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Why Hasn’t Filipino Food Taken off as Much as Its Other Asian Counterparts Have? Should We Even Care?

July 25, 2016
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Why hasn’t Filipino food taken off as much as its other Asian counterparts have? Is there a reason why this is so?

Why should we concern ourselves with the validation and approval of foreigners for us to really appreciate our own food? This question had been asked so many times. Because our culture is not homogenous compared to, let’s say, Japan, our food has to be presented differently, perhaps by region. Take the case of Singapore, they have diverse culinary traditions: Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Peranakan, Malay, South Indian and Eurasian, and yet, they’re able to articulate and present their food in a culturally cohesive manner. We must also be aware of our ignorance and bigotry with regards to the food of other regions. If one entity proclaim that a particular province is the “culinary capital” of the Philippines, that is simply showing arrogance and disregard for the other great culinary traditions of the country. Perhaps we should be more aware of our cultural differences and try the food of the provinces other than ours, and embrace the food of the more than 80 ethno-linguistic groups of the country, then we will not be ignorant of our culture.

– Ige Ramos, writer and magazine editor.

Good pinoy ingredients are hard to come by outside of the Philippines. You can’t get tuba, Batwan etc overseas. Even the lemon grass tastes different. Enting Lobaton is now in Texas so I guess we can expect better lechon and kinilaw in that part of America. He actually complained that his lechon is not as good because “the pigs in America are too clean”. In Canada Chinese food is apparently really good because rumor has it that all these good Chinese chefs migrated to Canada after 1997.

– JP Anglo, chef and patron at Sara Kitchen.

I think it’s really a matter of perception and confidence in our own cuisine. It’s great that nowadays we’re very proud of what the Philippines has to offer the world in terms of food, restaurants and ingredients and I think the pride and positive feelings towards it now will push it to be better understood by everyone around the world including ourselves. In effect, those developments will help Philippine cuisine really take off globally.

– Jordy Navarra, chef and patron at Toyo Eatery.

Firstly Filipino food is quite complex. It developed through years of colonization to be one of the First global cuisines in the world. Its range is broad, embracing the simple and straightforward indigenous traditions to the more complex cooking preparations that mix-match not only ingredients and cooking methods, but perspectives and philosophies with the intermingling or Arabic, Hindu, Chinese, Spanish and american influences making it difficult to describe in just a line or two.

– Myke Sarthou, chef and cookbook author.

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A lot of Filipino restaurants are popping up abroad, and our cuisine is constantly being touted as the next big thing. Do you think that our food can transcend from exotic trend to mainstay/internationally recognized cuisine? Does it even matter?

Filipino restaurants have been existing overseas since the Filipino diaspora, whether immigrants or workers came into being. In the 70s, Nora Daza opened a Filipino restaurant in Paris and Larry J. Cruz did likewise in Washington DC, followed by a Café Adriatico branch in Hong Kong in the 1980s until the 1990s. Academician and Filipino food writer, the late Doreen G. Fernandez was a regular in the Oxford Food Symposium since its inception in the early 1980s. She has been contributing essays and papers on Filipino food and it continued with Pia Lim Castillo, which is now enshrined in the Oxford Companion to Food, edited by Allan Davidson before his death. Of late, Amy Besa have likewise contributed an exhaustive essay on Philippine Kakanin to the Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Besa together with her husband, Chef Romy Dorotan also ran Cendrillon and Purple Yam, a Filipino restaurant in New York. The reason why I’m mentioning these events, it is because, Filipino food has been existing overseas even before the Millennials were born and looking for the next best thing. Aside from the regular Filipino chain like Goldilocks, Max’s and later, Jollibee, there are a handful of small, community based restaurants all over the world serving the Filipino community. We must really be careful what we mean when we say “internationally recognized cuisine.” The mere fact that Philippine cuisine is already mentioned in a respected publication like the Oxford Companion to Food and in the cookbooks of respected food writers Raymond Sokolov and Sam Sifton of the New York Times, what are we wishing for? Could it be because there are no social media apps during that time that the past events don’t count? We should stop relying in eroticizing our food for it to be noticed. The more unpretentious and uncomplicated we present our food, the better. We must have a collective consciousness in managing our expectation and prepare ourselves what if our food is not the next big thing? Our food should be treated with respect and not some restaurant fad.

