Look hard enough, and a scenic drive around Scarborough reveals treasures of steaming hot trays laden with adobo, sisig, and other stews of vegetables and meat. Amidst our city's many Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants, you might find a Filipino turo-turo (counter service) store serving residents from near and far, for a sit-down meal, take-out, or Saturday night beer with friends.
No single dish dominates Scarborough's Filipino palates and plates, and that's okay--the cuisine's many historical influences from China, Europe, the Indian Ocean, and the Americas meet atop a heaping helpful of soft white rice.
Kanin, as the beloved staple is called, pillows the salty pinakbet (vegetables with shrimp paste) from Ilocos in the north, the creamy laing (taro leaves in coconut milk) from Bicol in the east, or the extravagant lechon (roast suckling pig) from the central Visayas.
The skin of the famed lechon--the centrepiece of la fiesta Filipina--is prized for its unmistakable crisp, not unlike Chinese varieties, but its meat is tender and lightly fragrant, paying homage to its Polynesian roots.
The absolute cult classic of Filipino dishes. Like cousins three times removed with the same last name, its distant relatives in Mexico and Spain share only one thing: adobo meat swims in its marinade. In that distant hemisphere, chicken, pork, or beef wade ... View More or Locate
Growing up, Filipino kids know this dish as "chocolate meat," made lovingly by lola (grandmother) and euphemized carefully by nanay (mom) or tatay (father). Ravenously, children scooped heaps of this rich, irony, slightly sour pork dish onto warm steamed white rice fresh from the rice cooker. ... View More or Locate
Crunch. The sounds of toe-stepping and line-shoving at parties--brought to immediate silence when the immaculately crispy skin of lechon is punched through.
Divert your attentions away from the Spanish and Mexican connections of the Philippines in order to get to the story behind this hot, steamy, and sticky rice cake. Puto is more closely related to the rice and coconut South Indian puttu, rather ... View More or Locate
The importance of ingredients such as pork, vinegar, soy sauce, and patis (fish sauce) are integral in Filipino cooking -- almost as integral as family itself.
Visit one of the restaurants or turo-turo (counter service) stores within your neighbourhood; the strength and support of the diasporic community is evident within these spaces, especially visible during mealtimes and after Sunday mass.
With shelves lined with snacks and products from home, televisions playing Philippine films or series in Tagalog, and hearty homey dishes served with rice such as adobo and dinuguan, it’s no wonder that these spaces play such an involved role within Scarborough.
Even before Spanish contact, the Philippines and its people found deep culinary roots in the Polynesian, Muslim, Tamil, and Southern Chinese contact within what some have called the “Malay matrix” of islands in Southeast Asia.
The islands’ bounty of vegetables, fruits, and seafood, against the backdrop of rice--what Philippine cuisine is known for--were firmly established, with Chinese noodle dishes, once the Spanish arrived with meat stews and fiesta fare.
But even with its long history of colonialism, don’t be fooled: even Chinese- and Spanish-looking (and, later, American) dishes take on different and distinct forms when expertly cooked through the Filipino chef’s hands and tastes. The sweet and sourness of Philippine fruits and sugars mix with its many forms of salt and fermentation, claiming what were foreign dishes at first as distinctly Filipino.