In June of 2017, Anthony Bourdain, the late chef and beloved host of traveling food show Parts Unknown, announced on CNN that Filipino cuisine would be the next big food trend.
Specifically, he seemed to take kindly to a particular pork dish.
“I think sisig is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole.” Referencing the favored dish of the Philippines that uses the nose, ear and tongue of a pig to create a sizzling, crispy pork dish, Bourdain explained that, “I think it’s the most likely to convince people abroad who have had no exposure to Filipino food to maybe look further and investigate further… I think that’s the one that’s gonna hook them.”
And while, at the time of Bourdain’s interview, Filipino cuisine may have been a “work in progress”, it has grown to become a staple in cities all over the U.S. with famous and local chefs alike making a name for themselves with their unique representation of the comfort food that calls upon the traditional sweet, salty and sour ingredients.
We even called it out in our annual Top 10 Healthy Food Trends of 2019.
So, what exactly is Filipino Food?
With its blend of Spanish, Western, Chinese, Japanese, Indian and Pacific Islander influences balanced across a rich tapestry of flavors, Filipino cuisine is nothing if not notoriously difficult to define but certainly easy to love.
In fact, coming from a country with over 7,000 islands, the Philippines may have just as many flavor combinations in its gastronomy to accommodate any palate.
Here are just a few of the Filipino favorites showing up in an eatery near you:
Sinigang: Pork, chicken, fish or shellfish make up the base of this soup before vegetables, lime and tamarind are added for an acidic touch or chili for a hint of heat.
Rice: This serves as the backdrop for sinigang (and almost every other Filipino dish) to provide a bland, comforting constant that propels the flavor of the main dish.
Sisig: Bourdain’s favorite use of the snout, jowl, ear and tongue of a pig is often front and center on a Filipino menu.
Bagoong: A Filipino condiment typically made of tiny krill, ponyfish, anchovies or bonnetmouths, this is an exotic addition to Filipino soups and stews. (For the great flavor of anchovies, we recommend this anchovy extract powder 1101.)
Lumpia: Distant cousin to the Chinese spring roll, this one can be fried or doughy (depending on the chef) and is dipped in sawsawan sauce after it’s filled with meat, veggies or chilies. (We often boost the red meat flavor with red miso powder 6100.)
Adobo: Controversy surrounds whether this is the best known Filipino dish as well as what ingredients to add to it. But, as long as you start with a long braise of meat in vinegar and garlic, it’s up to you whether you add soy sauce (we recommend traditional soy sauce powder – 5301), achuete oil, coconut milk, sugar or squid ink to the recipe.
Lechon: Usually saved for a special occasion, this whole pig is seasoned and roasted over charcoal to create the perfect, crispy celebratory dish.
Suman: Fancy dessert? Try a rice cake cooked in coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves. Just sprinkle on some sugar and this Filipino delicacy is the perfect treat.
Why Has Filipino Cuisine Risen in Popularity?
Bloomberg reported that the number of internet searches for Filipino food doubled from 2012 to 2017. Digging deeper into the interest around specific dishes, they learned that searches like “lumpia near me” had grown by 3,350%.
So, what’s behind this bump into the mainstream?
In our opinion, Filipino cuisine serves as an exceptional and interesting alternative to dishes that you’re already familiar with.
Plus, by typically avoiding dairy or gluten, it fits most diets or health requirements.
The balance of known and unknown flavors plays right into the hands of a generation of foodies unsatisfied with the status quo and eager to find a vibrant, unique experience that goes beyond the food’s location, and speaks to the food itself.
With Americans of Filipino heritage now making up one in five of all Asian-Americans, this Southeast Asian gastronomy is getting its moment in the spotlight and more Filipino-inspired restaurants have lines around the corner.
Each dish reflects the background of its chef, uniquely raised on his or her own religion of acidity, sweetness and salt, balanced together to ensure their patrons can expect a distinctive, fulfilling experience that honors the ingredients and techniques of their culinary heritage.
As Bourdain noted in 2017: “”A lot of traditional Filipino food has sour and bitter notes, which are very unfamiliar to American palates of a few years ago.” Then, he offered hope: “American palates have changed drastically. I think there’s a really bright future.” We do too!
What flavor experience will you create? Make your own unique Filipino seasoning with exciting new ingredients from Nikken Foods, USA. Request a sample from Nikken Foods and taste for yourself why this fusion cuisine gets so much love.