– Ige Ramos, writer and magazine editor.

To make a cuisine shine globally it should be backed by a strong agricultural sector which is evidently weak in the country. We also lacked the marketing and business acumen to push for its popularization beyond our shores. However things are beginning to change. And soon enough our time will come. we just have to work closely together to make it happen beyond the hype we enjoy today. There are now restaurants all over the world that specializes in Filipino food. Although these were mostly setup for OFW’s that miss Filipino cooking the presence of this Filipino restaurants have had a big effect on the popularity of our cuisine. However, sadly most Filipino restaurants abroad remain very crude and run unprofessionally, making them uncompetitive on a global stage.

– Myke Sarthou, chef and cookbook author.

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8 comments in this post SHOW

8 responses to “Why Hasn’t Filipino Food Taken off as Much as Its Other Asian Counterparts Have? Should We Even Care?”

  1. Ige Ramos says:

    We should stop making our food exotic, and not erotic. LOL 😀

  2. Julius Espina says:

    some, if not most of us are not familiar with some of our cuisines either like tausug, moro, lumads dishes.

  3. Pa fusion-fusion bullshit kasi. Let’s treat the world to our food as it is, as it has been popular for generations. We don’t trust our food kasi… we delude ourselves into believing that other people would be more accepting of our food if we fuse it with something else. That’s now how Japanese food got accepted. That’s not how Thai food got accepted. We have to be honest with our food, and be proud of it.

  4. highlysuggestive says:

    Personally, i think most pinoys that do want to promote Pinoy food make it elitista by using expensive ingredients or something that most pinoys won’t be able to relate to. If you look at Pho from Vietnam or Pad Thai from Thailand or even the Bulalo bone thingy (sorry I forgot the name) from Singapore – these are very simple dishes na hindi nila pina sosyal so westerners can appreciate it. You can find these dishes virtually everywhere in their countries. I think we need to set up like a big venue where clean everyday food can be served to everyone who wants a quick cheap eat – not by pushcart vendors parked beside parked buses but a nice open space not intimidating to everyone to go to.

    I remember an article here regarding the World Street Food Congress – ang entry ng Philippines was lechon stuffed with truffles. I mean seriously, this was the best venue to showcase our own food but what did we highlight? Another sosyal meal that 95% of pinoys do not even eat.

    Finally, in my stay abroad I noticed westerners find our food “strange” because as examples – why do we need calamansi for noodle dishes, patis/toyo/calamansi for nilagang baka, suka for the silogs. Like each one has to make their own sawsawan to enjoy the food.

    Sorry for the long reply.

  5. Mary Angeline Naguit says:

    Our cuisine has been influenced a lot by our colonizers, hence, much of what we consider as popular Filipino dishes like adobo, mechado, etc. have very similar dishes to other countries, which hinders it from standing out. Some can even argue that such dishes are not truly Filipino. Also, the flavors are much more subtle, nothing that remarkable unlike the spicy dishes of the Thai, or the “coriander-filled” dishes of the Vietnamese. To add, being an archipelago, much of the ingredients vary per region, there isn’t one general taste that can easily be distinguished apart from the “ginisa” flavor. To make it work to our advantage, let us highlight the other dishes from lesser known provinces, as they more unique, rather than sticking to the typical adobo or lechon which is also available in other countries.

  6. walastick says:

    Prepare and present our dishes as is . . . we tend to “frenched” or westernized our dishes. Look at malay and indonesian food, they are just as “unattractive” as pinoy food but they are much appreciated than ours abroad because when we present our dishes, it is far cry different from what we enjoy back home. we mimicked their plating in, we garnish our dishes as if they are french, italian or american food. we substitute ingredients with their ingredients, we copy their cooking style, as a result the identity is lost, the image is unoriginal and eventually the taste is no longer authentic

  7. SobLiza says:

    You are late in the news… Filpino food is becoming popular… even our Ube is a social media sensation in Instagram….

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