Filipino Food: 8 Common Ingredients in Filipino Cooking
The Filipino cuisine is rich and flavorful. If you want to try out a few Filipino food recipes, it is first important to know what ingredients are usually used in creating them. This should give you an idea of what to look for when you move back to your own country.
Some of the ingredients in Filipino food recipes can be found only in the Philippines, while others can be easily found in any market around the world. Some of these ingredients have versions in different countries, but have a different taste, texture, aroma or packaging.
1. Rice. Like many countries around Asia, rice is the staple food of the Philippines. While it is commonly used as a partner to a Filipino dish, it can be used in many Filipino food recipes too. We commonly use Jasmine rice as the pair to Filipino dishes, while we use the sticky glutinous rice for kakanin, or sticky sweet treats. If you live in the Philippines, you would know that there are a hundred different types of kakanin and many regions have their own versions. Rice as a partner of a dish can be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2. Bagoong. One Filipino ingredient that some foreigners cannot stand is bagoong. Sure, it does have quite a bit repulsive smell, but it makes so many Filipino food recipes delicious. Bagoong is a fermented paste. There are two types of bagoong. The most common one we use is bagoong alamang which is fermented shrimp paste and we also have bagoong isda which is fermented anchovies. Think of bagoong as a sauce or seasoning. Because of its salty and savory taste, we use this in many veggie-based dishes.
3. Coconut. When people mention coconuts, most people think about the fruit juice. However, in the Philippines, there are a lot of uses for the coconut. Young fruits can be taken for the juice and the flesh, which can be eaten raw or cooked. Young coconut flesh can be cooked as macapuno, or preserved (sweetened) coconut flesh. It can also be processed as nata de coco (coconut gel). Mature coconuts (usually brown in color), when cracked open, produce very little juice. People usually get mature coconut for the flesh. The flesh is grated and can be pressed to get coconut milk or cream. It is very rare for a Filipino to use canned coconut milk since it is readily available in markets. The flesh can also be used as a topping for some native delicacies and sweet treats. There are many Filipino food recipes that ma
ke use of the coconut milk. Most of these involve veggies and chilies.
4. Onion and garlic. Most Filipino food recipes start with sautéing. The most common ingredients for sautéing are onion and garlic, but some people also make use of other ingredients such as tomatoes and ginger depending on the recipe needs.
5. Chili peppers. There are two types of chilies used in the Philippines. Siling labuyo, which is the most popular one, is a small red or green chili. In Thailand, it is commonly called Bird’s Eye Chili. This is a very hot chili pepper. Most Filipinos like a bit of spicy flavour on their dishes so they usually cut one or two Siling Labuyo in a dish that serves around 5-6 people (it is very hot!). The other chili is called Siling Haba. It is a long strip of chili. It is not very spicy, but has the ability to remove the bad odor and taste in foods. It is usually used for dishes that use seafood or pork.
6. Meat. Filipinos like meat a lot. The most common meats we use for cooking are pork, beef and chicken. Some people also use goat meat, but it is very rare. Philippines also have sheep, but it is not common to eat their meat (I have never tasted one). Carabao meat is said to taste really great, but we find it disheartening to breed the national animal for food so it is very rare to find one sold in the wet market. Seafood is abundant in the Philippines. We have many types of fishes and shellfishes here.
7. Vegetables. We rarely use fruits for Filipino food recipes, but we almost always use vegetables. The most common vegetables we use for cooking are cabbage, carrots, Chinese cabbage, cauliflower, string beans, eggplant, okra, pumpkin, potatoes, water spinach and ampalaya (bitter melon).
8. Fish sauce. We use soy sauce and vinegar in many of our Filipino food recipes, but we also make use of fish sauce a lot. Fish sauce may be used as a dip for dishes, but you can directly add while cooking too. It has a very salty taste, and can be substituted for bagoong in some dishes. Like bagoong, it does have a bit of revolting smell.
If you master the use of these ingredients, you are pretty much ready to try out many of the Filipino food recipes. Many of the Filipino dishes use simple cooking methods and still come out with really flavorful dishes. Enjoy your cooking journey!