Where the Locals Eat in Manila - Carinderia Culture and 5 Filipino Dishes You Need to Try
March 19, 2021
March 19, 2021
Comprised of over 7000+ islands, the Philippines is a hub for culinary fusion and experimentation with hundreds of different ingredients and fresh produce, seafood and meat to work with. Each household has their own kusinero/kusinera (cooks in Tagalog), putting their own twists and takes on traditional Filipino dishes. Seriously, ask 4 different Filipinx how they make their Sinigang (a sour tamarind-based soup), and you will get 4 completely different answers.
Filipino food has yet to make the same breakthrough in the culinary scene as Japanese or Mexican food has, and when you mention it to other non-Filipinx, often they think of Fil-Am/Can fusion or immediately think- Adobo! Filipino food seems complicated and intimidating– complex recipes with foreign ingredients, bubbling and sizzling away in a pot for hours on end but really at its core, the food is simple and regional, each province has its own ways of making different things.
In the Philippines, food is a big deal. It takes centre stage at Birthdays, Christmas, Easter, Weddings, Baptisms and even during Karaoke nights- the food is synonymous with the culture and you will always find a Lola (grandmother in Tagalog), making her usual rounds around the family gathering, asking everyone ‘kumain ka na ba?’ (have you eaten yet?)
Filipinos are not shy to shell out their best dishes and efforts during big celebrations when it comes to food, but in their day to day lives, most families and working professionals keep dinner and lunch lowkey. After a long day at work and commuting back from the bustling city of Metro Manila, many people opt to stop by their local Carinderia and either order Ulam (dish) to-go or even eat at the restaurant as a way to destress and leave the dishes to someone else and keep the clutter away from home.
The Filipino Carinderia is a small road-side restaurant that serves up local and traditional ‘lutong-bahay’, which in English loosely translates to ‘home-cooked/homestyle food’. Usually, they are run out of the front of someone’s home or is a small stall with limited seating for guests and almost always family-run and operated.
The spread of traditional dishes is displayed family style in big heated steel pans, where you can then ‘turo-turo’ (pick, point and choose) at which dish you would like to try. Ulam (the actual dish) is always served with white jasmine rice and a usual suspect clear broth, and you are free to choose as many ulam as you would like to accompany your rice. Some spots will serve Filipino desserts such as various kakanin (sweet glutinous rice treats) and fresh drinks and juice.
Filipinos love to eat food that connects them to their childhood, food that reminds them of home and their family– the Carinderia is close to our hearts because we feel at home in them, the tito/titas (aunts/uncles) treat everyone as their own, and make you feel welcome and safe in their space.
Small businesses such as a family-run Carinderia is a way many Filipinx lift their families from poverty, provide income for their loved ones and is often a way to support their children throughout their school life. Carinderia. Every block has its own Carinderia that becomes the local social spot where everyone is welcome to enjoy a meal, sit down and have a beer with your friends or even catch up on the local tsismis (gossip) with the watchful aunties. Carinderia’s are a part of the Filipino identity, and are a testament to the will of the Filipino people.
March 19, 2021