Remarkable Condiments in the Philippines

The Philippines has a rich history, going back hundreds of years. The cuisine of this archipelago has been infused by the many cultures the islands have been influenced by over the years. Because of this colorful past, their food is as unique as it is rich with a dizzying array of flavors. From complex and umami to sweet and cloying, it's no wonder that time and time again, Filipino cuisine is the talk of food lovers.

But every meal is completed, nay perfected, by the condiments that seal in its flavors. If you want to know what makes Filipino food so enticing, you have to get acquainted with these four condiments.

  1. Soy Sauce

Brought to the Philippines by Chinese, soy sauce is probably the most recognizable ingredient to come out of East Asia. Soy sauce is ubiquitous in Filipino cooking, often employed in dishes that are wildly removed in a culinary sense from the Chinese origins of the sauce.

Notable dishes that incorporate soy sauce include the world-famous adobo, where it's used to marinate the tender meats. It's also used to marinate Filipino-style steak, commonly known as bistek. When infused with sliced green chili and onions, it's a dipping sauce for various fried food, such as crispy pork cutlets. This makes soy sauce a must-have in a Filipino kitchen.

  1. Bagoong

This pungent but umami delicacy is one of the Philippine's most unique products. Generally, it refers to a variety of fermented condiments made of either anchovies or crustaceans, such as shrimp and crab. The seafood is washed and packed in salt and left to ferment anywhere between one to three months. The resulting paste has a number of uses.

For example, Barrio Fiesta's sweet bagoong is often used as a dipping sauce for unripe mangoes, the umami of the bagoong bringing out the sourness of the fruit. Bagoong is also a key ingredient in kare-kare, a savory stew made of peanut sauce, oxtail, and various vegetables.

  1. Vinegar

You will never find a Filipino kitchen that doesn't have a bottle of vinegar. The sour liquid is sometimes made of rice wine and even infused with spices such as red chilies and onions to give it a more complex flavor. Vinegar is amazingly versatile as an ingredient in Filipino cooking.

First, it's used as a dipping sauce, usually with chopped onions, for vegetable rolls and the local variety of sausages. Vinegar is also used in cooking adobo, providing the sourness of the dish. It's also the key ingredient in kilawin, a local delicacy made of raw fish. The acidity of the vinegar cooks the fish without heat, making it the Philippine counterpart to ceviche.

  1. Calamansi

This small green citrus fruit is native to the archipelago and at home in any Philippine dinner table. The calamansi has a unique flavor, tarter than lemon and not as tangy as lime. Filipinos use calamansi to marinate meats, such as beef and pork steaks, infusing them with its sour but savory flavor. Calamansi is also used to add more tanginess to individual dishes, such as rice porridge, various noodle-based meals, and combined with other sauces for dips and marinades.

If you're curious about how to use these condiments, you should take the time to learn a few Filipino recipes. So long as you remember to stock up on these different sauces and delicacies, you can get the flavor perfectly.

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