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In defense of Filipino food (a rebuttal by Claude Tayag)

(I love this rebuttal from Claude Tayag in defense of the Filipino Food. I'm publishing this with permission from the author so that more Filipinos could read this. Let me know what you think...)

Filipino Food Off the Menu 

(Photo from Filipino food: Off the menuLA Times, Feb. 25, 2010, by Amy Scattergood.)

May 7, 2010


The Editor
Los Angeles Times
202 West 1st Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012-4105, United States

Dear Sir:

In defense of Filipino food

This is in reference to the article, Filipino food: Off the menu (LA Times, Feb. 25, 2010, by Amy Scattergood.) featuring Filipino chefs working in Los Angeles who the author says grew up eating Filipino food although the cuisine “has yet to assimilate into mainstream culture, much less their restaurants.”

Ms. Scattergood, for instance, quoted Filipino-American chef Andre Guerrero who, by the way, I commend for being voted Los Angeles’ Top Chef by the Los Angeles Times magazine, as saying, “I love it. I grew up eating it. But how does it fit into what we do? It really doesn’t.” Yes, I agree, Filipino food doesn’t fit into what Chef Guerrero does, but how could it otherwise when he has little familiarity with it, having left the Philippines at a very young age? And subsequently, having been professionally schooled in Western/Continental cuisine, his expertise is limited only to such cooking and does not include Filipino cuisine, no matter if he says he grew up eating it and to what degree of authenticity, I wonder?

Another Filipino-American featured is LA-based food blogger Marvin Gapultos who describes Filipino food as “regional (and) we don’t have one unifying dish; there’s adobo, but there’s about 7,000 ways to make it.” Does one unifying dish like hamburger or hotdog make a national cuisine any better? I would like to stress that having such a diverse culinary heritage certainly puts the Filipino at an advantage. Filipino food offers so much variety and nuances in taste and flavor and the diversity is an asset rather than a liability. In Asia, for instance, Singapore owes its cuisine to the Malaysians, Indonesians, Chinese, Indians and Nonyas who have settled and intermarried in the little state, and yet  Singaporeans have successfully marketed an indigenous cuisine, all their own, internationally.

Author Scattergood remarks that the “diversity of people, landscape and (Philippine) history … is reflected in the haphazard etiology of the food.” To that, may I say, rather than dwell on the differences amongst the people, geography and the different foreign cultures that have colonized and influenced the Philippines, why not focus on the similarities that bind the country together?

Another LA-based Filipino chef Rodelio Aglibot says we probably have “one of the least understood cuisines: are we Pacific Islanders? Are we Asians? There isn’t a defined identity.” The Philippines holds a unique position as the only country in Asia influenced by both sides of the Pacific – from its neighbors in the region and India, and Mexico and other parts of the Americas during two and a half centuries when the Galleon Trade flourished. Add to the pot, Spain and the United States, and you have a vibrant mix of all these cultures, which rather than confuse, give modern-day Filipinos a particular personality who is comfortable with himself and, at the same time, at home with the rest of the world.

Mary Jo Gore, a Filipino chef instructor at Pasadena’s Cordn Bleu who was also featured in Scattergood’s article, seems to have a  problem with aesthetics when it comes to Filipino food. Such food, she was quoted as saying, “is comfort food (and) visually, it’s not very appealing. It’s stewed, and brown, and oily and fried.” I beg to disagree. It is only as unappealing, brown, oily, and fried as one makes it. I’ve eaten some really greasy American and Chinese food in Los Angeles and New York. Go deeper South within the US and you would find some of the greasiest grub on the planet. I invite Ms. Gore to come to Manila and I will personally treat her to some of the most gorgeously-prepared toothsome Filipino dishes here, far from the unappealing stewed, brown, oily and fried fare of her recollection.

Ms. Scattergood mentions the notion in her article that “if there are 7,000 adobo recipes, then only one of them is the one you grew up with.” To say that there are 7,000 such recipes is an understatement. Truth to tell, there are as many kinds of adobos as there are Filipino households. To treat adobo as a dish is incorrect. It IS a cooking technique, that is, it is the braising of any meat (chicken, pork, beef, quail, duck, venison, seafood, etc.), or vegetable in vinegar, garlic, black peppercorn and bay leaf, with regional variations or personal preferences in adding soy sauce, achuete (annatto or Mexican achiote), coconut cream, lemongrass or turmeric. It can be made like a saucy stew, or thickened with chicken liver, or the adobo-cooked meat may be pulled apart to be deep fried into crispy flakes.

This versatility makes it the most popular and well-loved Filipino comfort food, along with sinigang, a clear-broth soup dish made sour with certain kinds of local fruit which, again, is used depending on the region or season when such fruit is available.

The sense I get as I read Ms. Scattergood’s article is that the Filipino-American chefs she interviewed seemed to be apologetic and/or ashamed of their cultural heritage. I wonder, could their having adapted to and excelling in the Western way mask an inordinate desire to belong and be accepted in the Western mainstream, leaving them at risk in forgetting their provenance (Ang taong di marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay di ....)? They have been away from the Philippines far too long to even claim they eat “Filipino” food at home.

Aglibot asked rhetorically, “Why hasn’t Filipino food assimilated? Because it’s still assimilating.” On a final note: Filipino cuisine is “happy food.” It is meant for sharing, just like most other Asian cuisines which are served family style. All said, in spite of all the political turmoil and economic setbacks the country has been plagued with since time immemorial, Filipinos are found to be the happiest people in Asia, and the 6th happiest in the world (World Values Survey, 2004).

