Filipino cuisine in general draws influences from other cultures – namely Mexican and Chinese – due to trade, and as a result of occupation and colonization such as American and Spanish cultures.
After foods like canned meats, breads and pastries, chocolate, spices, sausages, and many more arrived in the islands, Filipinos put their own spin on these dishes.
It’s the delicious breakfast foods and beverages that will start the day off right.
Sinangag at itlog (silog)
Regardless of the protein, a side of salted tomatoes, sawsawan (vinegar for dipping), and maybe banana ketchup usually complete the meal.
The staple of most Filipino breakfasts is sinangag, or garlic fried rice. Loaded with fragrant chunks of crispy fried garlic, sinangag is a simple dish that only includes a handful of ingredients – garlic, salt, pepper, oil and rice – but requires a great deal of technique and precision to ensure that it is well cooked.
The garlic should be fried to a specific point of golden brown but not burnt for the right level of crispiness; the rice should be a day old to get the perfect texture; and the level of salt should improve everything – but not too much since sinangag is usually associated with extremely tasty proteins that are pickled, dried or salted.
Sinangag is usually served with sun-kissed eggs (itlog), so it is called sinangag at itlog, which is then abbreviated as silog.
The name of the dish will depend on the type of meat or fish used — for example, if Spam is used, then the dish is Spamsilog. From hot dogs to corned beef, there are many options for silogs.
Tocino is Spanish for bacon, but Filipino tocino is sweet pork (and sometimes chicken) that’s pan-fried in its own marinade until caramelized.
He hails from the province of Pampanga, widely considered by many to be the culinary capital of the Philippines.
Longanisa takes its name from the Spanish longaniza, thin and long pork sausages.
Filipino longanisa fall into two general categories: “de recado”, rich in garlic and spicy; and “hamonado,” or jamon, the Spanish word for ham.
Depending on the region, the longanisa varies from the type of meat used to the preparation. In Vigan, on the west coast of Luzon at the northern end of the country, the longanisa is garlicky and spicy with a touch of sour sugarcane vinegar. The sausages are pan-fried until caramelized.
In the Philippines, rice cakes aren’t the hard round discs that westerners might see in a health food store.
There are many types of kakanin (rice cakes), but there are a few key ingredients that are common to most.
The most obvious is a sticky sweet rice called malagkit. This grain is very starchy, giving it a sticky quality synonymous with kakanin. The other essential ingredients are gata or coconut milk and sugar – ideally brown sugar, which gives more depth of flavor than white sugar.
Extracts like pandan, ube (purple yam), and vanilla all add nuance and flavor to kakanin. Some of the most popular kakanin include suman (sticky rice cooked with coconut milk and sugar steamed in banana leaves) and biko (a caramelized sticky rice cake).
One of the most popular kakanin is bibingka, which is made with ground rice, coconut milk, and egg and topped with salted egg and grated cheese for that Filipino savory-sweet combination. It also pairs well with a steaming cup of salabat (more on that later).
Typically made with thin slices of beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi (a citrus fruit that tastes like lemon, lime, and orange fused together to create a tangy yet sweet superfruit), tapa is usually grilled or stove.
As with many other Filipino preparations such as adobo – a technique of preserving food in vinegar and soy sauce to prevent the growth of bacteria – tapa was a popular method of extending the shelf life of meats by dirtying them or drying them, almost like an ox. jerky. Now, that’s usually another delicious silog option.
Despite its name, pandesal is actually quite sweet.
With a golden crust surrounding a soft, chewy interior, these lightly sweet buns are one of the most popular breads in the Philippines.
The word pandesal comes from the Spanish term pan de sal, which translates to “bread of salt”, even though pandesal is not salty. They do, however, have a unique texture because before being cooked, they are rolled in breadcrumbs.
These yeast rolls can be stuffed with cheese, jam, eggs or meat, but they are good on their own – and dunked in coffee or hot chocolate (tsokolate).
