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Filipino cuisine: Many cultures make it richly unique

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

by Molly Gingold

This month, I asked my kitchen manager, Josie MacIntosh, to write a column.

Josie is absolutely key to daily operations at Molly’s. She is a fantastic cook in her own right, and I’m so lucky to have her as my employee as well as my friend. Josie is of Filipino descent and has some wonderful Filipino recipes. This month, she shares them with you. Enjoy!

The beginning

More than 300 years ago, long before Spanish conquistadores staggered down their ships to kiss the shores of the islands, Filipinos were rowing out to sea in their little bancas (canoes), wading knee-deep in rice paddies, planting in their backyards, and hunting in the woods.

Whatever they gathered and caught they simply roasted, boiled

or broiled over an open fire. The forests were abundant

and the surrounding waters teeming with life. The Filipinos’ idea of food included everything nature had to offer, preferably seafood, preferably fresh – squirming-, leaping-, crawling-out-of-the-cooking-pot fresh.

Foreign influence

Foreign trade during those times was healthy and a good deal less complicated than today. Malaysians, Indonesians, Arabians, Indians and Chinese brought all sorts of spices and food plants to the islands. Some of foreigners stayed and raised families and handed down cooking methods, which the Filipinos used to improve their own methods.

Filipino cuisine is much like the Filipino himself: a mixture of different cultures, Eastern and Western, that forms one unique culture that is like, yet unlike, those that preceded it.

Throughout the centuries, foreigners came as traders or conquerors, and brought with them their tastes and cooking styles, which the Filipinos adapted to their own essentially Malayan cuisine.

The Chinese influence

From the Chinese, Filipinos have the whole noodle business: pancit miki, pancit bihon, pancit Canton, pancit sotanghon. But Filipinos have completely imbued the dishes with their own flair, and now there is a different kind of pancit for almost every region on the Philippines.

Other Chinese-inspired dishes, such as lumpia (Chinese egg roll), kikiam (fish balls), siopao (Chinese pork-filled buns) and siomai (Chinese dumpling), have been absorbed into the Filipino way of life. They are part of Filipino diet, even today.

The Spanish influence

Three hundred years of preparing dinner for Mother Spain gave us a flair for rich food, the way Europeans prepare it. Stews such as the cocido and puchero, rice-meat dishes and elaborate desserts such as brazos and tortas imperiales are generally considered fiesta food. Most often found on the dining tables of the upper classes.

Lumpia (Filipino Egg Rolls)

1 pound ground meat or poultry

1Ú4 teaspoon pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 T. soy sauce

1 large onion, chopped

2 T. flour

1 can (8 oz) water chestnuts, chopped

1Ú4 cup water

2 pound bean sprouts

30 lumpia wrappers

11Ú2 teaspoons salt

Salad oil for frying

Lumpia Dipping Sauce (see below)

In a saucepan, brown meat with garlic and onion. Add water chestnuts, bean sprouts, salt, pepper and/or soy sauce; cook for 2 minutes. Drain and cool thoroughly. Combine flour and water to make a paste. To make lumpia, place 2 tablespoons filling on a wrapper. Fold nearest edge of wrapper over filling; fold left and right sides toward center. Roll tightly toward open edge. Seal with paste. Heat oil to 375 F. Fry lumpia until golden brown; drain. Serve with dipping sauce. Makes 30 lumpia.

Lumpia Dipping Sauce

3 cloves garlic, minced

1Ú8 teaspoon salt

1Ú4 cup vinegar

1Ú8 teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients; serve with hot lumpia. Makes about 1Ú4 cup.

Molly Gingell is the owner of Molly’s Gourmet Catering, takeout and cooking school at 220 W. John St. in Carson City.