in defense of filipino food

13 Feb

After a conversation with my dear friend Vika, I’ve been wanting to do a post on Filipino food and the whole Paleo/Primal eating thing. Then, I realized I already wrote something along those lines on my other blog. The post was originally written here. I’m re-posting it for you all tonight. Though it was written in 2009, I think it’s still relevant. Enjoy!

Live deliciously!



During a recent visit, my dear friend Gladys and I talked extensively about food. She’s been scouting Mark’s Daily Apple and has decided to transition to a primal (or semi-primal) diet for her and her family. The issue we both tackle with respect to such diets is How do we maintain our love for Filipino food? while on such a diet? After lengthy discussions, we both agreed that if we cut out the rice and breads, Filipino food is actually very good for those going primal. It just takes some minor adjustments. While here, Gladys and I had dinner at Tribu Grill in Union City. Below are some of the yummies we ordered… fathlete confession: We started chowing down before I took these photos. Therefore, I had to jimmy-rig the plates to look uneaten. Sorry…

Sizzling Bangus Belly (or Sizzling Milkfish). Served on a sizzling platter, this is grilled fish topped with onions and garlic. It’s also boneless. The fish fat is supposed to be good for you.

Tilapia with ginger and lemon sauce with mango and tomato salad. This was yummy and very clean tasting. Personally, I liked it better than the bangus because I liked the balance between the fish and the salad. Also, the tilapia was so juicy and flaky! Yummy!

Eggplant Salad. The veggies were a little hard to settle on. Oftentimes, veggies in Filipino cuisine is not vegetarian friendly. Warning: Our “veggie” dishes still contain meat for flavoring. Always ask for clarification because in our culture, vegetarian food still allows for seafood. Vegetarians, you have been warned. Gladys and I both love eggplant, so we settled on this dish. It was yummy, but oilier than I had wanted it. When the menu stated it was grilled eggplant, I was thinking it would be fire grilled then peeled (like how my mom does it). Nonetheless, it was a good dish. Gladys and I did opt for rice, but we ate minimal amounts. I can usually do without rice in Filipino food as long as I have a clean veggie dish to make up for it. Again, the eggplant didn’t do the job because it was a little oily.

A few weekends ago, my dear gal pal Dorothy and I met for Sunday lunch at The Intramuros. It’s much more upscale than the Filipino restaurants in Union City. In fact, it reminds me of the schmancy places in Manila. The food was pretty good. Here are some of our dishes…

Callos. This is a tomato-based stew consisting of beef tripe, sausage, garbanzo beans, etc. When cooked right, it’s one of my favorite dishes. In fact, I think my mom makes some of the best callos around. I liked this version, but wished it was a little more soupy. Again, sans rice, it’s quite primal friendly.

Laing. Ah, this is one of those veggie dishes that are deceiving. It’s taro leaves that have been cooked for hours (so you don’t get that itchy throat thing) in coconut milk. It’s seasoned with ginger and shrimp. It’s heavy, so I tend to eat it in small portions. But it’s very good and the greens are good for you. In fact, taro leaves are a staple in a lot of Polynesian food as well.

Sizzling Bangus. This is another variation of sizzling milkfish. I really liked their take on this dish because it was very clean tasting and the fish was boneless. In fact, it reminded me of kelaguen, a popular dish on Guam, but without the coconut. Fish and lemon are one of my favorite combinations!

Bibingka Souffle. This is not primal at all because it’s a dessert. But for those of you who have had bibingka, this was a fantastic take on a traditional dessert. I loved that they incorporated the salted egg and cheese on the side. (If you have never had Filipino food, you can shut your judgmental asses up about the ways we include salted egg and cheese in our desserts. Seriously. You can.)

Tomatoes and Salted Egg. I made this dish myself. If you recall earlier, I mentioned that I can go without the rice as long as I have a clean veggie on the side. This is something that I make routinely. It’s a simple mixture of tomatoes (heirloom if it’s in season), red onions, and salted egg. If I can find green mango or mango that’s not sweet, I’ll throw that in too. The salted egg isn’t uber salty and serves as a flavoring agent. This side dish is great for those meat heavy dishes such as the fish dishes. It also helps cut your rice intake.

Okay. There you have it. My spiel on the goodness of Filipino food. I will confess that I know a number of Filipinos who get a kick out of “tricking” non-Filipinos into eating things like blood, intestines, and unborn duck egg. Admittedly, I think it’s funny. But I’m not one of those people. I love Filipino food and I’m also more than happy to introduce the cuisine to others. It should be noted that if you’re going to try out Filipino food, I’m your girl. I won’t lead you to the funky stuff (um, unless you want me to).

5 Responses to “in defense of filipino food”

  1. GladysN February 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm #

    speak it, sister! mmm, now i’m hungry for salted egg and tomato! as well as for bangus belly…i miss eating out with you!

  2. dorothysantos February 13, 2012 at 7:49 pm #

    It definitely takes some work. As a vegetarian (I slip every now and again, I’m not gonna lie), it’s very difficult to mimic meat flavors until I realized that it’s all in the sauce. I’m not too sure how a paleo diet works for vegetarians but I would be interested in learning. Similar to Gladys, I’m hungry now!

    This post reminds me that I want to work with a personal food/nutrition/cooking coach, yes, lady, they actually exist BUT I can’t really bring myself to forking over the dough (literally and figuratively). Perhaps, we need to start physical-real world kitchen experiences. OR, just find another place like No Worries. Can’t wait for the next post!!

  3. jlrondilla February 13, 2012 at 9:48 pm #

    Gladys – Yup. You need to get up here. There is some good eating to be had in the bay area:)

    Dorothy – Technically, paleo vegetarians survive by eating lots of eggs, as it’s the only approved protein source. Certain paleo nutritionists (e.g. Robb Wolf) won’t work with vegetarians because they feel that meat is an important part of the paleo diet. With that, I direct you to Mark’s Daily Apple and their protein post: The focus is on quality proteins. For example, tempeh: yes; tofu: no.

    I may not be a good coach, but if you wanna talk more about paleo/primal stuff, you know how to find me:)

  4. GladysN February 28, 2012 at 4:14 am #

    speaking of tempeh, i found a chili recipe that calls for tempeh rather than meat. at first i was like, NO WAY! MEAT CHILI ALL THE WAY! but now i think i’ll try it. dorothy, this recipe might work for you!

  5. Murvyn R. Callo February 12, 2013 at 12:59 am #

    I enjoyed your post. Thank you for a refreshing take on Filipino food. We don’t need to apologize for our food combinations anymore. Our food is fantastic. We need to own that fact and be proud. Me.. I stopped pussyfooting around American and European palates a long time ago. I put our food out there. If they like it, great. If not, I give them sushi!

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