What Makes Filipino Cuisine Special? 3 Chefs Share Favorite Recipes

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While not as famous as its Southeast Asian neighbors, Filipino cuisine has slowly been catching on, with outsiders being curious enough to explore beyond typical favorites such as sisig and halo-halo. After all, with more than 7,000 islands, the country has complex layers of flavors and cooking techniques waiting to be found. For additional insight on what makes it so special, we talked to three experts from the industry, who also shared with us their personal favorite dishes to share with guests.

Erica Paredes: Beef Short Rib with Sinigang Gravy

After working in the publishing industry for more than a decade, Erica Paredes packed her bags for Paris to pursue her dreams as a chef. Now, she has been introducing foreigners to the beauty of Filipino cuisine by serving them boodle fight dinners through her food business Baguettes and Berets.

“I feel that because Filipino food has borrowed flavors from so many cultures, we have a style and taste of our own but at the same time, our food is also familiar enough that it’s not hard to sell to the pickiest of palates,” the chef says.

To Paredes, authentic Filipino food is simple: it should bring one good feelings and memories. In addition to this, there should be something in the dish that you cannot remove because it is the essence of it. “There will always be arguments about what is authentic and what is not,” she starts. “The fact that we have different types of adobo, for example, shows the diversity we have with our cuisine.”

One of her favorite recipes is her Beef Shortrib with Sinigang Gravy, which never fails to impress with the tenderness of the short rib and the unexpected touch of sinigang in the gravy.

Anne-Cécile Degenne: Chicken & Pork Adobo

“To me, Filipino food has a strong link to the Western country, and this makes the food more approachable to everyone,” says Anne-Cécile Degenne, Executive Chef of Raffles and Fairmont Makati. She explains that as someone who hails from Bordeaux, Filipino cuisine appeals to her palate because it has that healthy combination of the familiar and the unfamiliar. “It is easily to translate, but at the same time, you get something different, such as a dish’s sudden sour twist,” she adds.

The French chef explains that the one thing that makes the cuisine special is its ability to bring people together. “Authentic Filipino food is meant for sharing. Typically, I picture food being cooked in a clay pot and bringing family and friends around the table. It makes you feel warm inside,” she shares.

When asked about a favorite Filipino recipe that she likes to prepare, she has a quick answer. “One of my favorite Filipino foods is adobo! I love that it is well-balanced in terms of its taste—you get salty, sweet and garlicky all at once.” She adds that she likes to serve her famous Chicken & Pork Adobo in a clay pot, often with garlic rice or pumpkin puree on the side.

Sabrina Cristobal-Go: Bagoong Paella with Bagnet

“A common misconception about Filipino food is that it’s unhealthy because people think of it as ridden with oil and using mostly pork,” shares Sabrina Cristobal-Go, also known for her blog Sinfully Sabrina. She wants to make it known that the cuisine is so much more than this: “There is culture and history in every layer of flavor in our dishes. That’s what I think makes Filipino cuisine truly unique.”

When it comes to preparing these dishes, she shares that one should take their time in perfecting it. “The act of taking the time to prepare your dish and remembering its art keeps the authenticity alive,” she shares. She gives biko as an example, which only uses three ingredients: glutinous rice, brown sugar and coconut milk. While seemingly simple, it is the act of standing in front of the stove and stirring it for hours that really makes it what it is, giving it the right color, taste and consistency.

She goes on to share one of her favorite recipes, which can be found on her blog. “One of my favorite recipes that I like to share is my Bagoong Paella topped with Bagnet. I love that nowadays, you can just purchased prepared Ilocos bagnet at the farmer’s market!”