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Everything You Need to Know About Filipino Food

By Danielle Walsh


From the May/June 2017 issue

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To get a taste of authentic Filipino food, it’s no longer necessary to book a trip to the Philippines. Meet the chef helping to bring the complex island cuisine stateside.

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If you’ve eaten at a pan-Asian restaurant, you might have crunched into fried lumpia rolls or marveled at the deep flavor of tangy, garlicky chicken adobo. Soon, however, a broader spectrum of Filipino food may become as familiar to us as Thai. The comforting, belly-filling cuisine has wowed the food world, with new hip eateries and food trucks popping up everywhere from Los Angeles to New York City.

Chef Armando Litiatco of F.O.B. in Brooklyn, which focuses on ihawan (grilled food), wants to introduce diners to the regional differences within the cuisine, too. “Southern dishes are spicier and include coconut milk,” he says, “and in the north, the food has more mellow flavors and more vegetables.” We asked him to walk us through five dishes you’re likely to encounter—and flip for—on a Filipino menu.

1. Kilawin

“Similar to ceviche, kilawin is raw fish dressed with citrus. Instead of lime, we use kalamansi, a citrus that tastes like a cross between a key lime and a tangerine. The dish is often mixed with things like mangoes and tomatoes—and sometimes coconut milk.” 

2. Kare-Kare

“This is a stew made of oxtail, tripe, and ground-up peanuts. It’s served with shrimp paste (fermented dried shrimp that’s ground and sautéed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes). It’s a must-try.”

3. Ukoy

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“A type of fritter, ukoy is made with chopped mung bean sprouts, shrimp, carrots, and other roots such as taro. The raw mix is coated in a batter and fried until crispy, then served with a spicy, tangy vinegar dip.”

4. Kaldereta

“In the Philippines, we’re big on marinating. To make kaldereta, a type of stew, you marinate meat and vegetables overnight in red wine, and then add liver pâté and broth and cook it on low heat for many hours. Kaldereta is often made with beef, but on a special occasion we’ll use goat.” 

5. Inasal

“For inasal, chicken is marinated in a blend of vinegar, lemongrass, ginger, and achiote, a little red seed that stains the marinade red, and then grilled and served with rice.”

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