At this point, I’d like to take this opportunity to invite any or all of the Filipino-American chefs interviewed in the article to share a meal with me at Bale Dutung and reacquaint themselves with the food of their childhood and how it has evolved in these current, contemporary times. Ms. Scattergood, you’re very much welcome to come, as well. The tab is on me.  

Truly yours, 

Claude Tayag
Bale Dutung, Angeles City, Pampanga, Philippines
claudetayag@gmail.com

JUNE 11, 2010 UPDATE: The "Behind the Scenes" aspect of Amy Scattergood's article 

Claude, 

Thanks for your response, and I'd appreciate it if you could share these to your colleagues as well. Amy is a good industry friend, and she means well, I assure you this as I "cc" her this email. Our cuisine will make it out there, there are a lot of people working hard for it, the time is now, but times are tough... It's going to take talent, a good knowledge of the food we hold so dear to our hearts, and some money to do it right. But it will get there, and more and more people are jumping on the bandwagon. 
Konteng hintay na lang,  malapit na... 
My mom and her family are your cabalens (from Minalin, Pampanga), and I know I've got good training from both of them. ;)   

Allen 'bsc' 
+Allen+ , passion, food   

On Jun 8, 2010, at 10:46 PM, claude tayag <
claudetayag@gmail.com> wrote:

Hi Allen,
Thank you for sharing the "behind the scenes" aspect of Amy's article. Indeed, now I view it differently. It just proves we (the readers) don't have to take everything we read hook, line and sinker. Though I believe it's the prerogative of the editor to edit/publish a story according to his/her judgment, it was definitely biased and probably didn't do justice to the writer and all those interviewed. It seems all the negative quotes (the article sounded like a Pinoy cuisine bashing party) were taken out of context to lead us readers into the "slanted" story the editor wanted, and got the effect he wanted eliciting all these reactions like mine. Still and all, we wouldn't have been connected in cyberspace had it not been for the article. and for that, I thank its editor.
May I pass on your letter en toto to a friend blogger Anton Diaz (ourawesomeplanet) to illuminate the Pinoy foodies who are just as agitated as I me?
best regards
Claude

On Wed, Jun 9, 2010 at 7:16 AM, allen bsc <likoyb@yahoo.com> wrote: 
Mr Tayag, 

My aunt just sent me a copy of the letter you sent to the LA times, and I truly appreciate your response. I think you made several good points, and all of which I totally agree with. I just wanted to share a few things with you from behind the scenes of the article. Amy had very good intentions with this article. She, personally, had noticed that there's a lot of Filipinos working in the culinary industry, particularly in Los Angeles. And most of them were featured in the article, she spent a few weeks interviewing several of these people trying to figure out why Filipino food hasn't gone as far as other cuisines in the states, when there are so many of us in the industry. She initially interviewed a couple chefs, and then by different connections was directed to another one, and then another, and then another. (It's a very small world) She, as a matter of fact, kept learning of more and more chefs in the industry, and she actually was able to gather a lot of information. By the way, this article actually made it on print, front page, food section, (I'll send you a hard copy if you want). The problem was, she was able to gather so much information, that her editor asked her to make it a little smaller (when this version is already a big article). Long story short, Amy wanted to make a difference, Amy was curious why the food is not as big as it could be, her published article didn't do her research any justice, nor did the article do any justice to the Filipino chefs featured in it, not even the Filipino food that was the focal point of her article. Instead, the article ended up being a collection of quotes from the different chefs that were interviewed, and after reading your email,  I sent her a copy of it and an email asking her to try to publish the rest of her research at some point, since she wasn't able to. Amy has been a good colleague in the industry and she meant well, so is Chef Rodelio Aglibot (chef rodelio has a restaurant in Chicago called Sunda, I recently moved to Chicago and made sure I reached out to him, and we've actually hung out a few times in the last few weeks, and on his menu Pan-asian fusion menu are a few things Filipino, like Adobo, crispy pata, pancit canton, and my favorite off the menu item Sisig). Mary Jo gore also is a very close friend, and her quote on the article was not necessarily a criticism of the food she grew up with and loved, but a quote from her hour long interview with Amy, Mary Jo grew up in Pasig, and knows Filipino food very well, she is a well trained chef in western cuisine, and is now teaching at a culinary school to share her knowledge to culinary students. Her and I had this conversation a few weeks ago, and to be quite honest, both of us agreed that any and every Filipino chef most likely has that little secret file in their arsenal of recipes, of both classic and modern ways of doing Filipino food. Unfortunately, not a lot of us have been given the opportunity to cook Filipino food and serve it to the same people we try to cook for. There are a lot of existing Filipino restaurants in Los Angeles, and all over the United States who do a very good job serving authentic Filipino food, but their main demographic is their kababayans, and the setting is usually not too inviting to everybody else. That is why, in my opinion, the food has not assimilated into the mainstream American culture, unlike our neighbors have. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, but at the end of the day, you have to look after your business, and that usually means, you have to make sure that if you put up a restaurant, that it is a sure success, which translates to targeting your kababayans as your main customer. Rest assured Mr. Tayag, that the Filipino pride is in our hearts, and there's nothing more fulfilling to a Filipino chef than to take the food of his/ her home country, and bring it to a level it has failed to get to for years. We are all in the same boat, including Amy, and we all have the same goal : To take Filipino food and elevate it to a different level. 

I recently took a job with Lettuce Entertain You in Chicago, (one of the biggest restaurant groups in the US), (www.leye.com <- they own about 80 restaurants, with 50+ different concepts, ranging from bao's, Chinese food, Mexican, Italian, French, and to even very well known and upscale fine dining establishments) and part of my agreement with Richard Melman (who owns the company), is to give me the opportunity to showcase the food that I grew up with, and he is certainly more than willing and excited to do that in the future. Taking Filipino food to that next level is my life's goal Mr. Tayag, I am doing my best to continually grow and learn in this industry, while making sure that at some point, Filipino food will make it to the mainstream culture. 