American corned beef, along with other similar canned products like spam, sardines, and vienna sausages, became popular in the Philippines during times of occupation, such as at the turn of the 20th century following the American- Philippines and World War II.
Filipinos have adopted and adapted it into the culinary repertoire by sautéing the canned meat product with onions and potatoes to make corned beef ginisang for cornsilog.
Some people call ensaymada the Filipino take on a bun.
Sherwin Dela Pena/Adobe Stock
This buttery soft bread has its roots in a rolled up bread named ensaimada de Mallorca from the Balearic island of Mallorca, Spain. The flat, flaky bread was covered in lard, called saim in Majorcan, a Catalan dialect.
With decadent layers of butter and sugar, the sweetness of enseymada is perfectly balanced with the salty taste of queso de bola, or Edam, a semi-hard cheese from the Netherlands.
Daing na bangus
Daing is the process of preparing fish and seafood.
Typically, the fish is salted and sun-dried, but it can also be marinated in vinegar, salt, garlic and pepper, usually overnight. The bangus, or milkfish, is butterflied, marinated and pan-fried.
Mexican champurrado, a hot chocolate made with milk and masa harina, arrived in the Philippines at the end of the 17th century, along with chocolate.
Instead of masa harina, Filipinos swapped rice (naturally) to make a chocolate-rich rice porridge for breakfast that is a beloved treat.
Made with malagkit (glutinous rice) and tablea (raw cocoa tablets that have a bittersweet, earthy, almost savory flavor), champorado is cooked for a long time until it has a creamy consistency.
It is often topped with a swirl of milk (condensed or evaporated) and a handful of tuyo – small, salted, dried silver fish – which provides a salty counterpoint to the richness and sweetness.
Arroz caldo is part Spanish, part Chinese and 100% Filipino.
The quintessential Filipino comfort food, lugaw is a flavorful rice porridge that likely made its way to the Philippines via Chinese congee.
The most basic versions are punctuated with ginger, the rice cooked long and slow with chicken until the grains melt into a thick, velvety consistency. The porridge can be simply flavored with a few dashes of patis (fish sauce) and garnished with green onions and fried garlic.
Other toppings include a hard-boiled egg and tokwa’t baboy (fried tofu and boiled pork), which can be added to make it more hearty.
When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippines, they gave lugaw another name, arroz caldo, which means “hot rice”, while adding saffron to it.
Filipinos have their own version of omelets called torta, and they can vary widely depending on the filling, such as ground meat, sardines, and dulong (silver fish). One of the most popular variations is tortang talong, which is made with eggplant.
Eggplants are grilled or roasted, then breaded with beaten whole eggs and pan-fried.
Tortang talong can be eaten on its own or accompanied by sinangag and salted tomatoes.
There is a strong kape (coffee in Tagalog) culture in the Philippines, with coffee consumption on the rise.
Kapeng barako is known for its strong taste (perfect for a little morning pick-me-up). Barako is a Tagalog word meaning strong man, and kape means coffee, hence the term kapeng barako.
According to data from Fitch Solutions, every Filipino is expected to drink 3.78 kilograms of coffee each year by 2025, an increase from an estimate of 3.05 kilograms per capita in 2020.
But coffee goes back even further than current trends; the country is one of the oldest coffee producing countries in the world. Brought to the Philippines and planted in Lipa, about 85 kilometers (53 miles) south of Manila, by the Spaniards, barako coffee refers to a grape variety from the province of Batangas, where Lipa is located.
Hot chocolate is another product that dates back to Spanish colonial times. Tsokolate is made from tablea de cacao (chocolate bars) dissolved in hot water.
Tsokolate can be slightly sweetened with sugar and served with a little milk or cream, but the main thing is foam. Once the chocolate has dissolved, the hot chocolate is stirred using a batidor, a whip-shaped stick.
Made with fresh ginger steeped in hot water, salabat is a soothing and healing tea that is often a go-to remedy during cold and flu season. It is also an alternative to coffee for breakfast.
Photographic research by Rico Cruz