Food Factor: Pinoy Food for Adventurous Eaters
Sometimes, it's fun to eat outside the box: these Filipino dishes are a must-try.
Beef Papaitan is a popular regional spicy-bitter stew made with goat innards.
Pinoy food may be misconstrued for being a bit strange and with good reason. While our food is always delicious, sometimes the ingredients we use can seem a little unusual to diners who aren’t used to eating loads of offal (organ meats) and unconventional meat.
Given our history as a colony, it makes sense that a lot of our food is rooted in what is commonly known as “peasant culture.” While the elite dined with the Spanish on the prized cuts, most less-fortunate Pinoys had to make do with the offcuts and what little else they could afford. From this arose a food culture that revolves around making delicious food out of what were practically scraps.
Today, many Pinoys enjoy the funky fruits of this rich culinary heritage without batting an eyelid, but most foreigners might be a little put off by our penchant for using things like tripe, intestines and even frogs. For those who are feeling up to the challenge, though, bold flavors wait right around the corner. Here’s a guide to some of the tasties and more unusual dishes that the Philippines has to offer:
A staple in many a reality show, balut has gotten a reputation for being the ultimate gross-out food. If you look past its admittedly rough exterior, though, you’ll be treated to the most flavorful egg you’ve had in your life. Make sure to drink the “soup” for maximum flavour.
Papaitan is a quintessentially Pinoy dish, at least in terms of its roots. Originally from the region of Ilocos, papaitan, which literally translates to “to make bitter” in English, is a dish composed of beef or goat offal cooked low and slow in a mix of spices and, most importantly, bile. It might not be to everyone’s taste, since bitter isn’t the most pleasant flavor, but those who love it do so with a passion.
This street food staple is a testament to the Filipino’s knack for ingenuity and humor. These funky grilled chicken feet are cheekily named after the famous shoe brand, though that isn’t to say they taste like shoes. It might be a little difficult to eat these while on-the-go (the bone to meat ratio isn’t exactly ideal), but it sure does pack a flavor punch.
Using frogs in cooking isn't too unusual, if you think about it. Thanks to the French, frog as a protein seems a bit tame compared to a few other options available out there (starfish, anyone?). However, most diners have never been presented with entire frogs stuffed and roasted in their full glory. Most often served in Pampanga, betute is a dish that is so tasty, most people tend to forget that what they’re eating is out of the ordinary.
5 Soup #5
No one knows exactly why Soup #5 is called Soup #5. Rumor has it that the restaurant that originally served it was so scared to note the ingredients that they could only muster pasting a number on it. Whatever the reason, this almost legendary soup lives up to its shocking reputation because of one crucial ingredient: bull testicles. People who eat this soup attest to its aphrodisiac qualities, but no one’s been able to prove the quite yet.
Photo by Majoy Siason