I hope this sheds a better light on the subject, rest assured that we are all in the same page, and all the people involved, and featured in the article and other Filipino chefs would love the same.   

Thank you so much, and I hope to meet you personally in the future, I'd love to try some Adobong quail. 

Here's a few other things and links on some other things Filipino in the Culinary world: 

The Manila Machine: Filipino Food Truck Rolls Out
http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/food-trucks/filipino-food-truck-the-manila/ 

The New Food Show Food Buddha with Rodelio Aglibot on TLC
http://eater.com/archives/2010/05/10/food-buddha-rodelio-aglibot-show-tlc.php 

http://www.yelp.com/biz/wp24-los-angeles 
(this is the link to the Yelp page of Wolfgang Puck's WP24 in Los Angeles, whose pastry chef is Sally Camacho, who is incorporating calamansi, ube and atis on her desserts at the restaurant. 

Spago pastry chef Sherry Yard, WP24 pastry chef Sally Camacho with Barbara Lazaroff
http://www.gayot.com/blog/wolgang-puck-wp24-ritz-carlton-los-angeles/sherryyard/ 

Search restaurant menus and get freebies all over the metro.

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Cheers to that Claude!

Thanks Anton for posting this.

It's really true that to really understand a culture, submerge yourself to it and so with food. Yeah, please come over to Manila and taste real Filipino cuisine. Discovery channel and Nat Geo had been here.

Are you next?

Both articles present solid theses. I thought of several points to bring up, but I'll just limit myself to this: The pinnacle of Filipino food is always the Lutong Bahay. It's always Lola's adobo, Inay's sinigang. That's what makes it comfort food -- the memories, the relationships, the love. It's hard to share that joy and comfort with someone who hasn't experienced it. Those who've seen Ratatouille or read Muriel Barbery's novel Gourmet Rhapsody will see that these are the "problems" Filipino cuisine has in assimilating itself into a distinct culture. And if the chefs abroad only look into how the best and most successful Filipino restaurants here are run, and with Chef Tayag's Bale Dutung itself as the exemplar, they will see that what makes Filipino cooking so well-loved is that it is a deeply personal and relational experience.

mabuhay po kayo chef claude!!!

let's face it - Filipino food is the worst in the world and can hardly be called a cuisine. It is over-salted, over sweet and over cooked.

great theses but just keep reading our awesome planet coz almost all theses available-needed are already here since many years ago on qoute 'filipino food not appealing' is bcoz of one's perception on issues involved many decades ago every picnics parties etc i participated including in my own household i notice that filipino are way much appealing & appreciated internationally just like how i take me & my american families{husband-kids-old friends}to eat in fancy restaurants which we enjoyed most of the time but i noticed that my seldon filipino cookings are 'way' well appreciated my families behaves as if my filipino home cuisines-menus are to die for lol! always wiped out never had left overs lol
they find my filipino menus way too appealing when my ginisang mongo is used as side sauce
to top in already advanced cooked-boiled{fried even tastier] beef or chicken and i used grated raw or micro thin slices carrots as a center top crown design for my home mongo servings i do the same with my adobo sauces i do sometimes used them as side sauces to top a crispy or boiled beef-chicken w/green-red thin slices of apple oe semi long celery to garnish the 'possible' un appealing looks but it cannot it can never be unappealing if it is served on fine porcelain-bone china like meissen or dresden set of dishes-tablewares lol i mostly served my filipino dishes in an over size white plates the fastest appealing way to serve them is by putting them around cooked white rice w/parsley or a celery stick placed on top of center rice

filipino foods cookings cuisines are 'way appealing ' even WAY ' tastier ' if it is PRESENTED as an ART OR IN THE FORM OF ARTS in restaurants or table anywhere the right portions of color coordinations in the form of garnishes will also do the APPEALING JOB i can serve-offer any horrible foreign french or italian dishes but can always stirs uproars of ooohhh aahhh weeehhh if some intentional or not horrible dishes will be served in meissen or dresden plates-tablewares anchor in a crystal glass of some cheapest champagnes lol! in france yung susu na pinupulot sa bukid noong bata pa ako ay one of europes best menus-cuisineskaya lang yung ambiances nung mga 5 star hotels at mga plato na gandang designs at crystal diamond sparkles will take it all into woooooww lol

greatness or success of filipino local foods-cuisines will always be DOWNPLAYED internationally unless-until filipinos will learned HOW TO GET UPSET-ANGRY rises up agaisnt ON WHY LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ACCEPTS An existence OF HORRIBBLE FILTHY RIVERS flowing in their communities-neighborhoods ENVIROMENTAL DEGRAGATIONS will reflect of how filthy filipinos willing to allow those 'no excuses' squatters-slums damaging their own communities and find them acceptable by the local filipino governments sound far fetched but you will be surprised coz of all countries in the world it is the philippines who does things differently-unexpected yet made almost all moves a success lol how can others TRUSTS what you served them if you have these kinds of filty existence in your communities not too far where they have to pass to eat nearby lol! remember all the FILTHY waters where you are RECYCLED ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD so why travel more than 10,000,00 miles or more & pay thousands of dollars to dine in philippines if they have their own sewages-filths to recycle & used again at least their filths is their own filths why bother going -paying in thousands just to see floating slums garbages in waterways which filipinos & all will recycle for later cooking used lol! so filipinos get upset & tell locall officials to clean slums-squatters 'waterways' i meant what i just said also sometimes those spaghetti electrical wires 'dangling' in most philippines roads-streets-communities is enough for many not to trust philippine enviroments when i travel decades ago i always tried hard not to go to places to pass where many 'spaghetti' like electrical wires are 'dangling' hanging as part of electricity public roads decor it is one sign of places not to pass if i can help it coz that is where has a lot stressful vibes to pass though a lot of people seems have lost energy-appetite lol

Seriously? Who asked you? Pity your über limited view of the world from under your rock or wherever it is you are hiding in.

