In 2019, YouGov surveyed 24,000 people from 24 countries on their preferred cuisine. Italian food ranked in the most popular category for almost every country. While Filipino food placed in the bottom percentage. Filipinos are no strangers to criticism. Despite a hospitality I would argue extends beyond your typical hosts, few foreigners are willing to try traditional pinoy dishes.

TV shows like Fear Factor and Survivor have used dishes like Balut to demonstrate how strange and disgusting the country’s food is. Except Balut isn’t disgusting. Balut is duck that has been boiled for eleven days in its egg. The juice inside is like chicken broth but more developed in flavor. The partially developed duck embryo tastes like a hard-boiled egg without having the dryness of boiled eggs.

Throughout western media Filipino food is depicted as odd, and many foreigners decide the cuisine is odd without trying some for themselves. Chef James Tang offered some insight as to why pinoy delicacies can seem extreme to the undeveloped palette.

“Filipinos at an early age are trained to eat anything or “make do” with what is available to survive. Every animal intestine, pig head, pig blood, goat’s innards, etc. is usually not wasted and still consumed as food. Apparently, this fearless approach to food is seen as “barbaric” or too “hardcore” for the typical western palate. Filipinos have these “Macho” attitude towards food, you are a wuss if you couldn’t eat balut (fertilized duck egg) or eat animal intestines. This has led to Filipino cuisine being stereotyped as barbaric food only suitable for fear factor when in reality Filipino cuisine has a diverse historical background.”

Chef James Tang

Another reason why foreigners complain about the food. Due to centuries of colonization from various countries like Spain, China, India, Japan, the United States, and many more; most dishes are influenced from the different colonizers. You can’t serve Lumpia without people being reminded of spring rolls. Kaldereta a goat stew, has been compared to Menudo, a dish served in Mexico.

You can’t serve something too unique, but if you serve a Filipino dish that’s not unique enough it receives the same treatment. A comment by chef and restaurant owner, Nicole Ponseca provides insight on the damage colonization has done to Filipino restaurants.

“It might be due to our sense of shame toward our food after being heavily colonized for centuries. That’s why some restaurants give the “white man” menu to our customers because they think they’re not going to like dinuguan, which is a pork blood stew. It is because when you’re colonized over so many years, you don’t value your own culture, even though we have so much pride.”

Nicole Ponseca

This results in foreigners thinking the food is not special enough to deserve its fame. But pinoy restaurants have another challenge in making their food appealing to the general public.

JP Anglo, chef at Sarsa Kitchen+Bar, gives more insight on this:

“Pinoy ingredients are hard to come by outside of the Philippines. You can’t get tuba, batwan etc. overseas. Even the lemon grass tastes different.”  

JP Anglo

The combination of colonization, hard to find ingredients, and a picky public creates a difficult battle for Filipino food to have its deserved time in the spotlight. I can’t wait to see the day it happens.

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Adah Tyler

Hi, my name is Adah! Thanks for stopping by! Growing up, my grandma taught me so many recipes and tips for cooking in the kitchen. I’m so excited to share those things with all of you. You can find me on Instagram and Tiktok @shmaduh if you want to see more of my content.