Updated: Jun 12, 2019
Favorite dishes take me back to my childhood and bring back cherished memories.
Filipino food tastes like home for me. My grandmother’s cooking takes me back to my childhood. The aromas of chicken adobo stewing in a pot, the soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and onions caramelizing to a rich brown syrup that would be spooned over steamy jasmin rice. Crispy lumpia, crackling in oil, I would wait patiently for them to cool off before popping each warm roll in my mouth. Slurping bowls of pancit, with its colorful vegetables, robust noodles and just a squeeze of lime and drop of fish sauce. These were the flavors I remember most.
Each cook makes their own version of the classic Filipino dishes. Depending on the region you grew up in, how heavy handed the cook is with salt, or where you’ve landed in the world with what ingredients are available. You find varieties of adobo with chicken or pork, vegetarian versions with greens, sometimes adding potatoes or pineapples. Spring rolls can be filled with your choice of meats or shrimp, vegetables or all of the above. Pancit noodles can be decorated with any meat of your choosing, vegetables of your choice and a variety of combinations when it comes to sauces, spicyness, and textures.
Of course, in our home, my grandmother’s way was the only way. It was her way to control the cuts of meat, how each vegetable was washed and sliced and how everyone had to adhere to her low cholesterol high blood pressure diet. When I ventured off into the world, tasting other variations, it took me time to adjust to all the different interpretations of dishes without judgement and disappointment. When I began cooking these dishes for my family, I was hardest on myself until I eventually found what flavors satisfied those cravings.
After moving to Norway, this food is what I longed for the most. I continue to experiment with my own versions of Filipino food, incorporating other culinary traditions to make these beloved home-style meals. I use my Le Creuset to stew my adobo, research Italian cooking techniques to improve the robustness of my pancit noodles, and a dallop of Crisco in the frying oil to get the extra crispness to my lumpia. Learning from friends and fellow cooks, classic cookbooks and celebrated food bloggers, each time I step into the kitchen, I’m excited about developing my skills and continuing to bring joy to the table with flavors that feel like home.