Sharing this on Facebook. Mabuhay si Ms. Claude! Let's be proud of our rich culture and heritage!

The point I agree with the most is that these chefs have gone far too long without having "authentic" Filipino food on their dining tables.

There's just something about being here in the Philippines that makes the food taste so different from how it'll taste when cooked in another country.

dude, I hope you are not Filipino because if you are it seems you've been fed crap all your life!

Claude Tayag rocks!

No one can ever judge a country's own cuisine except by those who faithfully cook it themselves. Cooking is a passion and every dish that a person prepares comes from within and we Filipinos prepare dished with all our heart because every household dish is passed on from generation to generation. And that's what makes our dishes unique amongst us Filipinos.

very very stupid!

I lived abroad for many many years and found that my non-Filipino friends - Europeans, Americans, Latins and other Asians - really enjoyed my cooking of Filipino food. Even the food snobs! That tells me there is probably a reason why our cuisine hasn't made it mainstream internationally yet. When I cooked for non-Filipinos, I was aware that their palate might not be as "bold" as ours. Therefore, I did tone down the saltiness, the sweetness and the fattiness a bit so they could appreciate the flavors of Filipino cooking. Again, our cuisine is comfort food (read: very rich) mostly served family-style. It's not plated and styled to be visually appealling. You have to accept that the other Asian cuisines like Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese pay a lot of attention to the aesthetics of their food presentation. We eat first with our eyes so it does make some sense why foreigners would be turned off by the appearance of our food, UNTIL THEY TASTE IT. And then, it's a completely different ballgame.I've had people who were squeamish and not adventurous down a few platitos of my mom (Mama V's) chicharon bulaklak in one evening. :) I think the same can be said about a lot of our local products, particularly the packaged foods like dried mangoes. Well, the contents taste amazingly good but the packaging was not well thought out. If we wish to compete in the international markets, packaging and presentation, unfortunately, win you half the battle already. Walk down the aisles of any grocery store in Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand and you will be surprised at how the display of food products looks like. But ours, at least for me, taste better! Kung baga sa babae, kahit maganda ang mukha, kailangan pa rin lagyan ng make up, damitan at ayusan para mag mukhang professional ang dating.

Thank you, Mr. Claude Tayag for defending the Filipino Cuisine.

First of all, I love Claude Tayag for always championing local cuisine and Filipino culture in general. But, in my opinion, there was really nothing wrong, offensive or inacurate about what was presented in Ms. Scattergood's article. Everything that was said had some truth to it, even the fact that our food could sometimes be "visually unappealing". To the uninitiated (westerners, in general, who are generally known to be picky with their food, anyway), even my favorite kare-kare or the most flavorful pork adobo will look "brown and oily". Let's be honest, unless a bowl of kare-kare is deconstructed (which, to me, is sacrilege), its really one big, brown mess. So, yes, I understand why Ms. Gore said that about Filipino food.

I agree with Claude Tayag that these Fil-Am chefs most probably do not have a clue what real Pinoy food should taste like, despite growing up in Filipino homes abroad. No matter how hard they try to make these dishes authentic, sinigang is not sinigang without our local kangkong or gabi. In other words, since it is difficult (if not impossible) to get these local Pinoy ingredients in their part of the world, there is really no way that they have access to REAL Pinoy food. Having said that, i think we are already reading too much into it when we say that they are "apologetic and/or ashamed of their cultural heritage". It seems to me that, having grown up in a different culture, they are just giving their own take on Filipino food as observers who are not immersed in OUR culture. Just because they don't have the same "soft spot" for Pinoy food does not mean they are asshamed. Detached, maybe, but not ashamed. Same reason why we should not expect them to do their own take on Pinoy food knowing that they have very limited knowledge on the stuff. Bottomline: let's be fair, its really not their fault.

wow! that's all i can say. ang ganda ng pagkasulat ng letter! very very well said indeed! pinoy food may have not achieved international acceptance or acclaim but i think that is due to lack of promotion, and not because it doesn't have any culinary value. i may be biased, but pinoy food is delicious, yummy and always satisfying! claude tayag is right, even with adobo there are so many intricate ways of cooking it, and every one of them is unique and produces great results. again, i don't want to sound biased, but every time i watch the asian food channel i always feel that our very own cuisine can fare and taste just as well with other countries'. we have our own special and homegrown styles, flair, and techniques for cooking. international diners just need to be educated and exposed more to our dishes for them to appreciate pinoy food. dalhin nga yan ms. scattergood sa mesa, romulo cafe or metro cafe.

uncle claude,

baka pati airfrare i-charge sa iyo
when they go to bale dutung.

hahahaha : )

Iba talaga si Sir Claude, I'm proud of you Sir!!!

It's so embarrassing to read Claude Tayag's rebuttal which sounds so defensive. I'm not surprised though since that's a typical reaction of Pinoy's who cannot take criticism especially from foreigners. I agree with the LA Times and I think they're just stating a fact, which is Filipino cuisine has a difficult time going mainstream in foreign lands unlike the cuisines of our other asian neighbors. It doesn't make Filipino food less good.

2 thunbs up to claude tayag!!!

That would be Mister Claude. Your enthusiasm is infectious though.

I agree with all of them, both Claude and the Fil-Am chefs. Maybe the Fil-Ams understand Claude but does Claude really understand where the Fil-Am chefs are coming from? Does he really know their own personal Filipino experience?

