Beef stew
Photo by Hansuan Fabregas / Pixabay

The joy of Filipino cooking

2 months ago
1 min read

Reflecting on Filipino cuisine, I’ve come to realize that many dishes bear the marks of European culinary influence. This connection isn’t surprising, considering the Philippines’ history as a Spanish colony for over three centuries.

In my childhood, meals prepared by my maternal grandmother and mother often featured rich, tomato-based meat dishes with Spanish-sounding names. Guests would praise the tenderness of the meat, the richness of the sauce, and the variety of flavors.

Not content with simply enjoying these dishes, I observed closely and learned to recreate them. My mother, pleased with my curiosity, taught me eagerly.

Traditionally, Filipino mothers, rooted in rural upbringing, rarely relied on written recipes or cookbooks. Instead, they possessed an intuitive understanding of ingredients and cooking techniques, adjusting measurements by instinct and taste to achieve culinary perfection.

Living far from home, I often crave the comforting flavors of my mother’s and grandmother’s cooking. Despite knowing their recipes, I struggle to replicate their dishes exactly.

However, I’ve found a silver lining in my kitchen failures. Experimenting with ingredients and techniques, I’ve blended Filipino dishes with European influences, as found in cookbooks.

For instance, my mother’s caldereta has transformed into a version of boeuf bourguignon. Though not as perfect as her caldereta or Julia Child’s French classic, I find joy in the result. Each bite of rice and beef in rich wine sauce transports me to culinary bliss.

Sharing my culinary experiments with friends, I’ve received appreciative feedback, even if my chicken afritada occasionally masquerades as coq au vin in my celebratory heart. 

While my versions may not rival the originals, I find joy in the process of adaptation and the satisfaction of crafting dishes that reflect my evolving palate.

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