In the search for food – 吃在菲律賓

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My biggest concern before making the move was “What is Filipino cuisine?”. The one excitement of moving to a new country for me is having the chance to experience and learn about a new food culture. Every country in Asia has a unique culinary culture: Japanese sushi, Korean kimchi, Thai Tom Yum, Indian curries, even Indonesia has Nasi Goreng, and not to mention the countless goodies from China. But despite being one of the nearest countries to where we were Philippines has been rather quiet on the food front. With the vast number of Filipinos living and working in Hong Kong and Macau, I have not seen one Filipino restaurant, and no one has been able to tell me what Filipino food is about.

To think a place like Philippines where people from different culture meet and trade since its early days, with its abundant and fertile land and water, it would only make sense to have an exciting and exceptional food culture (e.g. Singapore). The life-loving Spanish would’ve been bringing their heirloom goodies for hundreds of years too. So what happened? An hotelier friend said: “The Spanish were here for 400 years, but it only took the Americans 50 to ruin their food culture” (no offense but replacing paellas with McDonald’s does deserve the word ‘ruin’). Another article said the reason Philippines doesn’t have a known signature dish is because the archipelago is consists of numerous island cultures and each has its unique cuisine – but that doesn’t make sense at all, the result of having 100 amazing food cultures should be having 100 and more amazing dishes, instead of having trouble to name one.

So I will try my best to keep an open mind, and set out on the mission to resolve the mystery of Filipino cuisine. Even just for myself and my friends’ sake. Are there 100 hidden gastronomic treasures waiting to be discovered? Or are the 100 horror stories I’ve heard so far true?

 

搬到一個新的國家生活最讓人興奮的一點就是有機會體會一個全新的食文化,而搬到菲律賓之前前我最大的疑惑是“菲律賓菜到底是什麼”?亞洲每一個國家都有自己獨特的飲食風格,中國就不說了,日本壽司,韓國泡菜,泰國東蔭功,印度咖喱,甚至印尼也有Nasi Goreng。可是菲律賓這個就在旁邊的國家在吃的方面好像一直很低調。澳門香港有那麼多的菲律賓勞工,可是從沒見過一件菲律賓餐廳。而儘管我到處去問也沒有人能告訴我菲律賓菜到底是什麼樣子。

按說像菲律賓氣候溫和,土壤肥沃又水產豐富,自古就有多種文化通商移民,飲食文化應該很精彩才對(舉例新加坡),而西班牙人這麼享受生活的人在這幾百年,也應該帶了不少好吃的。怎麼回事呢?一個酒店界的朋友說:“西班牙人在這呆了400年,美國人只用了50年就把他們的飲食文化毀了。”(用麥當勞代替海鮮飯,’毀了’這個詞還真的沒用錯。)另一篇文章說是由於菲律賓有太多島系文化,每一個都有自己的獨特飲食,所以無法歸列出一個有代表性的。-但是這解釋並不合理,如果是因為文化太紛呈,那結果應是百花齊放而不是默默無聞啊?

所以,我的功課就是追究清楚這個問題:到底菲律賓飲食是什麼?是有許多待發掘的美食寶藏,還是真如大家所說的索然無味?

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