Food Culture and Tradition

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Glossary of Foods and Food Terms in Philippines


Achara: generic name for a variety of sweet/sour pickles and relishes served with meat or fish.

Adobo: classic Philippine dish of slow-simmered chicken and pork (other meats may be used) cooked until the liquid evaporates. Oil is added to brown the meats, then the whole is served with rice. The rich sour taste and thick brown sauce is the result of first marinating the meats in mild palm vinegar liberally spiced with garlic and peppercorns, while the final browning in lard is accelerated with a dash of soy sauce. Adobo can also refer to foods cooked with vinegar, garlic, and soy sauce.

Apa: deep-fried filled Lumpia wrappers. Apa may be filled with many combinations of meat, fish, seafood, and vegetables, almost always distinguished from Chinese egg rolls by the addition of shredded tropical vegetables or fruits, sometimes even garbanzos. Another form of Apa is similar to Mexican tacos: crisp-fried open Lumpia are layered with fresh shredded vegetables, diced bean curd, and several varieties of beans then topped with spicy condiments.

A Pay Ng Naka: small chunks of liver simmered in a garlic-chili-lime-juice sauce with ginger and brown sugar and finished with a splash of coconut milk.

Bagoong: a thick paste made from fermented salted fish or shrimps, sometimes called the “Philippine caviar.” It is used in cooking and as a condiment and often as an appetizer commonly served together with sliced green mangoes.

Buko: the gelatinous pulp of young green coconuts used in many fruit desserts. Sometimes this name is given to ice cream that is served right from the green coconut shell.

Calamansi: a local type of lemon with a taste between lemon and lime. It is used as a flavorful sprinkle on almost anything, frequently in cooking and in desserts.

Champorodi: small bowls of pudding made from glutinous rice (Malagkit), evaporated milk, coconut milk, and sometimes chocolate. Taken as a snack, and sometimes for breakfast.

Chinese Shrimp Toast: triangles of bread spread with a seasoned shrimp mixture and then deep-fried. Served hot as an appetizer.

Chorizos: garlic-flavored pork sausages used in many dishes. Brought to the islands by the Spanish.

Dilis: small cured and salted fish (similar to anchovies or sardines) dipped in batter, deep-fried then served as appetizers.

Empanadas: meat-filled pastry turnovers, served for snacks or as appetizers. The Spanish name reveals their origin.

Ensaimada: yellow saffron buns coated with a sugar glaze. A favorite with breakfast coffee.

Ensalada Itlog: Philippine version of potato salad with the addition of cooked rice, all tossed with French dressing.

Escabeche: sautéed fish, again with the cool sour taste imparted by the marinade, which is then poured over the cooked fish and allowed to chill to blend the flavors.

Estofado: any foods prepared with a brown sugar sauce, vinegar, and spices – usually meats.

Gazpacho: cool, tangy blend of fresh pureed summer vegetables forming a light soup. Served with small bowls of garnishes: croutons, chopped hard egg, minced scallions, etc. A Spanish import.

Ginesa: a dish of browned pork dice, shrimp, onions, and garlic seasoned with shrimp paste and Patis. Wedged tomatoes and any prepared vegetables at hand are steamed on top. The whole mixture is tossed before serving with rice.

Guisado: sauteed.

Halo-Halo: beloved Philippine dessert served in tall glasses and sometimes sold in cans. Layers of mashed mixed ripe fruits and sometimes beans, shaved ice and topped with cream.

Inehow: classic baked stuffed fish. A large whole fish is stuffed with a rice mixture including well-sautéed onions and garlic, tomatoes and flavored with Paris. The whole stuffed fish is then wrapped in banana leaves (or foil) and oven-baked or baked in a charcoal pit.

Kaldereta: similar to the Spanish fish dish Caldereta, a stew of goat meat, sometimes lamb, rather than fish.

Luglug: thick rice noodles also called Bijon, named for the noise they make both when being stirred and eaten.

Lumpia: the thin pastry wrappers or skins used for Apa or Lumpiang, prepared like crepes, but made with rice flour and water.

Lumpiang Ubod: Ubod is finely shredded coconut palm hearts, added to minced shrimp and chicken and wrapped in Lumpia before deep-frying.

Merienda: late afternoon break of sweets and tea. The Philippine version often includes savory dishes made from fish or seafood. Rice is not included in a merienda, as it is not considered a meal. Of Spanish origin.

Pancit Lulug Palabok: a dish of boiled rice noodles layered with a red sauce made from achiote seeds and shrimp juice, then a layer of browned diced pork and shrimp topped with a garnish of crushed garlic cracklings, flaked dried smoked fish, some shredded greens and wedges of eggs or salted eggs. The long noodles symbolize long life, making this a popular dish for special occasions.

Pancit Molo: a Philippine elaboration of Chinese won ton soup. Molos are similar to won ton: triangle shapes of noodle dough filled with finely minced chicken and pork, liberal with garlic. Some of the filling is browned, then chicken stock is added and finally the Molos. A sprinkling of chopped scallions is the garnish.

Pan de Sal: crusty white sourdough bread, taken with hot chocolate for a light breakfast.

Patis: the amber fluid prepared from salted fermented fish and used widely as a flavoring and condiment.

Pato Ng May Tsokolate: duck roasted with a dark tart sauce made with sherry, lime juice, and bitter chocolate.

Salabat: a refreshing tea steeped from fresh ginger and brown sugar.

Sinigang: classic sour soup made from mix of tart vegetables and a stock of chicken or pork hocks, finished with Patis and flavored with tamarind or calamansi.

Suman: sweetened glutinous rice steamed in rolls or squares of banana leaves. A popular snack at any time of day and often taken at merienda.

Ube: purple yams.

Ukoy: shrimp and bean sprouts held in a light batter and deep-fried into lacy rounds. Served as snacks, appetizers, or one of the courses of a merienda.

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