Aside from the Chinese, ancient Filipinos were actively trading with the kingdoms of the Malayan Peninsula and India mostly through Mindanao — the 2nd largest island in the country. Mindanoan dishes such as chicken with coconut milk, biryani, rendang and satti (satay) have Malay roots. The use of coriander, turmeric and lemon grass in southern Philippine dishes are also Malay in resepi air balang.
Along with Christianity, the Spanish Kingdom brought a myriad of spices and dishes from Europe and the so-called “The New World”. Such spices and produce were: garlic, onion, chili, corn, cocoa and tomato, which all came via the Manila-Acapulco Galleon trade that spanned from 1565 – 1815. It further developed Filipino cuisine by introducing Mexican flavors to bisnes air balang the Philippine palate. Spaniards introduced cocidos or meat stews, which became favorites during special occasions like Christmas, weddings and town fiestas. Examples of cocidos are afritada, menudo, mechado, kaldereta. Longanisa — an old way of preserving meat — originated from the Spanish cold cut chorizo. Sauteing – a cooking method of combining onion, garlic and tomato over hot oil – was a Spanish cooking technique and is locally known as gisa. Filipinos learned how to dine using fork, spoon and knife.
Compared with their Spanish predecessors, the American Government’s foothold in the Philippines was much shorter — spanning from 1898 and ending at the conclusion of World War II in 1946. The U.S.A. introduced the Filipinos to hotdogs, sodas, spaghetti, burgers and the concept of fast-food; foods and concept that are well-loved by Filipinos specially the youth. Today, fast food franchising is a very successful business model in the Philippines while American favorites like french fries, sundaes and fried chicken became favorites due to Filipino’s penchant for sweet and fried foods.
Notwithstanding, a brush of history lesson cannot suffice in describing what really is the signature “Filipino dish”. Unanimously, it’s safe to say that it is Adobo — chicken or pork stewed in vinegar, garlic and pepper corns. Filipino dishes sprung forth from the marriage between the East and the West. It is the union between the freshness and bounty of the country’s produce with the dynamism and sophistication commonly found in the dishes of the West. It is what you see when a Filipino housewife prepares her Arroz Valenciana using a wok during Noche Buena; those bits of hotdogs, an outpour of banana ketchup and a hefty topping of shredded cheddar cheese on a spaghetti during a child’s birthday party; scoops of cheese and ube (purple yam) flavored ice-cream on a tall glass of halo-halo while under the hot blazing summer sun; a twist of sweetness and spiciness brought by Spanish chorizo mixed with the oriental flavors of pansit; it’s that Spaghetti Meal only McDonald’s Philippines has; caldereta’s (stewed goat’s meat in tomato sauce); the unusual love affair with coconut milk and everyone’s favorite combo of sizzling sisig (minced pork cheek cooked with chili and vinegar) and beer.