Food culture

feet heads bbqcommon sight on street barbecues: chicken feet, chicken heads, pig intestines, unidentified, chicken intestines, blood cubes, unidentified.  photo credit

Philippines has a wonderfully blood-and-guts food culture. One breakfast was chicken heads, chicken intestines and chicken feet, pig’s intestines, and cubes of congealed pig’s blood, all barbecued on skewers. I saw whole baby chickens (or they might have been ducks) skewered at one street stall, but didn’t get a chance to try them.

On my first day I ate balut, an egg with a partially-developed duck inside. It tasted like egg, but crunchy.

Soup made from pig’s blood is my new favourite meal.

Meals consist of fish, chicken or pork, either stewed or fried, sometimes with vegetables, and always with a mountain of rice. Vegetable dishes generally have some meat in them, often liver.

Not at all vegetarian-friendly, but perfect for my GAPS diet. I could always eat everything on offer at a caranderia (canteen), as rice was always served separately, and no-one was offended that I didn’t eat it.

A cup of broth (either pork or fish) is always served with the meal.

I found it interesting that no-one keeps food at home. There is no pantry, no spice rack, no refrigerator. When preparing a meal, every ingredient will be bought from the market in exactly the quantity that is needed for that meal, even cooking oil, salt and spices. There are very few grocery stores. Fresh food is mostly bought from the market, or from street vendors with hand-carts. Home-made cooked food is available on nearly every street. Cooking pots are lined up on a counter, and customers lift the lids to see what is in each, and make their selection. The food is dispensed into a small plastic bag.

Packaged snacks are sold at sari-sari stores, a tiny shop with a range of items.

The most common snack is fresh roasted peanuts.

Butchers don’t sell the plastic-wrapped products I’m accustomed to in Australia, but have pieces of animals hanging from hooks above their market stalls, which they cut to order. Livers, intestines, and trotters hang between the customer and the butcher. The counter is a chopping block. There is no refrigeration.

Food is real here, not the heavily-processed wheat-based food-like substances that are all that’s available in Australia. I arrive home craving chicken feet, and miss having all this amazing food available on the street, at any time of day.

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