Food from the Philippines

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Nothing gets me in touch with my roots faster than a bowl of steaming lugaw. In fact, nothing makes me happier when I’m having a bad day. Today, June 12th, is the Philippine National Independence Day and I want to pay homage to some of my all time favorite dishes from home.

Before the food, a little background on this day. For more than three centuries, Spain occupied the Philippines after Ferdinand Magellan landed on the shores of Philippines. The occupation wakened different sentiments in the natives. Some benefited as second class citizens in the Spanish-ruled cities and towns, some were angered by the conquest. It was a long, gruel yet rich history. In the end, the Filipinos started a revolution that won us the freedom we now enjoy (that is, after the subsequent Japanese then American occupation but that’s another story).

And that history continues to live today in the Filipino language, culture, religions, and of course, food.

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One of my favorite flavors to this day is ube – purple yam. That’s the unusually purple stuff there. It’s similar in texture and taste as the taro but a bit sweeter. While I’ve never actually eaten a raw purple yam, I’ve eaten loads of ube ice cream, cake, and anything ube-flavored.

Lugaw is a rice congee cooked with ginger and usually topped with crushed popped pork rinds. My mom always makes this when someone is sick because it’s easy on the stomach and the ginger is soothing to a sore throat. When I’m sick, this is the only food that comforts me.

Dilis is essentially dried anchovies. They’re salty, crunchy and, to the untrained nose, they smell awful when cooked. I like it though. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any rich dish.

Ah, and finally, the pork menudo. The Filipino-style pork menudo is a rich concoction of pork belly, tomato sauce, carrots, potatoes and sometimes liver. I don’t eat liver but the dish has more depth when this is added. Now this, I think, I can cook better than my mom.

Today, as a Filipino, I celebrate our culture of hardwork, communitu and family. Happy Independence Day!

For Filipino recipes, check out my go-to site: Panlasang Pinoy.