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02 August 2009

Memories of Philippine Kitchens



Whenever I visit the Cooking section of the Wellington City Library, I would wish that I will see something about Filipino cooking. One of my more recent visits awarded me with this book: Memories of Philippine Kitchens by Amy Besa and Romy Dorotan. The authors had a restaurant in New York called Cendrillon (which is currently experiencing a metamorphosis of sorts) which served various Filipino favourites. In 2003 the couple made a trip back to the Philippines for a project close to their hearts: a cookbook which featured specialties from various regions of the Philippines.



It is wonderful reading. For me, it is more than a cookbook. It is a virtual trip back to my homeland. I have always loved to go search for a particular place's specialty when we go for a visit. Most of the time I look for rice cakes. Some of these end up as pasalubong, a lot ends up in my tummy. Oh, how I love our rice cakes!

When I go home to Baguio and visit my parents, they would usually ask what I would like to have for viand. I would unfailingly ask for any of these: igado, pinakbet, dinengdeng, adobo, saluyot, bopis. And when I leave for Manila where I work, my Nanay would usually pack up some of these to heat up as lunch in the succeeding days.

During Christmas, she would cook suman (rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves), complemented with sauce made from coconut milk and matamis na bao. I would bring some back to Manila to share with my officemates. They loooove it and would wonder if I take orders.

Nothing beats food to bring you back to your home country, no matter where you are.

The book is chock full of recipes and stories about how we as Filipinos identify with a fusion of cooking techniques from many influences which we have adapted as our own. A very interesting point to note here is the integration of Chinese cooking into our culture, but have been given Spanish names to the dishes owing to over 300 years of Spanish occupation.

More especially, the book reminds me of my own memories of our kitchen and of Sunday markets with rice cakes and all manner of fruits and food.

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