You nailed it, Tina. Mine and Joyce's thoughts exactly.

Embarassing? Really now. And in what parallel universe are you in anyway?

to viewer name JILL: you definitely need to examined your SELF ESTEEMN SELF WORTH YOUR REALITIES w/regards to your personnal embarrassments the article owner's rebuttal give filipinos the benefit of the doubt... each whoever anywhere around the world or each different filipino homes do cook foods differently unless you measures each ingredients and all ingredients are always available in your refrigerators/markets even american europeans hispanics etc. retaurants/hotels/homes cooked differently i have never been to any european american hispanics restaurants/hotels who cooked tasted exactly the same EXCEPT FOR FAST FOODS like burger kings macdonalds wendy's baskin n robbins ice creams italian spaghetti's hispanic brodo o paellas etc. they all taste so different of course unless those foods are measured exaxtly the same many times i leave foreign restaurants/hotels if my food are not cooked to my likings hotels has to changed my food if i find them too salty or not authentic as they clained it to be i asked for refunds when necessary i am not a fool to pay for something NOT WORTH IT money is hard to earned...
btw i do not used salt in filipino cookings if i did it is seldom/rare i do used soy sauce to marinated meats but NO no no NO VETSIN NO MSG at all NO EXTRA SALT IF POSSIBLE MY HOME cooks steaks{grill} no more than 2-3 minutes...nobody can PREVENT/STOP ANY CRITICISMS LOCALS OR FOREIGNS SO WHY PREVENT/STOP REBUTTALS-DEFENDING ONE'S PRACTICES IF NOT JUST ENTIRELY DIFFERENT BELIEFS WE CAN ONLY EXPRESS WHAT WE LIKE WHAT WE DO NOT LIKE BUT TO OPRESSED-SUPPRESS ANOTHER ONE'S OPINIONS IS CRUEL FILIPINOS SHOULD LEARN TO EXPRESSED THEMSELVES INDIVIDUALLY not just a privileged 'FEW' remember no one has the MONOPOLY to freely express himself/herself lol!

my two cents worth.

pinoy food has probably lost some of its identity (unintentionally!)because of other
foreign influences, notably Spanish, Chinese, Malay and others...foods like menudo,
caldereta, afritada, pancit, lumpia, kare-kare, etc. are not really Filipino in origin.
it does not help that we also have too many regions, with each having its own version
of pinoy food. so you have bicol's laing, bicol express; bacolod's inasal, kansi;
ilocos' pakbet, dinengdeng; iloilo's la paz batchoy; pampanga's buro at mustasa, bringhe
etc...the list goes on...with such diversity, it is truly difficult to promote our food
in the international market..our national unifying dish would probably have to be adobo.

i think Pinoy food is best enjoyed in its purist form, fusion does not seem to work out
(at least for me)..adobo is adobo, cooked the traditional way, using the most basic ingredients, and the same goes with sinigang..it is okay to improve on food presentation
(styling as they would say it), but one does not play or fool around to the extent that
the dish loses its distinct and natural flavor and texture ..so sinigang na lechon is okay
(the tender lechon meat substitutes for ribs or liempo), but pureed sinigang is something else....)

nowadays, there is just too much emphasis on instant things..so you cook your sinangag w/
instant pang gisa, you make your sinigang using instant tamarind powder..what happened
to cooking from scratch?? i am not simply talking about the simple housewife hurriedly
preparing dinner for the family...many fine dining restos (with chefs preparing the dishes)
serve their kare-kare using powdered mix..i just know, because the sauce is too smooth
and tastes so commercial!! i still prepare my kare kare the way Nora Daza used to prepare
it, with sinangag na bigas and freshly ground peanuts! and you will know the difference
because of the wonderful consistency of the sauce and of course, nothing beats the taste
of real kare-kare!! and yes, i still use real sampaloc (even when it is so expensive and
not in season), sometimes camias and even bayabas..and for kansi, i still find a source
for batuan.....i love Via Mare's bam-i guisado because it has the distinct flavor of
real shrimp juice (you get this by pounding the head and outer shell into a paste)..sadly,
many other Filipino restaurants take short cuts..

i have nothing against these instant mixes (they are an overseas Pinoy's best friend)..
what I'm merely trying to say is that when you are here in your own beloved country, make
use of all those natural ingredients that are readily available..you do your family a
big favor by helping to keep them healthy, and away from all those chemicals and artificial
things, msg, etc..Filipino food is at its best cooked the natural way!

i couldn't care less if our food does not seem acceptable in the international market.
for me, it will always be the best! i cannot imagine life without adobo, sinigang, inasal,
lumpiang ubod etc..


on 'overcooked' filipino foods well that was necessary in the past WHY? bcoz most filipinos do not trust their water systems cleanliness in the past their rivers was dirty
water pipes are permnently broken in some streets water purifiers are a luxury wet markets was disinfected/neglected in the past but not anymore these days philippine markets wet-dry are very clean they are health inspected daily 'bravo philippines' lol but must keep up these new health inspections everywhere possible on PUBLIC markets in particular on quote 'filipino food overcook salty meats hard' that is bcoz of poverty & greed in the past systems for poor people salty foods was to emphazised tastes due to lack of proper food ingredients due to cheap prices/affordabilities not trusting the freshness due to enviromental degragations{filthy slums waterways}in the past decades of course NOT ANYMORE
but needs to do more to clean philippines slums waterways-rivers GREED bcoz to gain more incomes butchers/owmers do not 'steaks'{3-6 months old instead of year-years older lol!} their meats they almost all waited till their animals/poultries are too big enough too old enough to gain extra weights before selling them in the markets MEANING IT WAS PROFITS BEFORE QUALITIES that rules philippine 'public' markets NOT BCOZ filipino foods are less tastier than any foreign cuisines but it does not mean filipinos should not advanced themselves in international arenas btw good-great filipino cookings means more likely getting-winning the 'good-dream man' of your life lol and true lol

and there you go jill... you are exactly the kind of person Claude wants to educate. You should go there too.

