Growing up in Vallejo, CA, a city that has always had a large Filipino population, meant that I was often surrounded by people who looked like me and ate the same food as me. After moving away to college, I quickly realized that not many people knew much about Filipino culture and of course, the delicious food, beyond the obligatory lumpia.
I like to describe Filipino cuisine as the ‘best of east and west’’ – there are influences from China and India due to agricultural trading, and also heavy influences from the Spanish and U.S. due to colonization. A common thread that connects the various savory dishes is the use of garlic, onion, and ginger.
Dishes are always served family style – often laid out on a banana leaf – and paired with rice, which becomes the main utensil, as eating with your hands is the norm. This is a cuisine that is so comforting, and I’m very excited to share my favorite Filipino dishes and wine pairings with you!
Pancit and Sauvignon Blanc
Pancit is a Filipino stir-fry noodle dish. You can use Pancit Bihon (thin rice noodles), Pancit Canton (egg noodles), or a combination of both (my preference!). It is packed with different veggies, such as carrots, cabbage, green beans, or mushrooms, and meats such as chicken, pork, or shrimp. It is then finished with a squeeze of lime or lemon for some acid. I love eating this with a glass of crisp, minerally Sauvignon Blanc, especially one from Sancerre. The vibrancy and fresh herb notes of this wine go great with the dish.
Caldereta and Sangiovese
Calderata is a beef tomato stew, packed full of potatoes, carrots, green olives, and bell peppers. This dish has a heavy Spanish-influence and it is great to make during the fall/winter time. Try this dish with a glass of Sangiovese. The dried herb, peppery notes of Sangiovese play very well with the dish’s rich tomato sauce.
Crispy pata and Brut Champagne
Crispy pata is seriously indulgent! It is deep-fried pork leg that is served with a dipping sauce of vinegar, soy sauce, green onions, and a splash of calamansi – a hybrid lime/lemon that grows in the Philippines. To cut through the richness and saltiness, pair it with a refreshing glass of Brut Champagne. Hint: don’t eat if you’re on a diet!
Chicken adobo and off-dry Riesling
I would say this is one of the dishes that people most associate with Filipino cuisine. It can be made with either chicken or pork (I prefer chicken), lots of garlic, black peppercorn, soy sauce, vinegar and bay leaves. Soy sauce dishes are a little tricky to pair with wine, but I’ve learned that having a glass of off-dry Riesling helps create a ‘salty sweet’ pairing that is perfect together.
Kare kare and Gewurztraminer
Kare kare is an oxtail stew, simmered in a peanut sauce. Eggplant, long beans, and bok choy are also added. In my household, the oxtail is cooked in a pressure cooker to help make the meat nice and tender.