Food and Drink in the Philippines

Who better than the Filipino brothers and chefs behind London’s brilliant Filishack street-food truck to tell us about Filipino food, drink and lifestyle? We caught up with Jonathan (19) and Justice (27), as they took a break from rustling up their delicious adobo and inasal in Peckham, South London…

What is your connection to the Philippines?
Jonathan: We’re both 100 per cent Filipino! Our parents are both from Philippines; they met when they moved from Philippines to London for work.

How would you describe Filipino food?
Justice: Filipino food has a blend of sour, salty, sweet and bitter flavours. It has been influenced by different cultures and, over time, has been adapted and perfected by aunties and household cooks. The main concept of Filipino cuisine is one of making something from nothing, and this is reflected in our main cooking methods, such as our national dish, adobo: pork stewed in garlic, soy sauce and vinegar.

What are the key Filipino flavours and cooking techniques?
Jonathan: Key flavours include: soy sauce, vinegars and fish sauce. With adobo, the cooking technique was originally used by the indigenous people of Philippines, who didn’t have methods of refrigeration – instead, they used salt and acidity (vinegar), which help preserve the meat, plus herbs and spices for flavour. That’s just one of many traditional ways of cooking.

Which three or four dishes should people try? Any must-try drinks?
Justice: The Philippines have really bold dishes and some dishes might be quite scary to try at first: balut, for example, which is boiled duck embryo, eaten in the shell, or dinuguan: pork blood stew. There are also some gems out there, that everyone should be aware of. These are my top three recommendations: sinigang (sour tamarind soup with fish or pork); kare-kare (oxtail stew with peanut sauce and vegetables); bicol express (spicy coconut chilli pork). Try our Spanish beers: San Miguel and, of course, Red Horse.

Why is pork such a popular meat within Filipino cooking?
Justice: To give an educated guess, it must be to do with the agriculture of Philippines: we have an abundance of pigs in the Philippines, and not so many cows or lambs. Also, the dish lechón (roasted suckling pork) has made the use of pork very popular.

What cultural influences have shaped the cuisine?
Justice: Historically, the Philippines have been colonised time and time again, and many different nationalities have passed though the Philippines to trade spices, via the spice trade routes. Typically, indigenous people of the Philippines would pick up cultural and culinary influences, including the Chinese with their soy, Spanish with their achuete, Malay influences and, more recently, American influences.

Tell us about Filishack…
Jonathan: Filishack is a start-up business designed to share the Filipino food we grew up with. We serve traditional foods with our own take on it, to appeal to everyone. Our signature dish is chicken inasal: it can be served over rice or in a wrap with rice (as a burrito); we also make beef-shin adobo. Prices range from £4–£5, so it’s an absolute bargain; we operate in Peckham, outside the library (12-5:30pm; every Tuesday–Saturday). The most popular dish on our menu is our grilled chicken inasal rice-box: it’s so good, we both eat it every single day for lunch!

Where is your favourite place in the Philippines and why?
Jonathan: My favourite place in the Philippines definitely has to be Hundred Islands National Park in the province of Pangasinan, in northern Philippines. It’s like a beach resort, with literally 100 islands all in close proximity. The panoramic views and deep blue water will amaze anyone.


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