It is not surprising to see different styles of cooking among the islands of the Philippines. Various Filipino cooking styles have emerged because of contributing factors like the availability of natural resources used for ingredients, as well as the food character and culture in each region.
We understand that it will be more challenging for you or for someone that is new to the cooking world if you do not have some cooking tips to follow.
Here, we will provide you with the most useful and little known cooking techniques, tricks, and hacks that will make your kitchen life easier and more enjoyable!
Table of Contents:
- Cooking With Whole Vs. Ground Spices
- Don’t Always Rely On Salt
- Cook Low And Slow
- Make Garlic Your Best friend
- Cornstarch- The Secret Spice
- Always Use Fresh Coconut Milk
- Sear Your Meats
- Pick Traditional Crowd-Pleasers
Cooking Tip 1: Cooking with whole vs. ground spices
Freshly ground spices can give you the freshest and most robust taste than whole spices. However, the flavor strength of ground spices tends to lose over time. So it is better to store whole spices and grind them right when you need them.
You also need to know that the most commonly used spices in Filipino dishes include ginger, chili, garlic, onions, lemongrass, pandan, bay leaf, coriander, celery, star anise, peppercorns, and annatto or atsuete.
Cooking Tip 2: Don’t always rely on salt
“Toss in some salt” is probably the quickest solution you’ll think of whenever your dish lacks a little something.
Tasting and making adjustments can help you save your dish. Often, you will need acid to round out the flavor. For instance, you can use lemon or vinegar.
What if you put too much lemon or vinegar? The first thing that you need to do is to remind yourself that you always need to be careful on adding ingredients, it is important to taste your dish in each cooking phase.
Here’s a secret: too much acid in food can be fixed by adding just a pinch of baking soda. Just a small amount – we emphasize this because that little amount can do the trick. Don’t panic when you see some foaming when you add the baking soda, it’s just the chemical reaction with your acidic food.
Cooking Tip 3: Cook low and slow
You don’t want to serve your guests with a jawbreaker caldereta. It is important to slowly cook tough meats, either by braising (pagkulob), stewing (paglaga), or grill roasting.
Cuts that come from an animal’s active muscles include shoulder and chest. Slow cooking helps in breaking down connective tissues these parts.
Another important reason to keep in mind: when you cook ingredients for a long time, the flavors tend to be more blended and developed.
Cooking Tip 4: Make garlic your best friend
Whether you are going to cook adobo or pancit, or whatever dish you have in mind, make sure to add generous amounts of garlic.
Don’t be afraid to put more than the recipe calls for. Trust me, when it comes to Filipino cuisines you can never go wrong with garlic.
Varieties of garlic that are grown here in the Philippines are Batangas white, Ilocos white, and Batanes white. Among these varieties, Ilocos white is the most common.
Cooking Tip 5: Cornstarch – the secret spice
Filipinos commonly use cornstarch as a spice in a lot of recipes. You can use cornstarch slurry (cornstarch diluted in water) in your dishes to achieve thick and creamy sauce or stew.
This can be used as a cheaper substitute for milk and cream for the same purpose.
Cooking Tip 6: Always use fresh coconut milk
If you want to make great food, use fresh ingredients as much as possible. A lot of Filipino dishes use coconut milk as the base ingredient. You don’t want to impress your mother-in-law with laing cooked in canned coconut cream, right?
Some ginataan recipes often call for cooking the coconut cream until the coconut oil separates from the solids. This is not possible if you use canned coconut cream because stabilizers and coagulators are added to the product.
If fresh coconuts are really not available, frozen shredded coconut may be used. However, the quality of frozen shredded coconut is not high, thus this will produce very thin milk.
Learn everything you need about coconut milk here: Gata Vs. Kakang Gata
Cooking Tip 7: Sear your meats
Have you ever wondered why your cooked meat is so pale compared to what you see in the commercials?
Before cooking your adobo or caldereta or other stews, sear (pasuin) your meats and notice the difference. Many Filipinos skip this process – searing adds color to your meat and it also helps in locking in the juices.
For certain dishes to really shine, browning or searing the meat before slow cooking, makes all the difference. Aside from adding an additional step for you to concentrate the flavor of the food, this will also create a lovely character that’s visually appealing.
Cooking Tip 8: Pick traditional crowd-pleasers
Filipinos love big gatherings –either it is your pamangkin’s binyag, your son’s wedding, or even bertdey ni bantay, we always find reasons to eat and celebrate.
Learn to master the art of hosting by making sure that your menu appeals to wide-ranging tastes. It is good to try and create new recipes, but avoid serving your ‘trial and error dishes’ during celebrations. Stay away from anything unusual and include a wide variety of dishes.
Avoid creating the menu down with one particular ingredient or seasoning, as much as possible try not serving afritada, mechado, and menudo at the same time –unless you want your guests to play the guessing game.
Look for top crowd-pleaser recipes and use them as your guide.
Traditional Filipino food for celebrations include: lumpia, pancit, kinilaw, kare-kare, sinigang, and adobo. These dishes are universal to all regions of the Philippines; they are eaten on a daily basis by all classes of society and made with ingredients that are naturally available in our environment.