The Filipino Ways: Stories of Our Lutong Bahay Foods (Part 1)

Hello! Welcome to the Philippines, the land of tasty menus, amazing recipes, and delicious meals. This is my country, the country of the Filipinos, and if its about food, it is something that we are so proud of.

In this post, I would share some stories, some origins, and some wonderful experiences of the foods I tasted here in the Philippines. Perhaps, many of you could have already tasted a lot of these foods and that's great. But let me try to discuss what's in these menus; what is it that makes Filipinos love to eat them at home, inside restaurants, at the park, in our office pantry, in our school canteens, and even inside our cars during road trips. Some of the trivia, you may not believe they're true.

Let's get started.


Lydia's Lechon
Ms. Lydia de Roca and her husband Mr. Benigno de Roca started it all in the late 80's. With lechon or roast pig as the prime menu, Lydia expanded her restaurant and now includes "lutong bahay" or home-cooked dishes. And guess where the finest restaurant of Lydia's Lechon can be found? Well, it is nowhere but in Baclaran, Manila. In fact, Lydia and Benigno started everything here.

What you can see below is a perfect combination of a lunch meal served inside Lydia's Lechon restaurant. The chopped lechon and its signature sauce, then the pakbet or pinakbet (vegetables with alamang), lumpiang ubod topped with grounded peanuts, and this one-of-a-kind lugaw (congee or porridge) will satisfy not only your taste buds, but also your heart. Rice will never be gone in our meals of course. It's our national food.


These days, an order of this meal will cost you around Php150 to Php200. For a hungry driver or tired police officer, this is a sure-reliever of fatigue. When my wife and I gave it a try, right on Lydia's Lechon Baclaran main branch, it was truly a conviction - that Lydia's cooking way is truly very Filipino.

Now, here's the chopped lechon kawali, a variery of lechon dish. This one is deep fried and it's really flavorful. This is served in another good restaurant near my place in Cavite - Lolo Claro's restaurant.


The Origin of Lechon
This is lechon baboy when it's still whole. The well-roasted pork is presented right this way because this food must first delight everybody in the occasion. This one costs around Php6000 (could be a bit more). Did you know that there are Lechon festivals held in many parts of the country? See the bamboo platform where the lechon is sitting? That means tradition. The bamboo serves as handles. The parade of lechon is something we Filipinos truly embrace. In Balayan, Batangas, Philippines, for instance, "Parada ng Lechon Festival" is held each year.


Historian's would agree that lechon is Spaniard's influence to the Filipinos on their more than 300 years colonization of the land. But as the centuries unfold, lechon is more sophisticated in terms of its contribution to the Filipinos' identity as a race. In some perspective, it means prosperity for cooking one means you have a lot of money.

Now, this is how lechon is made. This fat pig is rotated hours-long in a hot charcoal grill. It's a lengthy and delicate process for you want the lechon to be golden brown, tasty inside and out, and presentable. I was one of those who grilled this pig, for a birthday occasion. A bite of lechon wipes away the tiredness of grilling it, for after about five hours.


Now, let's get cooler.


The Halo-Halo
I've mentioned halo-halo numerous times here in my blog. If there is one unique food Filipinos have in the house, tadaaa, it's this - the cold Halo-Halo. It's the crushed ice that is the foundation of it. It's a combination of different sweetened fruits namely banana, nata de coco, beans, ube, macapuno, and dessert components like gelatin or gulaman, ice cream, leche flan, sago, sugar and milk. And the rice flakes will complete the toppings.

From this long list of ingredients, wonder how long would it take you to prepare this dessert? Believe it or not, it's one day or even more. Each ingredient, you'll have to cook it individually and that alone takes time. I used to help my aunties making halo-halo and it's not easy to be honest.


It is best to have the halo-halo during summer. It takes away the body heat, at least for a moment. The colorful appearance adds delight both to the child and adult's eyes. You can order halo-halo from anywhere - near a basketball court where a league is held, in a stall near the school or office, in famous restaurants in the country, and even a few steps away from your home.

Here's another version of Halo-Halo. We call it here "Saba Con Yelo". And we do have "Mais Con Yelo" too.


How Halo-Halo Came to Be?
This Halo-Halo is a special version according to the resto's waiter. The ice cream adds a twist on the flavor. According to historians, Halo-Halo is a Japanese's influence. Well, not something to argue about for during the old times, ice is nowhere to be found but in the cold country of Japan, our closest Asian neighbor.


In my observation, the restaurant ChowKing gives Halo-Halo an inviting twist on its flavor. That by seeing it just on a giant billboard or in a few seconds commercial on TV, the next plan in mind is to order one from the famous resto. Halo-halo for me is a symbolism of Filipino's food artistry - the colors, the flavors, and the serving presentation are enough to prove that. It is where the now modern food designs could have all started. Look at halo-halo; on why it tastes so good and refreshing! You wouldn't left a drop of halo-halo when it's sunny hot, believe me.


Mang Inasal
This is what you will get at less than a hundred pesos when you eat inside the Filipino's resto Mang Inasal. Pancit palabok is the one with yellow sauce topped with chicharon, egg and onion chives. Then there's a fried lumpia on the side. The chicken inasal is down below. To complete the meal is the rice. Now what makes this tasty is the combination of just two kinds of sauce and one kind of lemon. The soy sauce, the oily sauce and the calamansi. Red hot chili is an optional mix.

Best to eat this meal bare hands. Inasal means lechon manok or grilled chicken. There is something in it, the way it is prepared and cooked, and the mix of sauces, that invites the taste buds to bring in some more. Well, chicken is one of Filipinos most-preferred foods on their plate. Especially when grilled over charcoal, that burnt-wood smell is so appetizing.


