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What is Filipino food and what does it taste like? Chefs explain


There are approximately 12 million Filipinos living in more than 100 different countries. This diaspora ranks among the most important around the globe.

The food from the Philippines isn’t as well-known as other Asian dishes. Fans of the cuisine argue that adobo — chicken or pork braised in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and peppercorn — should be as recognizable as phad thai, ramen and shrimp dumplings. 

With more Filipino chefs gaining international recognition, popularity for Filipino food is growing. The 2015 year saw a rise in popularity of Filipino cuisine. Antonio’s Restaurant — helmed by Filipino Tonyboy Escalante — was the first restaurant in the Philippines to break onto the World’s 50 Best list, debuting at No. 48.

Sarsa’s slogan is “Filipino Food Forward” From top to bottom, the Manila restaurant’s dishes include sisig, sizzling kansi, chicken inasal, sisig and crab tortang Talong (eggplants omelet).

Scott A. Woodward

2016. Bad SaintThe James Beard-winning chef Tom Cunanan opened a Washington, D.C. restaurant called. It was voted America’s second best restaurant. Bon Appetit magazine. Manila’s magazine was launched the following year. Margarita ForesAsia’s Best Female chef was awarded by U.K. 50 Best.

However, insiders believe that Filipinos are still struggling to be popularized because they have a lot of misconceptions about the country.

From Manila to Miami, Paris

Cheryl Tiu (Miami-based food journalist, Manila-bathing) is the founder of Miami’s events website. Cross CulturesAccording to a report by, some of the problems can be attributed “hiya”, which means shame in Tagalog (the national language of Philippines).

A baker in Panderya Toyo dusting bicho — a local version of beignets — with sugar and cacao.

Scott A. Woodward

Tiu stated, “We were colonized so long ago and were taught to believe that imported goods were better.” “Thank goodness, the current generation is loud and proud of our heritage.”

Tiu said that TV has not helped her either.

She stated that “We have also been subject to so much negative press because some of our dishes are ‘Fear Factor-ized.’ Many associate our food with this.

Gallery by Chele offers a tasting menu that includes blue crab topped with fermented tomatoes sorbet and a smoked fish dashi. It is also garnished with crystallized Tibig, which is a local type of fig.

Scott A. Woodward

Parisian Filipina chef, echoed some of these sentiments Erica Paredes.

She said, “It almost seems like we have never believed that our food is good enough for the international stage.”

Paredes makes a range of Parisian dishes, including scallops seared with sinigang and fennel. MokolocoA stint that has received praise Vanity FairOther press.

According to her, “Nowadays young chefs take more pride and are more passionate about being authentic. That includes including flavors that bring us joy or comfort.” “It’s as if we were waiting for permission, but now – no more.”

Is this Filipino food?

Most Filipino cuisine has a distinct taste that is sweet, salty and sour.

Chele Gonzalez

Chele Gallery: The Chef

The Philippines’ food is a unique culinary creation, as many others. In the tropical heat, souring agents are useful in preserving food. This is why pickled, fermented and dried foods are so common.

Anglo stated that “we get our souring flavor from fruits such as batwan, tamarind and calamansi… we also offer different types of vinegars.” Anglo added that we also sell dried fish, as well our fermented shrimps like bagoong or Ginamos.,They lend pungent and strong flavors to your dishes.

Carlos Villaflor, executive sous-chef, harvests fresh greens on Gallery by Chele’s terrace.

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Basque chef Chele Gonzalez of Gallery by CheleIn 2010, he made the Philippines his permanent home. The local community welcomed him and he gave a candid assessment about the taste profile.

“The majority of Filipino food has a very particular taste between sweet, sour and salty — sometimes, for us foreigners, it is very difficult to understand,” he said. It’s getting more refined and nuanced thanks to JP Anglo, Jordy Navarre and others.

There are many islands and influences

Chef Jordy Navarra of Toyo EateryManila: Number 49 for this year’s World’s 50 Best list, said Filipino food is difficult to define because it varies across the country — a nation of some 7,107 islands, 22 regions and eight major dialects.

L: Chef JP Anglo in Sarsa Kitchen+Bar: R: Chef Jordy Navarra in Panaderya Toyo bakery.

Scott A. Woodward

His words: “One of our most striking aspects about Filipino food is the diversity.” “There are a variety of regions and islands that represent the food we eat all around the country … the more we learn and understand, the more we can express and share what we eat to the world and to each other.”

History is an important part of our lives.

The Philippines, a hub of pre-colonial Sino-Indo-Malay trade routes was home to a variety of cultures. This melting pot existed before 1521 when the Spanish came. During more than 300 years of Spanish rule — a period which included Mexican influences due to the Galleon trade route that ran between Acapulco and Manila — the cuisine became heavily infused with Latin influences and ingredients.

Following Spain’s loss in the Spanish-American War of 1898, Spain handed over control of the Philippines. The Philippines was then under American cultural control. This included an increased use of the English language, and modern-day cravings for sweets, fast food, and other processed goods.

Navarra stated that Filipino cuisine may include a Jollibee-style peach pie made from mangos, even if there are no peaches. “It can also mean sinigang using sampalok (tamarind) From the tree in your backyard and pork from your neighbor.

Jordy (center) and Toyo Eatery’s team said it is an incredible feat just to stay open, even during the pandemic.

Scott A. Woodward

Anglo, Chef said that elevating the country’s cuisine must start at the level of local communities.

He said, “I think about our Asian counterparts such as Thailand where there is amazing street food.” “I would like to see the movement grow at grassroots level.”

He said he wants to highlight street vendors — “the little guys in the provinces” — who are cooking “amazing traditional dishes” so that they can succeed too. He added that “everyone else can copy them.”

 ‘Authenticity’ in an evolving cuisine

One of the biggest setbacks for Filipino cuisine is so-called “crab mentality” — a widely used term in the Philippines to describe the act of pulling down a successful person near you. The term comes from the crabs that are in a bucket and tend to take down any crab that is close to escape.).

Inauthenticity is a common accusation in the Philippines’ food world.

Panaderya Toyo bakes traditional Filipino breads and pastries, but with modern flair. They use sweet, chewy dough as a tradition.

Scott A. Woodward

Paredes said, “Authenticity is different from traditional.” “I cook according to my experience, having grown up in Manila but also lived overseas and now living in France. I find seasonal European produce, paired with Filipino flavors or Southeast Asian spices, very authentic.”

Navarra explained that he has traveled to discover the Filipino culture and food. To him authenticity is “representing the communities and people that inspire us”

The consensus among the chefs interviewed for this report is that if the flavors are inherently Filipino — if it has that comforting savory, sour, garlicky taste — then the food is legit. 

Next steps

Gonzalez said, “We’re in the middle and heart of a revolution. It’s exciting.” “Nuanced flavors, playing with textures, mixing traditional and modernist techniques — all of these things are elevating the culinary scene.”

The most important factor in the growth of Philippine cuisine may be the unapologetic attitude of the chefs.

Gallery by Chele presents a Filipino street food, called Taho. It is a sweet treat that uses fresh strawberry from Luzon Island and goat milk custard.

Scott A. Woodward

“We are owning it,” Anglo declares. “Chefs like Tom Cunanan or Anton Dayrit in the U.S. are not saying it’s their take on Filipino food or that it’s Fil-Am cuisine … this should be the movement.”

He stated, “We have to be bold.” This is who we really are. We love our food.