No one's gonna pay for you fare though LOL

If you are embarrassed, I fear your own folks probably are of you too.

To chef claude, Cheers!

I hope you also educate some Pinoy ingrates too...

=)

Hi There
I must say I live in Manila, and when i eat out i eat out its either Indian, Italian, Japanese, or my favourite Asian food Thai.
I was asked to write about 'Filipino Food' for Business World in the past, and decided to describe the experience of swallowing a 'Balut" ...this is what I said:
"The Filipinos thrive on the promise of the street vendor's cry, incessant day and night. Their delicacy is a 20-day old duck egg with the bones and the feathers sumptuously and scrumptuously just formed and and cooked within the steaming eggshell of a boiled aborted birth. (Speak of the devil!...The 'Balut' vendor's cry is now below me in the street and it is seven in the morning). The technique is to crack open a section on the crest of the egg, through which a soggy hot under-duckling can ooze onto the tongue and slither over the taste buds and down the lubricated throat, after a few light crunches to break up the bones of the ducklings rib cage. Energy levels are honed quickly, and three or four delicately beaked, soft eyeballed slithery whole ducklings will see you through the day. Always a wise move for a couple after a night at the disco striding home arm in arm with space for more ingredients to fulfil the promises of the night. Rated an aphrodisiac by those that see a lot in a gaggle of grease, wrapped up in the shallow shell of life."
....Needless to say i was never invited to write about Filipino food again! However i had a column for 3 years writing about the mountain of great other experiences waiting to be had in this country with a people friendly beyond compare.

i totally agree with you. i cant stand its smell...

Leave it to us Pinoys not to take any criticism constructively. We are so thin-skinned.

the truth kinda hurts. we love and appreciate our own native cuisine, but we
cannot expect others to share and accept our culinary leanings and vice versa.

so far, i have only heard/read of two Filipino fine dining restaurants that
tried to make some progress in capturing the international market. this was
aux iles phils in paris and cendrillon in new york. these establishments
were run by very well respeted and dedicated filipino culinary artists. they
served filipino fare, got good reviews from fellow filipinos and foreigners,
as well. sadly, they are no longer in existence and this could be due to
a number of reasons - high rental, affordability (fine dining = higher prices),
low sales, food acceptability.

so what is left of Pinoy food establishments in North America? there's jollibee,
goldilocks, red ribbon, max's and a smattering of small turo turo establishments,
it is the same in vancouver, except that they only have goldilocks there. everything else
is turo-turo, with the exception of Pinpin's that serves yummy a la carte
filipino dishes. Recado's was the only fine dining resto, but last i heard,
they also closed shop. Most of these eateries were frequented by - you
guessed right - siempre Pinoys din. we will alwys love our very own, no
matter saan sulok ng daigdig tayo..maghahanap at maghahanap tayo ng goto,
tilapia, turon, bibingka atbp.

the truth is we probably have a long, long way to go in finding acceptance for
our well loved filipino dishes. but so what, if they are not adventurous
enough to try our food, then that is their loss...we are happy eating the food
that we grew up with, and sharing it with fellow filipinos...

it is so nice to read the Claude Tyag article .... and I recall having gone through a similar experience about American borne Filipinos while on a trip to Hawaii last year. Specifically, three incidents (1) While booking a day tour, the organizer asked me where are you from, when I said the Philippines = he stared wide eyed and was almost snickering when he said "you dont sound Filipino?". My friend told me later they all saw my left eyebrow rise up as I answered "what DO WE sound like?". Later on I learned he is married to a Filipina. (2) While waiting for our drinks at the Westin, a group of young, tanned, tatooed, nose-ringed young adults walked in wearing formal attire for a Filipio wedding. I shared with my American friend "if these kids were in Manila, their parents would have told them to remove the nose rings and cover up the tats. (3) In Costco, while paying for our groceries, the cashier asked for IDs when she saw I'm from Manila, she said "Oh your Tagalog snidely. These experiences made me think a long time about families leaving the Philippines to live and work elsewhere. The purpose of migrating is to assimilate but at the same time cherish one's heritage = too often we meet migrant families sharing frustrated stories about our country. Yes, life is hard and difficult here; but isn't it true that when they come home to the Philippines = it is when they feel their happiest? Yes, we eat off leaves when were farming or fishing; but isn't it true that our mothers save money from our father's daily allowances to purchase at least one set of good plates for guests? The problem with some of those who leave their country of birth is they don't change their way of thinking, so when they return they realize that their country has changed but they have not. They move to another country and continue talking about how difficult, how corrupt, how confused their country of birth was = in the process teaching these to their children who would not know any better. IT is only when these children visit the country that they realized how different (even wrong) their parents were about describing their heritage. All my cousins who were born abroad LOVE to return here. THey often say "the stories of Mom or Dad are way overblown". I dare any foreign born or foreign base Filipino to return home and see HOW much we have changed for the better.

Thanks Claude, I agree with many of your points, but the reality is we are not considered mainstream because we have not created a unique dish/cooking style/concept that attracts worldwide (or at least the culinary world's) curiosity and acceptance. That's the simple truth. We need to have something that is equivalent to sushi to Japan or pizza to Italy. Don't get me wrong, I love Filipino food. I just don't know what dish the worldwide community will rave about and demand for. Adobo? Kare-Kare? Sinigang? I am sure our great chefs and entrepreneurs will figure that out.

