Really–what are the best foods in the PH? I thought it would indeed be very biased if I post here what I think are the best. So I’m posting foods that are best according to the very well-traveled expats I worked with for almost a decade. There might be more that I don’t remember now, but three of them I’ve eaten last time I went home.
Mangoes. We have the sweetest mango in the world–did you know? It’s the variety we call carabao (manggang kalabaw), or mangifera indica. Not only it is sweet in taste, but the fruit smells like its flowers too which is very sweet indeed.
Taro leaves cooked as laing or ginataang gabi. The expats’ favourite vegetable. Ever. Now there are many varieties of taro–there’s the tuber (which most of us are familiar with), and there’s another wherein it’s the leaves that are eaten. A grown leaf is as big as a child’s umbrella (yes, we used to play with it), and it never gets wet–you can see the water just forming into big drops and sliding off the leaf.
The leaves are dried out in the sun for a few hours (say, in the morning if you’re going to prepare it later for lunch)–otherwise it could make one’s mouth itch. Then it’s rolled and sliced thinly, and thrown into a pot of coconut milk with some minced garlic and salt (there might be just a few thin slices of ginger too). Bring to boil until it becomes mush. That’s it. That’s the vegan version, by the way. Sometimes some dried anchovies are mixed in, but I prefer without.
In the south they include pork for filling before they roll the leaves (they don’t slice it)–then they place it carefully at the bottom of the pot and pour the coconut milk until the leaves are submerged.
Ice cream (either of the two popular brands, and there is also one lesser known brand that uses carabao’s milk; and there might be more–like those at the ice cream shop I frequent at my alma mater). This is strange to me. Shouldn’t all ice cream be the same? But I remember waiting at a departure gate at the international airport in Manila before–and there came a big group of some Japanese delegates–they were all carrying big tubs of one of these ice cream brands (neatly packed in dry ice). I watched in amusement as each of them passed in front of me, nodding their head in friendly acknowledgment. One of them paused and said to me, “Ice cream!” I smiled back thinking “I know!”
The purple ice cream is ube or purple yam (I love the scent of this ice cream!), and the yellow is… cheese (difficult for most to comprehend, I know)!
If you’re brave enough (but I wouldn’t advise)–what the peddlers are selling taste good too–they’re made from coconut milk, usually for reasons of economy (milk in the PH is expensive).