At a recent cooking class, we got to spend an evening learning about the food and culture of the Philippines from Glenda Bautista. She and her family have lived in the United States for 21 years and they have made their home in Tupelo for the past 11 years.
Historically, Filipino cuisine was influenced by Spanish, Chinese and American cultures. That blend of flavors and ingredients creates a very unique style of food! Counterpoint is achieved in Filipino cooking by pairing sweet and salty flavors. Some commonly used ingredients are rice, coconut, garlic, vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, cassava, citrus fruit, ube (purple yams) and chilies.
We started our cooking session by making a quick appetizer of vegetable fritters. A mix of mung bean sprouts, green onions, carrots, zucchini and batter were formed into patties and pan-fried. A salty sweet asian flavored dipping sauce with minced jalapeños and shallots was the perfect complement for the crispy fritters. The entree was chicken adobo with perfectly cooked soft and fluffy white rice and stir-fried baby bok choy. What is chicken adobo? It is a classic Filipino comfort food made by simmering chicken thighs in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, ginger and shallot. When you cook chicken in this way, it results in meat that is falling off the bone tender and bursting with flavor! We made a lovely dessert of Filipino lumpia. We thinly sliced plantains and jack fruit and dusted them with brown sugar. Then we rolled it all up in egg roll wrappers and deep fried until golden brown. A smooth and creamy caramel sauce made from coconut milk was drizzled over the top. Dessert was served with asian ice cream. A definite highlight of the evening was that caramelized coconut milk! But everything was delicious!
If you were going to take inspiration from this cooking class and have your own Filipino night at home, these dishes would be perfect to make! You can find some of the recipes below! Or you could go for a street food theme. Street foods are also an important part of Filipino culture and cuisine. Look into recipes for Dinamita (cheese stuffed chilies wrapped in egg roll wrappers and fried), Carioca (rice and coconut formed into dough balls and fried), any Pancit (noodle) dish and Filipino Barbeque.
3-4 lbs chicken thighs and/or drumsticks
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white vinegar
5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp whole pepper corns
2 dried bay leaves
1 inch ginger, cut in strips
1 small shallot, sliced
1/4 cup water
green onions (optional) for garnish
2 tbsp cooking oil
In a bowl, combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, pepper and bay leaves.
Pour mixture over the chicken. Cover and marinate for a few hours to overnight in the fridge.
Heat cooking oil and sauté shallot and ginger. Add chicken with marinade and stir. Add water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Remove the lid and simmer for another 10-15 minutes until the sauce thickens and chicken is tender.
Serve with rice and vegetable sides.
Filipino Turon (Banana Lumpia Rolls)
20-25 spring roll wrappers
4-5 ripe plantains
1 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup jackfruit (optional), cut into strips
vegetable or canola oil for fying
Peel and cut plantains in half (crosswise). Then slice it lengthwise into 4. Set it aside.
• At this time you can heat your oil for frying.
• Lay spring roll wrappers few at a time to prevent the rest from drying.
• Place the brown sugar in a flat dish. Start rolling banana in the brown sugar making sure all sides are coated generously.
• Place the banana at one end of the wrapper and lay few strips of jackfruit. Start wrapping (demonstrated during cooking lesseon).
• Once the oil is ready, start frying in 4-5 batches. Fry each side around 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
• Drain them on wire rack or paper towels. Enjoy it while it is crispy and warm.
• In the Philippines, we make Caramel Sauce for dipping or coating. But it can be serve with honey or syrup of choice.
1 cup of brown sugar
¾ cup coconut milk
• Caramelize brown sugar in a saucepan then add coconut milk. Bring it to boil then simmer for 30 minutes and stir it occasionally until it thickens. You know it is ready when the back of your spoon is coated with syrup. Drizzle over “ turon “ or as a side dipping sauce.