The rich flavours of the Philippines could find a receptive audience in America soon, according to chef Andrew Zimmern.
The globe-trotting host of “Bizarre Foods” has praised Filipino food for some time now.
“I think Filipino food is… you know, I’ve been calling it for five years. It’s just going to keep getting more and more popular,” he recently told Business Insider.
And it’s about time — the food of the Philippines is almost uniquely positioned among global cuisines, enjoying a wide range of influences that make it not only delicious, but also surprisingly accessible to the American palate.
Filipino cuisine is a complex and fascinating tapestry of Malay, Spanish, American, Japanese, and Chinese influences, thanks to the island country’s fraught history of Western colonization and various occupations.
The pre-colonial Philippines was a center of trade between China, India, and Southeast Asia, bringing tofu, soy sauce, stir-frying, congee, and biryani into the culinary fold.
The arrival of — and bloody conquest by — the Spanish in the 1500s brought chilli peppers, tomatoes, corn, and potatoes from South America, as well as an affinity for garlic and onions. The widespread use of Spam in Filipino dishes harkens back to America’s 48-year annexation, having wrested it from the Spanish during the Spanish-American War.
Vinegar, plus a profusion of aromatic garlic, are key elements of Pinoy cooking. The trendy flavours of Spanish, Indian, and Japanese food are all present, and there’s a fantastic and frequent play between acidity and sweetness throughout.
All of this comes together into a unique and broad culinary culture that seems poised for the American market.
Take the spaghetti served at Jollibee, a fast-food chain that is ubiquitous in the Philippines and is looking to spread stateside. The sauce leans toward the sweeter side, balancing out garlic and tomato with a sugary lightness — and chunks of Spam and sausage make a salty counterpoint. It’s an entirely unique take on the pasta dish, yet it has a comforting familiarity to it nonetheless.
And while many are put off by Pinoy foods that are unorthodox by American standards — balut, a boiled duck embryo, or diniguan, a stew of pork offal and pig blood, come to mind — the sheer breadth of meals and culinary traditions means there’s bound to be something for everyone.
With its close proximity to Spanish, Japanese, and Chinese food, which American palates crave more and more, it’s the perfect time for Filipino cuisine and its unique medley of influences to take over.
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