Staring down the ingredients list you’ll notice a large variety of toppings - this is a big part of Filipino food culture where the meal preparation doesn’t finish in the kitchen but instead at the table and at the hands of the person who is going to eat what the cook has made. The diner will have a full spread of condiments, toppings and garnishes to choose from to customise their meal. This communal creation of food is rooted in the agricultural lifestyle of the pre-hispanic, Filipino tribal communities. Have a watch as Rex takes you through all you need to make this popular dish.
Annatto seeds - popularly known as atsuete or atsuwete in the Philippines, they have an earthy, peppery flavour but are more commonly used in Filipino cooking for their natural red food colouring which actually dyes the food a yellowish orange colour - this week you see Chef Rex steep the seeds in hot oil to extract this characteristic colour. The tree was brought over by the Spanish from the Americas to Southeast Asia in the 1600s and is recognisable for its large rose-like flowers and prickly pods which contain around 50 seeds each. Historically, annatto was used for ceremonial purposes but also by warriors who would also use the seeds to make body paint for protection in battle.
Chicharon - these deep-fried pork rinds are similar to what you might see in other cultures such as pork scratchings in the UK or Portuguese torresmos. The Spanish “chicharron” originated in the Andalusia region in southern Spain, which is where most of the Spanish colonialists embarked from bringing their food ways over to the Philippines. They’re popular as a pulutan snack (beer snack/finger food) which can be eaten as is or with a variety of dipping sauces such as, bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), vinegars and soy sauce or you’ll find them being used for garnishing and adding texture like with the pancit palabok. You’ll also find variations made with chicken skin or pig intestines and nowadays you also see different flavours being added such as, chilli or even chocolate.
Rice bihon noodles - noodles made their way into Filipino cuisine at ‘ground level’ from Chinese migration as they were much more affordable to the average Filipino household compared with for example, Spanish ingredients which were seen as more prestigious at the time. The noodles have since gone on to be fully adopted and nativised into the local cuisine, the result is a huge variety of regional pancit dishes throughout the Philippines, incorporation indigenous ingredients from the country’s rich natural resources.
Achuete Oil Recipe: