Sunday, October 11, 2009

in defense of filipino food

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).


Gladys said...

omg my mouth is watering from all these food photos and the memory of that eggplant salad with the bagoong + the fish dishes! your photos look fabulous, even though they weren't of the whole dishes. and we must go to intramuros next time i visit!

you know what's interesting? i gained about five pounds during my week with you, but i think because it was all healthy food, the extra weight came right off soon after i got back home and to my regular diet (i.e. i didn't eat out every night).

p.s. your salted egg and tomato dish was awesome. thanks for letting me eat most of it for lunch. :-)

Joanne said...

Yes, we must go to The Intramuros the next time you visit. I definitely think you would like it there. In particular, you would love that bangus dish we had. And then there's the bibingka souffle. Mmmm...

I've decided that weight, poundage is all relative. I'm not surprised that you dropped the weight so quickly. The guys at the gym fluctuate all the time. I think weight to a point is a science. Ahem. One I have yet to master.

I'm more than happy to make the salted egg and tomato dish again:)

Rafael said...

are there places that do decent versions of low-fat grilled and/or soupy filipino dishes (e.g. talong, sinigang, nilaga, tinola, inihaw ng isda, paksiw na isda)? i always feel like those dishes get short shrift. you don't see them often in restaurants and not many people make them from scratch, like using real sampalok for sinigang (which is easy; i can show you one of these days).

Joanne said...

That's a good question Rafael (er. um. Is this you, Raf?). Most turo-turo places tend to be oily and heavy. However, I found that the schmanicer places The Intramuros and Kalesa cook cleaner.

Ah, my favorite place (which is now closed) was The Big Kitchen. Everything, even their lumpia tasted clean. Their sinigang seemed to be fresh (to be honest, I don't think I've had fresh sampalok in sinigang outside Pinas). Their kare kare. Ugh! You could taste the peanuts and toasted rice!

If you find a heavenly place, do share!

Rafael said...

yes, it's the same raf of the ancient duck carving with malyn.

i made sinigang baboy with fresh sampalok about two weeks ago. berkeley bowl has tamarind pods for cheap and presumably 99 ranch would as well. i tried duplicating my mom's recipe and it worked out well. mom and dad have basically stopped eating any filipino dish with a layer of mantika (sp?) on it in light of health concerns and stick to the light, veg-heavy soupy dishes.

maybe i should have a light and soupy filipino food dinner party one of these days. sinigang, tinola manok (i made some for malyn's mom recently), mussels tinola (which worked out beautifully) and some inihaw ng isda.

Joanne said...

Mmmmm. When you have that party, I'm so there!