You can take the Filipino out of the Philippines, but you can definitely be sure that a Filipino will bring his own unique culture and identity wherever he may end up in the world. One such aspect of being distinctly Filipino is the knowledge and skills that we learned in the kitchen, thanks to our heritage that is deeply rooted in cooking and food. With the help of the right kitchen appliances and the perfect ingredients, we can easily whip up meals that remind us of home wherever we may go.
Here are just some of the interesting lessons we have learned from our Filipino moms and kitchen mentors that serve as valuable life hacks today.
Knowing How to Cook Rice
If you grew up in a Filipino household, you definitely did not go hungry in case your electric rice cooker conked out because you knew how to cook rice on the stovetop. Most importantly, you know how to achieve the perfect rice-to-water ratio by simply using your fingers! All you need to do is dip your forefinger just on top of the rice in the pot and add enough water to reach the first knuckle. Also don’t forget to keep rinsing the rice under the faucet until the water runs clear. This is another rice cooking ritual that we were always reminded to observe.
Recycling and Upcycling—Long Before They Were Cool
Long before sustainable living became a trend, Filipino homemakers have been contributing to environmental conservation through recycling and upcycling practices. Just witness the number of plastic bags and containers that you will find in any Filipino cupboard. Not only do these come in handy for storing fish and meats in the freezer or leftovers in the refrigerator, but they also make for the perfect take-away container for party guests and neighbors.
Growing Your Own Food
Another trend that has long been a practice in Filipino homes is urban gardening. Seeds from peppers, calamansi, tomatoes, and other fruits and vegetables are placed in an upcycled pot usually made from old, plastic ice cream tubs or large, aluminum milk cans. After a few weeks, you’ll have your very own produce to use for your daily cooking. Not only do you get to save some money, but you’ll save precious time as well. Most importantly, you know that your food comes from a fresh, clean source. You can use organic soil and fertilizer and be assured of organic produce growing right in your own backyard.
Waste Not, Want Not
Fusion cuisine may sound like a fancy culinary term, but Filipinos simply call it resourcefulness. A common practice in many households is to take leftovers and transform it into an appetizingly new dish. A sauce-rich dish like adobo, for instance, is perfect to saute into freshly steamed rice to come up with adobo fried rice. During Christmas, scraps and bones of the festive lechon are made into a tasty new paksiw dish. In each and every community and region, no food is left to waste and there is sure to be a local dish that is made from readily available leftovers.
A Penchant for Tropical Fruits
Since the Philippines is a tropical country, we are blessed with abundant natural resources such as fruit-bearing trees, which can be found even in the most ordinary of neighborhoods and communities. Thus, eating fruits is a big part of our childhood memories. In the kitchen, we have also learned how to hasten the ripening of fruits like mangoes that we had just freshly picked from the tree by keeping them covered in a cool, dark place like the rice cupboard. This way, we know how to enjoy mangoes at their sweetest and most succulent.
Dipping Stale Pandesal into Coffee
Breakfast is an important meal of the day and a quintessential Filipino favorite is freshly baked hot pandesal. It won’t be completely Filipino if the piece of bread is not dipped into the piping hot cup of coffee that is usually paired with it. This may be a weird ritual to outsiders, but it does serve a practical purpose during times when pandesal is not freshly baked—as dipping it into coffee helps make the bread softer and more palatable.
The Spoon in a Pot Hack
If you’ve observed your grandmother or mother as they boiled tough meats like beef in a stew, they would throw in a metal spoon or fork into the pot. Nobody really knows why but this hack seems to work in helping tenderize the meat faster. A theory could be that the metal implement helps conduct heat better from the metal pot, but who knows? Whatever the reason, it’s a uniquely Filipino kitchen hack indeed.
There are many more practices and rituals in the Filipino kitchen that we surely remember, and all of these form part of our distinctly Filipino culture and identity. Apart from the actual flavors of the food that we eat, these memories also color the enjoyable experiences that we have in the kitchen in our daily lives, and we ought to preserve them for generations to come.