Chicken Inasal Origin
In 2003, a young guy in the name of Edgar Sia, brought inasal to the Filipino resto's in a very appealing fashion. He started the chicken grilling in Iloilo City and in about five-year time, Mang Inasal is widely spread all over the Philippines. That smoky smell, oh goodness gracious. That's the invitation of inasal you wouldn't dare reject. With this extraordinary effort of a Visayan entrepreneur, inasal is now a popular term, that many claims they're the first.

Take a look at this well-cooked chicken recipe. That's inasal's another version.


In this table of foods, in a paper you'll read "Andok's". That's another signature inasal Filipinos love to take out and eat in a family dinner. Andok's inasal is present in many Filipino occasions - birthday party, Christmas Noche Buena, and even Friday nights beer sessions with the barkada (friends).


Of who did it first, Mang Inasal, Andok's, Baliwag Lechon, Sr. Pedro, or Chooks to Go, I'll leave it to you as an assignment. Maybe buy one whole inasal from each store each day. Why not?


Batangas Lomi Noodle
If it's about this kind of noodle dish, they say that the Batangas version is one that greatly stamps into the Filipinos' taste buds. I'm from Batangas, and without any bias, I would say the claim that ours stands out among the rest is quite true. Go anywhere in my province, ask anyone where the lomi store can be found, and they will likely suggest one or two.

What's in this recipe? A lot! The lomi noodle is known locally as miki. A typical lomi has fried pork, blanched pork liver, and chicharon. Nowadays, the ingredients are quite more than usual. They add fishballs, kikiam, onion chives, fried garlic, dice onion, dried chili powder, and more. What makes lomi special is the soy sauce, calamansi and chili combination. In the cold months, lomi is absolutely a perfect companion. It makes you feel hot and full.



One of lomi's ingredient is chicharon or fried pork fats. In this photo is a plate of crunchy home-made chicharon. In our present-day culture, chicharon is best partnered with gin or vodka. Dip in a spicy vinegar, and then a shot of a glass of gin, and you'll surely fight the cold frosting you out during the rainy months. Pampanga's chicharon is one of the best varieties in town to try.


Origin of Noodles
Noodles originated from the greater Chinese regions, from China to be exact. It has been in the Chinese table for over 4000 years. And when it reached the country during the 12th and 13th centuries, Filipinos started to like this amazing creation of hands out of dough. Lomi is just one of the many noodle recipes that Filipinos truly love. There we have the pancit canton, pancit malabon, pancit palabok, pancit habhab, pancit guisado, pancit bato, pancit bihon, and a lot more tasty pancit menus.

I am proud to share here that we were among of the first starters of lomi stores in the province of Batangas, during the late 80's. My father, who's a great cook, introduced lomi in a very unique way. I used to help my father and mother in cooking lomi, reason why I know how to cook it today. As a family business, lomi once became our entry to education.

Noodle or what we commonly call here "pancit" is always part of our meals. It's inexpensive and it can feed more people, for it expands with hot water. In these two photos, you can spot two kinds of noodle menus. And did you remember the pancit palabok in the earlier photo? Okay, good. I bet you're now craving for it.




Lutong Bahay
Filipinos never runs out of recipe and that's so true. Be it western or eastern-inspired, or a flavor of our own, we cook the best dishes for this is who we are. Here, you will see menus of different kinds. I took this photo from a restaurant somewhere in Ongpin, in the city of Manila. I was not only delighted with the presentation, but I was also inspired with Filipinos wide imagination when it comes to culinary.


There is something mysterious with our "lutong bahay" or home cooked foods. Maybe the ingredients, maybe the way of cooking, or maybe it's more than that.


Be it in the ordinary days when "sinaing na tulingan" and "sinabawang kabute" are good enough, or during the holiday season when we fill our tables with a huge variety of foods, we cook and eat with passion and love. That statement sounds intriguing but it's actually not. It is just that there is something in the Filipino's style or way cooking that makes us different, and you may completely agree with it once you know it. Got a clue?

That is what I will attempt to explain as a concluding thought in this part 1 of the post.


In Our Foods is Love
When I was in college, I became a part-time waiter in a food catering business. It was a huge business where big clients come in day after day. We serve the VIPs with not just ordinary menus, but international cuisines. I've tasted many kinds of foods, so to speak, for when there are leftovers in the platters that client no longer wants to bring home, we were allowed to give it a taste.

But eating those expensive and delicious foods without good conversations is like eating just to fill-in a stomach, and not the heart and mind. I've felt that way many times. And the same goes with cooking. When you cook for a purpose, with love, it feeds the whole body, even the soul. That being said, I believe that Filipinos "lutong bahay" is more than a tradition of cooking. It is what builds a family.


In a sense, while eating lutong bahay menus, it reminds you of your tatay and inay, ate and kuya, lolo and lola. Whoever cooks the menu of the day, it is special for it was cooked and served for a purpose - build love among family members.

The connection might be difficult to be noticed if talked about Mang Inasal, Lydia's Lechon, ChowKing Halo-Halo and Batangas Lomi. But if they have one thing in common, they could have been still being ordered by the Filipinos for in these kinds of food is where we find love - the same love we felt from our lutong bahay. Our OFWs working on different countries, no doubt, they're looking for lutong bahay. Either they cook on their own with the ingredients available or they drive hours just to taste the Pinoy's lutong bahay in the country.

Whether you're eating from a karinderya or an exclusive restaurant, always find that lutong bahay kind of love. It matters, really.

In Part 2 of this post, I would share more stories about our true Filipino identity. Stay tuned.



Food-related blogs you may also want to read:

Why Do We Share Photos of the Foods We Eat on Social Media?

How Filipinos are Loosing their True Identity
A Time to Unwind for Filipinos Like Us at Charito Bag of Beans, Tagaytay - Part 2



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