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Posted at: Jul 8, 2018, 1:23 AM; last updated: Jul 8, 2018, 1:23 AM (IST)

Filipino foods that will bowl you over

Khursheed Dinshaw

The cuisine of the city of Legazpi in the Bicol region of the Philippines is primarily a fiery mix of green and red chillies with coconut milk. Labuyo may be a small red chilli in appearance but is extensively used.

Soups are eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nilangang Baka is a popular Filipino soup whose stock is prepared by stewing beef round for a couple of hours. Vegetables like carrots and cabbage are added to this stock and the soup is garnished with fish sauce and chopped garlic and chillies. Rice is another staple that is eaten during all meals. Garlic rice is common while adobo rice is fried rice containing chicken or pork stewed in soya sauce and vinegar. Adobo rice is an example of the Spanish influence on the cuisine of Legazpi. Another favourite of the Bicol region is Pinangat, which is steamed taro leaves stuffed with smoked fish or shrimps in a coconut cream base. Tender taro leaves are preferred as these are more flavourful.

Sinanglay is steamed tilapia fish cooked in a ginger, onion and garlic sauce. Tilapia is a cultured fish and lemongrass is added while cooking it for aroma. “This fish comes in large, medium and small sizes. Generally as part of a buffet in hotels, medium fish weighing 200-230 grams each is prepared. This sized fish has large bones, so even children can eat it,” explains Ryan Afable, Commi one at The Oriental Legazpi.

For poultry lovers, there is chicken adobado where chicken is cooked in coconut cream, ginger, garlic and onion. The dish also contains chayote that is a gourd and is known as sayote in the Philippines. A good source of vitamin C and vitamin K, which is required for healthy bones and teeth, sayote is a low-calorie ingredient. It also enhances memory and is anti-inflammatory.

Bicol express is a spicy tribute to the Bicol Express train, which runs from Bicol to Manila. The dish is made with pork belly, coconut cream, chillies and shrimp paste. For the shrimp paste, very small shrimps with their shell on are marinated with salt for almost a month. These are stored at room temperature and covered with a cloth. Pork Binagoongan is prepared with pork and shrimp paste and eaten with steamed white rice.

The creamy, sweet and spicy flavoured Kinunot is grated stingray fish sautéed in ginger and coconut cream. Malunggay leaves and chillies add additional colour and texture to the dish. A unique dessert of Legaspi is Halo Halo, which is a layered sweet of grated cheese, corn kernels, fresh milk, shaved ice, sago, jelly cubes, ube jam, which is made from ube that are purple yams, sugar, jack fruit and banana.

Served in a glass, the lower layers comprise fruits and jelly cubes followed by shaved ice, fresh milk, sugar and corn kernels. Grated cheese, sago and ubejam form the topmost layer. It is called halo halo or mix mix because the way to eat it is by taking the spoon and mixing all the ingredients together.

In Legazpi, typical desserts include Cassava Cake, Maja Blanca, Sapin Sapin and Ibos. Cassava cake is made from steamed cassava and sugar. Maja Blanca is made from coconut milk, sugar and corn starch. It is garnished with grated cheese. Sapin Sapin is a local rice cake delicacy made from sticky rice, coconut milk and sugar. Ibos is made from sticky rice and fresh coconut milk. It is steamed for an hour and served with muscovado sugar.

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