Much of the flavor of Philippine cooking is due to the wide variety of vegetables that are featured in almost every meal. As a tropical and luxuriant country, the Philippines is blessed with lush vegetation and many plants have been domesticated and found not only edible but delicious as well. The native dishes derived from Malaysia and Indonesia take full advantage of vegetables. However, it is in Chinese cuisine that vegetables find their fulfillment as gourmet delights.
Many Filipino dishes use meat, fish or poultry just to provide the flavor and the protein needed to balance their diets. The bulk of the dishes, however, are made up of vegetables, which are often mixed together chop suey style. Leaves, buds, stalks, pods and tender parts of plants and trees are used to full advantage. Usually blanched and never overcooked, vegetables provide the Filipino with sufficient vitamins and minerals. Beans and legumes supply most of the protein in his diet.
The staple of Filipino diet is rice although the strong Chinese influence on Filipino cooking is also seen in the wide use of noodles. Rice was grown in Southeast Asia and the Philippines long before the coming of Westerners. The preferred varieties for daily meals are white, long grained and aromatic. Glutinous or sticky rice, of either the white or brownish varieties. are used for rice cakes and other native sweets. For normal use, rice is simply boiled with just enough water to cook it until it is dry and fluffy; nothing else is added, not even salt
The practice of using rice in a main dish is borrowed from Spain — as in arroz a la Valenciana or arroz con caldo. Fried rice in the Chinese manner has also introduced endless combinations. The traditional Filipino way of frying rice, however, is simply to brown a crushed clove of garlic in hot lard, add a little salt, and stir-fry the rice in this. Fried rice is a favorite breakfast fare as the practical Filipinos usually use leftover rice and it is a good way to warm it up and add some flavor to it. Chinese noodles are of many varieties but the main Filipino favorites are bihon (rice sticks) and sotanghon (transparent noodles from soy beans). They can be boiled in soup or sauteed with meat and vegetables.
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