I am going have to agree that this is where some of the disconnect may come from. I am from San Francisco which has a huge Filipino community and a billion Filipino restaurants and the vast majority are fast food (both chain and private). There are some great local restaurants there (everyone has a favorite) but it is very likely that the first restaurant someone might try would be Jollibee. Jollibee is fine, but it is junk food, akin to one having McDo for their first American meal. It would be a crappy first impression. There are a couple of Gerry's Grills in the Bay Area which while not fine dining is at least a restaurant where food is cooked to order, you know?

As a funky foreigner living in the Philippines, I find most of the food good. Relatives of mine that come here have all loved the food--the only issue being dinuguan (the US is one of the few countries that doesn't do a lot of blood stuff like here or Europe). Everybody likes the food and my mother actually got a bunch of recipes here that she could cook at home. Who doesn't love adobo? Sinigang? Pancit? Lechon? Garlic rice with some beef tapa for breakfast? Mechado? There is a lot of really fantastic food here!

The palate is definitely different; items tend to be sweeter than I am used to and this holds true for foreign cuisine served here that is altered to suit local tastes. If I was going to criticize anything about the food, it could be that at times I find vegetables cooked longer than I am used to in dishes.

It is OKAY for someone not to like a cuisine. They may never know what they are missing, but what is the big deal? I do not think it can all be chalked up to "westerners, in general, who are generally known to be picky with their food, anyway" because otherwise no one would eat anything. I am a westerner. I do not eat seafood (probably because I am picky with my food--shoot, not helping break the stereotype, am I?) and no one cares. You know why? They always smile and say, "more for me".

I think that the cuisine here will become more popular abroad. People are becoming more and more aware of what they eat and are always looking for something new and exciting. The food here just might fit the bill.

Finally, I think the food here is really pretty. I cannot count the number of times I have seen a fish or a chicken laid out with minced vegetables on top in a design. A platter of mechado with slivers of potato on top is gorgeous! Lechon has got to be the most visually appealing because 1) It is a pig and 2) It is a pig. The food here, seemingly always served family style, just begs you to grab a fork and plate. It is impossible to resist.

defensive much?

quote on filipino foods NOT CONSIDERED MAINSTREAM o bakit NOT INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAIMED for decades for centuries even for the last few years WELL SIMPLE...BCOZ just read listen to these few filipinos but NON BELIEVERs in their own forever advancing filipino cultures
just listen to their comments if some intellectual filipinos 'expressed' themselves differently MEANING you'll immediately see listen read 'non filipino believers' comments such as DEFENSIVE MUCH? CANNOT TAKE CRITICISM OR THAT THEY ARE EMBARRASSED to hear intellectual filipinos expressed themselves bcoz non believers WANT PHILIPPINES-FILIPINOS TO STAY IN THE CLOSET FOREVER BCOZ IF YOU DO THE WORLD-OTHERS WILL REALIZED THAT PHILIPPINES-FILIPINOS HAS-HAVE INTELLECTUAL FILIPINOS WHO ARE BORN AWARE & CAN SHOW-PROVED THAT PHILS-FILIPINOS HAS ACTUALLY HAS THEIR OWN GREAT GOOD TALENTED INTELLECTUAL COLORFUL HAPPY CULTURES MEANING SHUTTING OFF TO SILENCE AS FORM OF RESTRAINTS SO NO ONE WILL REALIZED-DISCOVERED EARLIER THE GOODNESS-GREATNESS OF PHILIPPINES-FILIPINO CULTURES BUT JUST A MUST SEE HEAR LISTEN TO OTHER FOREIGN CULTURES REASON WHY FOR CENTURIES-DECADES FILIPINOS WAS NOT INTERNATIONALLY APPRECIATED BUT JUST A FEW RECENTLY THE NON BELIEVERS SUCCESSFULLY SHUT OUT{SILENCED}WHAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN DONE DECADES AGO WHICH IS TO SHOW THE WORLD THAT FILIPINOS HAS GREAT-COLORFUL HAPPY INTELLIGENT CULTURES MEANING NON BELIEVEERS WAS SUCCESSFUL IN DOWNING REPRESSED-OPPRESSED THEIR OWN SUPPOSED TO BE INTERNATIONALLY ACCLAINED FILIPINO INGENUINITIES TALENTS CREATIVENESS THAT MADE THEPHILIPPINES CENTURIES DECADES OLD THIRD WORLD COUNTRIES BCOZ ON THE NON BELIEVERS SABOTAGING INTELLECTUAL FILIPINOS WHEREEVER THEY MAY BE THAT ALLOWED FOREIGN DOMINATIONS IN THEIR OWN CULTURES FOR CENTURIES FOR DECADES THAT WAS BCOZ FILIPINOS WAS PUT IN THE CLOSETS{SILENCED}FILIPINOS WAS TAUGHT NOT TO EXPRESSED THEMSELVES FREELY BUT JUST TO SAY THANK YOU SORRY PO HINDI NA PO UULITIN O TAMA PO KAYO AT TANDAAN NYO ANG SUMAGOT SA MGA MATATANDA AY HINDI PAG GALANG AT BASTOS YUNG SAGOT NG SAGOT LOL! so naging followers ang more than majority filipinos & very few unknown leaders they created but of course now it is a different story coz ALL FILIPINOS WANTS TO EXPRESS THEMSELVES FREELY kasi that is the right proper thing to do is to STAND UP when you believed you COUNT as a world citizen as a free human being so too bad for non believers though late filipinos will show the world they are chosen people of the world too lol! lol

another good great thesis is from an article written by fred de la rosa titled the 'glory years' i believed from times philippine comments he wrote them as if it is a grand international 'blockbuster' movie in the making it awed me in a way just like this food article written by claude tayag defending filipino cuisines lol!

