09/02/2015 01:03 EDT | Updated 09/02/2016 05:59 EDT

This Is What Filipino Food Is All About

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Northern Philippines version of everyday pansit.

A few weeks ago the Toronto Star published a story entitled "PETA-offending treats on the menu in the Philippines" (a headline that was later changed) and it caused quite a stir in the Filipino community -- and for good reason. The writer was calling our food weird and disgusting. Is that not something to get upset about? Sure, there may be things you don't necessarily enjoy, but you don't have to be disrespectful about it. The article was basically about Filipino cuisine and she decided to use an "Ick" factor. An "Ick" factor!? I mean, come on.

I think they were trying to gross out their readers for a lousy click and didn't care to think about how this might affect people's perception of Filipino food and culture. It made it seem like Filipino food is "Fear Factor" food. And that just simply is not the case. I mean sure there's some weird things, but no more than any other culture's cuisine. It's like Malaysian, Spanish, Chinese food. Doesn't that sound good?

So if Filipino food isn't all pig's face and duck eggs then what is it? And why should you try it?

Ok. Well.

Imagine a native Malay cook with a Chinese roommate being taught by a Spanish Chef with a love affair for everything American and you will begin to understand what Filipino food is all about.

It's a real mix of cultures. It offers bold flavour combinations and counterpoint with something sweet often being paired with something salty. You get everything from Spanish style tomato based stews to noodles and egg rolls adopted from our Chinese trading partners. There are curries and coconut milk based dishes that reflect the Malay roots of the cuisine and burgers, fried chicken, and canned goods are super popular which speaks to a national obsession with American culture. Maybe it sounds a little overwhelming but don't be dissuaded. Filipino food is uncharted territory for a lot of people but I assure you there is a world of flavour to discover and you are going to be pleasantly surprised by what you find.

When you do go for Filipino food look for things like lumpia (deep fried spring rolls often filled with ground pork or vegetables), pancit (a noodle dish often made with either mung bean noodle or canton noodles along with cabbage, carrot, beans, chicken, and/or shrimp), and adobo either chicken or pork or both (a vinegar and soy braise). Of course you've heard about lechon (Filipino style roasted pork) that's a no brainer. Everything will be served with rice, garlic fried rice if you're lucky. For dessert you should try halo halo for sure. Calamansi juice will also be a revelation. There's just so much to try. That's why you should try it. There are so many new flavours to discover. Doesn't that sound exciting?

Trying new things is what life is all about, is it not? It's about learning and discovery. It's about stepping outside your comfort zone in order to grow. That's the beauty of living in a multicultural city like Toronto -- there are so many opportunities to try new things.


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