Although the Filipino diet may not be internationally well-known, it makes up what is considered one of the most varied and fascinating cuisines in Asia.
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The Filipino diet is heavily rice based, and rice is eaten with every meal, including dessert. Rice is often steamed and leftovers are normally fried with garlic the next morning and eaten along with fried fish or fried sausages. In a country made up of more than 7,000 islands, seafood is widely available. Most commonly eaten seafood are tilapia, milkfish, shrimps, blue crabs and squid. Pork and chicken are the most popular and affordable meat. Locally grown vegetables such as water spinach, bitter melon, eggplant, tomato, sweet potato and okra are simply sauteed or stewed with tiny pieces of meat. The Philippines is a tropical country with two main seasons–dry and rainy. Filipinos often marinate or cook the food with salt and vinegar as a preservative. Many dishes are cooked or served with Bagoong (fish/shrimp paste or thick sauce) and Patis (thin fish sauce). Vinegar, soy sauce and/or Filipino lime (kalamansi) with minced garlic are often used as a dipping sauce.
Indigenous food is simply cooked: grilled (inihaw), steamed (pinasingawan), boiled (nilaga) or eaten raw, called kinilaw. Fish and vegetables are briefly marinated in vinegar or lime juice to transform them from rawness while retaining freshness, according to The Food of the Philippines. Early Malay and Chinese settlers and Spanish colonizers were big influences on the Filipino food. When Spain colonized the Philippines in the 16th century, the Spanish brought some of their native cooking ingredients such as corn, potato, tomato and dishes from Spain and Mexico, countries that actually ruled the Philippines.
The average Filipino eats three meals a day and merienda–morning and afternoon snacks. Popular Filipino food includes Adobo (meat, seafood, or vegetables stewed in vinegar and soy sauce), Lumpia Shanghai (fried spring rolls), Sinigang (tamarind-based soup), Longanisa (Filipino sausage), Menudo (meat and vegetable stew), Pancit (noodle dishes–often rice or cornstarch noodles), Halo Halo (mixed sweets such as boiled fruits and sweet beans with shaved ice) and Leche Flan (custard pudding). Some of the dishes share the same name as Mexican or Spanish dishes but are often quite different. Once an American colony, the Philippines is quite Americanized in many aspects–the current Filipino population consumes a large amount of fast food such as hot dogs, hamburgers and American-style pizza, and that has become a national concern.