Kulinarya by Glenda Rosales Barretto – review

A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine

filipino cuisine Kulinarya

There are very few Filipino restaurants in Europe; at least I have not yet had the pleasure of crossing the threshold of any – or indeed of finding a threshold to cross.  We don’t have many cookbooks offering recipes from the Philippines. We might conclude therefore that the food from this array of exotic islands is far too culinarily outrageous for our Western palates. Perhaps the ingredients are challenging. It’s likely the national dishes require technical gymnastics or costly gadgets not to be found in our stores. Kulinarya is a guide.

Yes, we could be forgiven for assuming that there are reasons why Filipino food is found rarely or scarcely. But Filipino food isn’t mysterious; it’s just the lack of publicity that begs questions. Here we have a cuisine that is new to us and yet possesses familiar accents.

The style of cooking and the resulting dishes have evolved over many centuries. They include ancient preparations, along with foods that originated in Malaysia, Spain, China, Mexico, America and beyond. The Filipino cook has skilfully enhanced dishes to take advantage of local ingredients and tastes, and there is little that would not meet with approval from those new to Filipino food – although balut (duck embryo) will likely find its way to few foodie bucket-lists.

A rich flavour landscape

Kulinarya – A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine is far more than a cookbook. It is, as the name states, a guide to cooking the Philippine’s favourite dishes, but it’s also a food manual for both the home cook and the professional. It offers an indispensible overview of a rich flavour landscape, a culinary tapestry with as many delicious stitches as there are islands …and there are more than 7000 of those!

A festive dish is lechón – that’s a whole roasted pig, and probably you won’t find one of those in the far-forgotten corner of the fridge; but you will find most other key ingredients in your regular supermarket, with the occasional trip to an Asian specialist outlet or online.

Filipinos use rice as a foundation for most dishes and we all have access to that. Fresh vegetables are on every menu, along with fish and other seafood. Coconut in every guise is a staple. Pork is popular and every porcine cut is appreciated and elevated. The dishes can range from the economic and noble to the decadent and indulgent. Plain foods are served with arrays of condiments, and richer preparations are served with flair.

Adobo is the name of a popular dish and cooking method in the Philippines. These are meats, seafood, or vegetables marinated in a sauce of vinegar and spices. It’s considered by many to be the national dish and illustrates adaptation of ingredients, concepts and preparation. The Spanish introduced this classic but used the local vinegar. Here the authors offer, amongst others, Adobong Kanok at Baboy which is more commonly called CPA or chicken and pork adobo. The ingredients are found on every high street. It’s easy to prepare but those meats and seasonings combine to give a rustic but truly delicious finished result.

Deep-fried pork belly

Lechon Kawali is Philippine deep-fried pork belly. It’s served as a main dish garnished with sides but it needs dipping sauces which are such a big part of any Filipino table. This pork also puts in an appearance in other recipes such as Pork Binagoongang (crisp pork sautéed in shrimp paste). The rind has crunch but the meat remains tender and the fat melting.

My pick-of-the-book  of Philippine Cuisine is Pancit Luglog (rice noodles with toppings and sauce). This would make a striking dinner-party dish with the advantage that the sauce and toppings can be prepared in advance and then the dish assembled with freshly-cooked noodles.

Kulinarya – A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine tempts the reader with dishes having names that one recognises but the recipes have a Filipino twist. This volume presents common ingredients in exciting fashion. This beautifully crafted tome invites the reader to create surprisingly simple plates that are vibrant and flavourful. This colourful catalogue prompts the diner to book a flight to Manila.

Kulinarya – A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine
Authors: Glenda Rosales Barretto, Margarita Fores, Jessie Sincioco, Myrna Segismundo, Conrad Calalang and Claude Tayag
Published: Anvil
ISBN-10: 9712721086
ISBN-13: 978-9712721083

See other articles about Filipino food and culture here


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018