Stirring up the Past
A fascinating mix of Chinese and Spanish influences, the flavours of the Philippines are truly unique. Experience a taste of the country’s signature dishes
Fusion cooking has always been the norm in the Philippines, and, over the centuries, many different influences have been adapted to suit local tastes and ingredients.
The winds of trade no longer fill the sails of galleons and junks, but the food in Manila bears silent witness to the ships that once dropped anchor in the bay and the sailors and settlers of days gone by. Fusion cooking has always been the norm in the Philippines, and, over the centuries, many different influences have been adapted to suit local tastes and ingredients. Malaysian and Arab cuisines have all left their imprint on local the cuisine, however, it is Spanish and Chinese that have helped shape its distinctive characteristics today. Even the most indigenous dish is likely to bear the hallmark of one or the other, if not both, and they are clearly evident in Manila, where Spanish and North African inspired savoury breads and pastries; and the Chinese legacy of dim sum, noodles and sweet sticky rice cakes are always close to hand.
If you like food, you’ll love Manila. Makati Shangri-La, Manila located in Metro Manila’s financial district, is situated at the heart of the city’s modern transformation. But you don’t have to stray too far to appreciate how the flavours of the past still linger in Manila’s kitchens.
About five minutes walk from the hotel, the plazas and water features of the Greenbelt complex make it welcome retreat from the urban jungle. It’s a magnet for people looking for some retail therapy, spiritual solace – there’s a Catholic chapel among the trees — or some local flavours.
On the second floor of Greenbelt 5 you’ll find the boutiques of Filipino designers such as Amina Aranaz and Randy Ortiz and the restaurant Fely J’s, where you can savour classic Filipino fare such as adobo, stewed pork, which is commonly regarded as the unofficial national dish, and lechon kawal, pan-roasted pork.
You’ll soon realise that Filipinos really love their pork and rice, but beef, duck, chicken and seafood are also to be found, and on the ground floor, Mesa Filipino Moderne, which as its name suggests features modern twists on Filipino classics, boasts a wide selection of seafood dishes, including an adobo featuring baby squid stewed in squid ink.
Old World, New World
If you want to get a feel for what it was like back in the 16th century after the galleons of Spanish conquistador Miguel Lopez de Legazpi arrived in 1571, enjoy an ensaymada, a cheese sweetbread inspired by the ensaimades that originated in Majorca, and a Spanish-style hot chocolate before touring the walled city of Intramuros in the entertaining company of guide Carlos Celdran, who provides some welcome cheer within the austere walls.
The Spanish influence on Filpino cuisine is hard to miss, but they administered the Philippines through their viceroy in Mexico, and there is also a distinct Mexican influence in the flavours and ingredients of some Spanish-derived Filipino dishes such as kalderetang baka, a piquant beef stew that incorporates chillis and tomatoes.
Within range of Intramuros' canons is Binondo, Manila's colourful 400-year-old Chinatown. Chinese cuisine is the other big influence on Filipino food, especially evident in the abundant use of soy sauce and vinegar and the local love of sweet and sour combinations and noodles.
Head over to Ma Mon Luk on Quezon Boulevard in nearby Quiapo, for a bowl of what is said to be Manila's best mami, chicken noodle soup, before checking out Quiapo Church and its Black Nazarene, which is believed to have miraculous healing powers.
And while the tradition of merienda, or mid-afternoon snack, may have derived from the Spanish siesta, it is Chinese inspired foods that have become indispensible to this Manila institution. So do as the locals do and fill in the gap between lunch and dinner with some delicious between meals treats such as Filipino-style steamed buns and dumplings and coconut-flavoured rice cakes.
And if you are looking for the quintessential fusion of local, Spanish and Chinese cuisines then look no further than champorado and tuyo, a unique combination of chocolate rice porridge with dried, salted fish. The innovative medley perfectly encapsulates the diversity of Filipino fare.
Showing 1 comment
I am from Manila and I am scared to eat in ordinary places among the Metro-most of them are unsanitary.
I like Makati Shangri-la.. I have the blessing from God to eat at SAGE-it is grand and really fine :D
I think one of the best place one can visit to eat Pinoy food is at Kamayan' s Buffet Restaurant-there' s one at Malate & at Glorietta, Makati. Fine Pinoy food a foreigner must try is the SISIG-Monterey Meatshop sells a prepared Sisig eat which one can heat in their kitchen.. it' s good with Calamansi & friend in butter or fresh veggies on the side along with Sinangag rice.
When in Manila, foreigners must not go home without eating their seafood meals.. best are the Sugpos (Prawns) & Alimango (King Crab). It' s cool to buy them fresh :) for cooking.. best fried in just butter, Monosodium Glutamate & Salt.
I thank God for the good food I get to have here at home-He gives us money & good buys in my mom' s fave places.
Shrimps: my boyfriend and I love, best from Manila!!