One of the most important parts of any culture is its food. Food in the Philippines is full of variety, because not only are there local dishes, but many foreign foods are widely available and popular here.
I once told my girlfriend,
In America, rice is a side dish, at best. It is not eaten often and it is not eaten in large amounts.”
As in most Asian countries, rice is a staple of the Filipino diet. Opposite of America, it is eaten at almost every meal and it is eaten in large quantities. It is such an important part of Filipino food that many Filipinos are almost unable to imagine a meal without it.
For example, I remember one time my girlfriend and I had been planning to make spaghetti. When it came time to cook dinner, my girlfriend said to me,
What do you want for dinner?”
I was shocked. We had been planning to make spaghetti all day long. So, I was surprised when she asked. I couldn’t imagine why she would ask me that. So, I reminded her about the spaghetti and she said,
Well, I don’t want spaghetti. I want rice.”
I just chuckled and we decided on something else, with which she could eat rice.
A trip to any rice dealer or SM Hypermart will quickly give you an idea of the astounding array of different varieties of rice. The rice which is milled the best is bound to be the most expensive.
A great example of this would be Jasmine, which is imported from Thailand and Cambodia. Jasmine can be (as of March 11, 2018) purchased for a little over 50 pesos per kilo or 1,300 pesos per (25kg) sack.
Note: I can not promise to keep this price updated.
How it is cooked
Most Filipinos will cook rice in a simple metal pot with a lid. However, if you do not know how to cook rice, then you can buy a rice cooker, for about 1,000 pesos, which greatly simplifies the process.
Note: I will do my best to get a rice cooking tutorial (video) posted.
Different Cooking Styles
Although, plain white rice is the most popular, there are a few other styles that are widely eaten, in the Philippines. Garlic rice and fried rice, for example.
When you live in a country consisting of 7,641 islands, seafood is going to be a major part of the local diet. That is just common sense. There are a variety of local fish and they are relatively cheap. This is especially true when compared with salmon, shrimp, tuna, marlin, etc…
Two of the more popular local fish are Bangus (aka milkfish) and Tilapia.
Note: Remember to make sure that the scales are thoroughly scraped off the fish before cooking it. Usually, whomever you buy it from will do this for you. If they do not, then ask them to. In SM Hypermart, it is something they do without being asked, but make sure the do it before you accept it.
Bangus is prepared in a variety of ways. My personal favorite is to slice open the belly and stuff it with chopped tomato, onion and garlic. You can sew it back up, or not, but wrap it in tin foil and then grill it on a barbecue grill.
This is another fish which can be cooked in a variety of ways, but I think it is safe to say that most Filipinos will fry it.
Another popular fish, in the Philippines, is Sardines. As in American immigrant communities, over a hundred years ago, sardines are widely eaten, because they are so inexpensive. They are prepared in a variety of ways. Some will eat them smothered in tomato sauce over rice, whereas others will mix them with and fry them in egg, served over rice.
Tuna, Salmon, Marlin, Shrimp / Prawns, etc…
Of course, there are a lot of other seafood items available in the Philippines. Unfortunately, many of them are much more expensive than Bangus, Tilapia and Sardines.
My girlfriend used to buy tuna steaks and we would grill them on our kettle grill. Of course, canned tuna is another, more economical, option. There is a range of different options for the canned type. There are flakes and chunks in either water or vegetable oil. In addition, corned tuna is also quite popular.
Personally, I recommend Century (brand) Chunks in Water. Look for the red can.
Vegetables, in the Philippines are a very affordable