Like appetizers, the practice of starting a meal with soup is not traditionally Filipino but a foreign borrowing. It is likely a Spanish influence because if Chinese influence on Filipino cooking were noticed, soup would signal the end rather than the beginning of a meal.
The traditional Filipino meal is usually a meal-in-one dish such as puchero or nilaga containing meat and vegetables in some broth. Sometimes rice or noodles are also included in the dish as in arroz caldo, bachoy or pancit molo. Often the meal may also be made up of one dish with broth, usually sautéed vegetables, and a dry dish, usually fried fish or meat. In either case, the Filipino simply helps himself with some broth which he usually pours over his plain boiled rice and then work up to the vegetables and the meat, fish or poultry.
All dishes are served on the table at once "family style" with a great deal of passing of plates. At formal dinners in city restaurants and Westernized homes, however, the system of serving dishes around one by one starting with soup and ending with dessert and coffee is often observed.
Most Filipinos abroad have adopted the Western style of eating. Often, however, the soup that is served first is the broth from the main course, usually a meal in one dish. After the broth has been drained, the meat and vegetables are served on a platter and eaten with the rice.
Soup stocks (also called broth or bouillon) are not only the basis for most of the soups in this section but are often called for in other recipes. Chicken broth and beef stock are the most often used types in Philippine cooking. They add flavor and richness to the food and are easy and economical.
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