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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Cuisine dismissal

One of the comments I received about my (admittedly somewhat wryly bemoaning) blog post yesterday was that "other Filipinos" admit that Filipino food isn't that good anyway. Probably meant to stir up the pot a little, that's a dismissal smacking of ignorance and handwaving. Certainly, the outright dismissal of any regional cuisine is suspect, given the evolution of cooking styles along with the history, culture, and biodiversity of the people involved. Although Filipino restaurants seems to be under the attention of the Houston cuisinistas, use of Filipino dishes and styles have not gone unnoticed. For example, one of the early platitudes to Bryan Caswell's Reef is his high-end kinilaw (in this article, called the Filipino ceviche). [sidenote: kinilaw is really a verb - all sorts of things can be made into kinilaw. Imagine going into a restaurant and ordering "grilled". Grilled what? ]

When asked about Filipino cuisine, the food of a nation spread on an archipelago with thousands of islands, dominated by centuries of European and American incursions, and traded with Southeast Asian neighbors cannot be described in a few iconic dishes. The sheer diversity rivals that of Malaysian, Indonesian and Singaporean cookery. For discussion, I like bringing up things for shock value: the balut, an embryonated duck egg, or azucena, dog meat stew. But the many regions and islands of the Philippines bring their own dishes. Americanized Filipino food is also emerging, as are foods that are influenced by the modern influx of processed conveniences (using a powder or a mix for making sinigang is very common nowadays).

The Filipino lumpia has more in common with the Hokkien popiah than the usual Chinese (Cantonese) spring roll. It uses the same very thin crepe as a wrapper quite unlike the doughy wrappers used for spring rolls. Of course, the Filipino twist is the turon - which takes it's name from the Spanish candy of wrapped nougat, but there is practically no resemblance. Turon takes saba plantains (I think I sometimes found here as burro plantains), wraps them into the crepes with slivers of jackfruit, and deep fries them in the presence of brown sugar so that hot caramel studs the crispy wraps.

1 comment:

  1. Certainly, the outright dismissal of any regional cuisine is suspect...

    British Isles?