the vinegar increased the meal's shelf life—a much-needed feature before the advent of refrigeration. Today, Filipinos cook adobo a number of ways. The most typical meat is chicken or pork, and varied cooking methods and styles include adobo sa gata, to which coconut milk is added to the marinade, and adobo flakes, which involves shredding cooked adobo meat and frying until crispy, the flakes are usually used as sandwich filling or mixed into pasta or white rice.

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