Going Global with Food

A dish is always created differently, depending on the region or country. Not all dishes are created with the same set of ingredients. It depends on the availability of the ingredients in a particular region or country. In other words, cultural particularity is always present.

For instance, not all lechons are created equally here in the Philippines. Here in the metro, especially in La Loma, a district in Quezon City that comprised of various lechon sellers, lechon is always served with pork liver sauce (also known as sarsa. The brands available in supermarkets are Mang Tomas, Andok’s and Mother’s Best). However, the Negrenses and Cebuanos treat lechon differently. Instead of serving lechon with sarsa, they rather stuff the pig with herbs and spices, particularly lemongrass, onion chives, as well as Camel Soy Sauce, before roasting it. As for the Chinese, they season it with five-spice powder and other spices. Sometimes, there is a dish called lechon kawali which is prepared by either deep-frying the pork belly in a pan or using a turbo broiler. It is usually served with a concoction of soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi, crushed garlic, and chopped onions. Sometimes, chopped coriander or wansuy is added.

While most of the Western cultures cook steak in quite the same way like pan-frying and grilling, the Tagalogs treat it differently as bistekBistek Tagalog is prepared by slow-cooking the sirloin beef in a mixture of soy sauce and calamansi. It is usually topped with white onion rings.

Growing up in the Philippines, I often ate spaghetti, comprised of banana ketchup (plus points if UFC or Papa is used for the sauce), sweet-style spaghetti sauce (could be Clara Olé or Del Monte), Pure Foods hotdog slices, and ground pork. The dish is topped with processed cheese (could be Eden, Che-Vital or Ques-O). Up until now, I often have my Filipino spaghetti fix in Jollibee since they serve the best one so far. As for the Italian pasta dishes, I only got to appreciate them when I already reached college. Compared to the sweet spaghetti of the Filipinos, the Italian red sauce variety is more on tomatoes and herbs. The difference is also evident on carbonara. While the Filipino carbonara is comprised of all-purpose cream, evaporated milk, mushrooms, and bacon strips (similar to King Sue and Purefoods), the Italian carbonara is more on egg yolk emulsions and pancetta (pork belly bacon). One of the most popular Italian restaurants in the Philippines to taste these Italian pasta dishes is Bellini’s (owned by a pure Italian, Signor Roberto Bellini), located in Cubao X.

As for the instant noodles, it likewise depends on the culture. While the Korean Nong Shim’s Shin Ramyun is peppery in terms of spiciness, the Filipino Lucky Me! is more on the local flavors (i.e. La Paz Batchoy – needless to say, a childhood favorite with garlicky broth; Bulalo – similar to nilagang baka, with a hint of beef shank broth taste). As for the Japanese variety, it borders more on the rich, umami taste.

Not all McDonald’s outlets worldwide have totally the same menu, probably excluding worldwide favorites like Big Mac, Chicken McNuggets, Fillet-O-Fish and a lot more. Only the Philippine McDonald’s (aka McDo) franchise serves Chicken McDo, a fried chicken cut (not fillet) served with gravy and rice. I misconceived that the branches in China (aka Mai Tang Lao, 麦当劳) and Hong Kong likewise sell Chicken McDo since the Chinese people’s staple food is likewise rice. Yes, the China francise has chicken rice meal but the chicken is boneless, served on top of a bowl of rice. McDonald’s Hong Kong serves corn cups as side dish.  KFC in China is likewise different from the one here in the Philippines. The KFC I have dined in Chongqing served soup and egg custard tart as part of the chicken value meal while the KFC here in the Philippines offers a Fully Loaded meal comprised of signature chicken with rice, brownies, mushroom soup, macaroni salad, coleslaw, and mashed potato with gravy.

I have been eating cheesecake since I was a kid. As far as I remember, the first slice of cheesecake I have ever tasted was the Blueberry Cheesecake from Red Ribbon (the time before it was turned over to fastfood giant, Jollibee). The texture was a mix of crushed grahams and yogurt-like feel of the cream cheese. These were the same characteristics of the other cheesecakes I have tried like Conti’s, Banapple (the king of cheesecakes in the Philippines), Cheesecake Melliza, etc. However, this proved that not all cheesecakes are created equally:

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A cheesecake-making routine in the newly-opened branch of Pablo Cheesecake in Robinsons Place Manila.

While the Americans prefer their cheesecakes to be sweet and solid, the Japanese cheesecake is more on the creamy side. My family ordered Pablo’s Premium Cheesecake two weeks ago and the texture was quite similar to leche flan. The burnt sugar neutralized the cheesecake’s sweetness. Hmm… what could be the taste of the Filipino cheesecake (no, not just the chiffon cake topped with Eden Cheese) made from kesong putiDayap (local lime) could probably be one of the ideal flavors of kesong puti cheesecake.

These are just some of the examples that food is culturally particular. It depends on not just the ingredients available in a particular province or state, but also on the acquired taste.

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