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The Surprising Fact about Eating Filipino Food in the Philippines

By Jen Murphy

Oct 8, 2015

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When Aashi Vel, co-founder of San Francisco-based culinary company Traveling Spoon, first traveled to the Philippines, she was convinced Filipino food was terrible. “I had been so excited to explore the local cuisine and try dishes I couldn't find at home in the U.S.,” she says. “Instead, I mostly found bland meat and carb-heavy dishes with not a vegetable in sight. It surprised me to find such minimal use of spices and flavors on a tropical Asian island.” She had nearly resigned herself to the fact that maybe the Philippines just wasn't a destination for good food, until she stepped inside the home of a woman named Nayna. “My mind was instantly changed upon tasting ensaladang talong, a smoky eggplant that Nayna learned to make from her grandmother,” she says. Vel continued to be blown away dish after dish, tasting foods that were nothing like what she saw in restaurants and on the streets of the Philippines. This is why Lawrence and her partner, Stephanie Lawrence, created Traveling Spoon: to connect travelers with authentic food experiences in locals' homes around the world.


In this case, Traveling Spoon's mission was crucial: To get a real taste of Filipino food that truly reflects its history, you have to step inside a local home. “After talking with more and more locals, I realized that the colonial history of the Philippines fundamentally altered the country's cuisine,” she says. “After decades of Spanish and then American influence, many of the local dishes faded from public consumption.” It's still difficult to find restaurants that serve "authentic" Filipino cuisine in the Philippines. Vel visited local homes throughout Manila to find the best home-cooked food and truly authentic regional Filipino cuisine. Her research resulted in Traveling Spoon’s new program in the Philippines, which launches this week. Here, she shares five flavors and dishes that you’ll only find in the homes of locals.

1. Calamansi drink

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2. Ensaladang pako (local ferns salad in a calamansi and raw honey dressing)

"By the end of next year we will be at the point where the unemployment rate is between 5% and 5.5%, and it will truly feel legitimate," Faucher said.

3. Ensaladang talong (smoky eggplant with salted duck egg)

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4. Ginataang hipon sa taba ng talangka (shrimp cooked in crab fat and coconut milk)

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5. Calamansi pie

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