AAPI Month: Food Feature!

Emma Cho, In-Depth Editor

Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month: Food Feature!

Meet: the Filipino American. Typically, a good-looking person, maybe on the shorter side, and has beautiful vocals and luscious locks (just speaking from experience). All parts of Filipino culture are incredible, but today I’ll be highlighting the tastiest one: Filipino cuisine.

From the first record of rice in the Philippines in 3400 BC to the first US Jollibee opening in 1988, Filipino food has an elaborate history. Filipino food has been influenced by several other cultures to become the masterpiece it is today. The Chinese brought new dishes and ways of cooking (hello pancit), and the Spanish introduced different traditions (Christmas feasts!), ingredients, and even cutlery. Trade with other countries such as India, Thailand, and Japan led to the creation of more dishes with new flavors. With the influences of other countries and the Philippines’ own ethnic traditions and cooking styles, Filipino food has been positively perfected over the years.

Overwhelmed? Well, with a long history like that, I wouldn’t blame you if you wanted to try anything and everything. As the AAPI month celebrations commence, don’t hesitate to dig into a few of my favorite dishes.

Spotlight number 1: Caldereta. A meat stew that can be devoured within seconds. It’s all in the flavor: tender meat (traditionally goat, but pork, chicken, or beef are more accessible and now popular to use), tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers are prepared in a tasty stew that is commonly served with rice. Possibly a gift from God, this savory dish is homey, delightful, and a Filipino food classic.

Another great meaty meal to satisfy your stomach: Kare Kare. Roll those Rs! Another stew, Kare Kare might have an unfamiliar taste to your palate, but is sure to make your mouth water. The unfamiliar taste: a combination of savory meat along with… peanuts (yeah, pack it up peanut allergies)! Variations of this dish exist, but it is commonly composed of a rich, thick peanut sauce, meat (commonly oxtail), and vegetables. It’s the peanut sauce that hits the spot, and you can never go wrong with a side of white rice.

Too much savory? Want something sweet? Drumroll please: Ensaymada! The pastry that laughs in the face of picky eaters. Brioche topped with grated cheese (yes, CHEESE!) and sugar and baked with butter, it’s a nightmare for my lactose intolerant friends but a dream come true for everyone else. It’s light, buttery, sweet, and you’ll definitely end up eating more than one.

Ok ok, I’ve put this one off for too long. The purple potato sent from heaven: UBE! Yes, purple potato- or purple yam- Ube (pronounced ooh-bae) is a vegetable, related to the orange sweet potato and native to the Philippines. This healthy and tasty spud is a versatile vegetable that you can cook or bake with. It’s specialty is being used in many Filipino desserts: ube is often used in Filipino desserts, cakes, cheesecakes, cookies, ice cream, and bubble tea. Personally, I recommend ube ice cream: sweet, light, and somewhat nutty. Not too bold, but not lacking in taste. Plus, with its vibrant lavender color, you’re bound to get several publishes on VSCO.

Since we’re in the mood for sweets, we’ll finish it off with the ultimate Filipino dessert: Halo-halo! Served cold, this dessert is a mixture of crushed ice, evaporated milk, and several fun ingredients such as ube (wink wink), sweetened beans, sago (pearls like tapioca), gulaman (agar), pinipig rice, coconut strips, boiled taro or cubed soft yams, slices of fruit, flan, and all finished off with a scoop of ube ice cream. Yuuuuuuuuummy.

Obviously, I could go on and on. Head to your local Filipino restaurant or food store and pick up one of these amazing dishes, and you’ll see that I’m not exaggerating. Think I should’ve included something that I missed? Leave a comment below!