thank you for showing genuine appreciation for Filipino cuisine..i am reminded
of many other foreigner friends who like to feast on our sinigang, litson manok
(which tastes so much better than the bland roast chickens they sell in supermarkets)...seafood (so much cheaper here), the best mangoes in the world!

personally, it is of no importance to me if we are not mainstream. we do not
need to prove anything to anyone, much less, seek their acceptance.

our country is appreciated by the western world for a whole lot of other
things. we have some of the very best beaches, and tourist havens here.
we produce world class handicrafts, and are mighty proud of our very talented
and creative filipino designers (who are being copied all the time!!)

it is true that our food is often misunderstood (sometimes, even we ourselves
are amazed that there can be so many versions of adobo or pinakbet, even lechon).
so diverse, considering the countless regions that make up the Philippines.

we have always been known for our warmth and hospitality, and it is surely
a feast whenever we throw parties here and abroad (the people there are
forever stunned how we can come up with so many home cooked dishes, while they
can party with take out food, chips and dips etc.)

we do not force our food on anyone..if foreigners show appreciation for
our kind of cuisine, then we are thankful and happy...if not, we respect their
individual tastes, and are glad to offer them other options...filipinos,
among other asians, have very intelligent and sophisticated taste buds..even as we
have our staple pinoy fare everyday, we know how to appreciate and enjoy other
international cuisine, whether it be japanese, chinese, mediterranean, italian,
french etc.

8 out of 10 are probably foodies..and the busiest portion of our home will
always be the kitchen. :)

Very well said! When I read the article from the LA Times, I didn't really see it as offensive or as an attack on Filipino food. I think Mr. Tayag has blown this way out of proportion. The article is not saying Pinoy food is bad; it was actually a very well written piece explaining WHY Pinoy food is not that popular in the USA. Maybe we should see this article as a starting point on how to make Pinoy food more popular to the rest of the world.

Pinoy ako and I'm very proud to be one. But your reply goes to show how inappropriately defensive Filipinos become when faced with criticism! You should read Jill's last sentence: "It doesn't make Filipino food less good."

Without having to look outside our borders, my own humble theory on why Filipino food has not taken the world by storm is this: we just don't eat imbibe it enough. It's always treated 'separately' like a museum piece only to be eaten when we have barrio fiestas or go to a dampa or if eaten at home,on certain nights only. How do you expect to the world to understand our cuisine when we dont eat it enough?

I think Claude's letter does not criticize the article itself. I take it as an attack on the Filipino-Americans who do not seem to be proud of their own heritage. My take on Claude's letter is that if Filipinos (or half Filipinos in this case) would not promote their own food, culture and heritage, who else will? These Fil-Am chefs have the chance to promote Filipino food and yet they don't. They know the western food market and therefore should know how to package/present Filipino dishes that would appeal to other cultures' taste but they just don't.

I have met both Claude and his wife Mary Ann twice. You should see how passionate they are about Filipino food and it shows in the food they serve at Bale Dutung. To some extent, I understand the disappointment of Claude in the Fil-Am chefs. It is disheartening to defend one's culture and heritage against your own people.

On the other hand, the attitude of the Fil-Am chefs is not surprising. If Filipinos who grew up here in the Philippines do not know how Filipino food should be prepared or even taste like, what more for those who did not grow up here? One of the things I remember from my two visits in Bale Dutung is what Mary Ann said. She said that she and Claude are "doing" Bale Dutung because Filipinos have forgotten how good Filipino food is and that Filipinos treat local food as "pang lutong bahay lang." In a way, the Fil-Am chefs in the article are exactly the Filipinos that Claude and Mary Ann would like to educate on Filipino food.

americans are proud of their high unhealthy calories fatty foods like mcdonalds burger kings wendy's etc.and american keep eating them for so many decades loving their french fries greasy burgers those extremely fatty spare ribs macarobi cheese hot dogs etc. lol and no matter how 'obese'{obisity}they become they still clamor proud and falling in lines anywhere around the world to grab these kind of greesy fatty american foods these behavior/actions i call a true believer a true american patriots/nationalism so unique in patronizations/cults lol

filipino foods eaten to more than a hundred countries globally how it can be called regional? believe it or not that is another reason why international tourism in past decades is almost non existence besides the fear of majority southern mindanao kidnappings bombings & hateful violences of corse it is not the same now NOW MILLIONS OF INTERNATIONAL TOURISTS wants a taste of philippine culture which is a good thing to see-know differences

Check out WP24's desserts. Using ingredients such as pandan, sweet corn, ube, mangosteen, Manilla mango, buko... the list goes on...
I am the pastry chef and Filipino.

i am not even sure if there is really truly original filipino food because even the adobo has its spanish origins (adobado) but that is what makes filipino food so great and filipno chefs even greater! every dish we have most likely has a counterpart in some part of the world (including the balut because i have seen more freakier food out there). we make these dishes our own by changing ingredients and condiments and cooking styles that are more readily available or convinient or suited to taste. another thing is that filipino food is meant to be eaten with rice and we are probably the only people maybe besides the indians who eat as much rice with our meals. this would make it difficult to assimilate into different cultures who do not eat rice at all. but not to worry because at some point in time every one in the world will be part pinoy so that will make our cuisine mainstream. cheers!

Cheers to Claude! And to emphasize her point, Adobo is not a dish; it is a style of preparing meat for cooking. With as simple as this type of mistake, the whole review of Filipino food from Amy is, pardon my saying, unfounded. I suggest critics out there to read and learn more about Filipino cuisine first before engaging into erroneous articles such as this.

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