First I wanted to feature my kitchen at home. The lady in red is the head of the kitchen, my lovely grandmother. My kitchen back home isn’t huge but it suits our family fine. It’s hopefully going to get renovated in the near future to a more dark wood finish, granite top, better shelving within the cabinet, a bigger fridge and better lighting. My parent’s vision for it will be amazing I’m sure. During the summers and when I’m home in Toronto, this is where I cook.

To continue my birthday lunch coverage, I wanted to show you what a typical Filipino get together looks like. Despite the seemingly mass amounts of food, it’s still a pretty casual affair and the food choices are much more extensive during a really big celebration such as Christmas and new years. I only contributed by cooking the Prime Rib but the rest was cooked by my loving grandmother. I did all the set up and ensured that everything was warm and tasty with the help of my sister and father.

Click to see all the food!

Pancit Palabok is one of my favourite Filipino noodle dishes. There are so many flavours and textures to it. There are two types of noodles normally used when making palabok, either bihon which is a thin round rice vermicelli or lulug which is a thicker yellow noodle. My mother prefers bihon since the sauce and toppings are filling enough. The noodles are mixed in a creamy, nutty shrimp sauce with other flavourings. The noodles and the sauce are delicious on its own  but you can garnish it with cooked shrimp, crush pork rinds, hard-boiled eggs, green beans, carrots, tinapa, fried garlic, calamansi/lime/lemon juice and green onions. Mixed all together it is simply divine and truly satisfying. I know that it’s a LOT of toppings I know but all help to balance out one another and everything is optional. I’ve yet to taste anything better than my grandmother’s. This is something I definitely have to learn.

You don’t often find too many strictly vegetables dishes in Filipino culture. Especially amongst our circle of family friends, we often don’t include it in party menus. My family always tries to serve up a simple salad for those willing to eat it. Most of it ends up as leftovers which we don’t mind since we’ll happily eat it the next day. We kept it super simple with just very fresh plum tomatoes, button mushrooms, red onion and baby spinach.

We also had a fruit platter consisting of whatever we had on hand; grapes, cantaloupe and oranges, all super cold, just the way I like it. Fruit bodes much better with our family friends than vegetables so this disappeared quick.

My grandmother also cooked dinuguan which is a traditional Filipino dish whose main ingredients are pig’s blood, vinegar, garlic and less popular parts of the pig such as its ears, intestines and snout). It is definitely an acquired taste. In all honesty, it only seems weird once you know what it is but by just looking at it, it appears like a dark earthy stew. I’ve been eating it since I was really young so I’m used to it. I suggest that you give it a try before you write it off completely. It is definitely hearty and big party fav amongst our friends. It is often eaten with rice or with a steamed rice cake called puto which is seen in the bottom on the green plate. I actually strictly eat dinuguan with puto. Puto can be used both for savoury or sweet purposes and can have added toppings if desired. We typically buy ours for parties although my grandmother makes a far better homemade cheese puto.

Another typical food found at a Filipino party is lumpia shanghai and fried chicken. Lumpia is essentially spring rolls that are fried. My grandmother is very meticulous about the process she goes through in making them and ensure that all the ingredients are of equal sizes for even cooking. I sometimes help out by rolling the filling to form the spring rolls. It’s a rather simple dish and the recipe can be easily  found online. It is served with ketchup but I normally eat it with a spicy sauce to give it some heat.

This is also another party favourite.  Rellenong Bangus is stuffed milkfish that are then fried to give a crispy texture to the skin. To create this dish takes an extensive amount of time to create. It requires the complete removal of the fish’s insides while keeping the entire thing in tact. You then need to steam the removed flesh of the fish and de-bone it (which trust me is the most time-consuming, insanity inducing task ever), flake it, mix it with the rest of the ingredients which normally includes finely chopped vegetables and raisins. After letting the mixture marinate for a while, you need to re-stuff the fish (again keeping it perfectly intact) and then fry. It is then cut up and garnished with ketchup. It’s a lot of meticulous steps. My grandmother normally makes huge batches of these and we give one fish to every family friend. It’s not my most favourite dish but I can certainly appreciate the work than goes into it.

Another Filipino dessert that I love is the fruit salad that my mother makes. It mainly consists of condensed milk, cans of fruit cocktail (typically the tropical version), fresh apples,  nata de coco and shredded coconut. Some recipes call for cubed cheese (?) and my father’s side of the family opts to include this in their fruit salad but I’m not a fan. There are other variations easily found on the web but we like to keep it simple. We let the fruit salad sit in the fridge to keep it chilled until time to serve.

Other things on the menu were menudo, steamed white rice and chocolate cheesecake brownies made by one of our family friends. I believe it was one of her first baking experiences. There was also palitaw, another huge favourite Filipino dessert of mine and of course the mango birthday cake that we got from Aromaz bakery that I mentioned in a previous post.

My plate looked something like this. It was a lovely meal spent with lots of great friends. Unfortunately I ended up having to leave the party and pack my things as I had to catch a bus back to Kingston that afternoon. I also didn’t manage to bring home any leftovers which bummed me out. But there’s always another party another time; Filipinos are notorious for throwing parties constantly. Next big get together is christmas, can’t wait!