Filipino cuisine is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat) flavors. Filipino palates prefer a sudden influx of flavor, although most dishes are not heavily spiced. While other Asian cuisines may be known for a more subtle delivery and presentation, Filipino cuisine is often delivered all at once in a single presentation.
Counterpoint is a feature in Philippine cuisine. This normally comes in a pairing of something sweet with something salty, and results in surprisingly pleasing combinations. Examples include: champorado (a sweet cocoa rice porridge), being paired with tuyo (salted, sun-dried fish); dinuguan (a savory stew made of pig's blood and innards), paired with puto (sweet, steamed rice cakes); unripe fruits such as mangoes (which are only slightly sweet but very sour), are eaten dipped in salt or bagoong; the use of cheese (which is salty) in sweetcakes (such as bibingka and puto), as well as an ice cream flavoring.
Vinegar is a common ingredient. Adobo is popular not solely for its simplicity and ease of preparation, but also for its ability to be stored for days without spoiling, and even improve in flavor with a day or two of storage. Tinapa is a smoke-cured fish while tuyo, daing, and dangit are corned, sun-dried fish popular because they can last for weeks without spoiling, even without refrigeration.
Cooking and eating in the Philippines has traditionally been an informal and communal affair centered around the family kitchen. Filipinos traditionally eat three main meals a day: agahan or almusal (breakfast), tanghalían (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda (also called minandál or minindál). Snacking is normal. Dinner, while still the main meal, is smaller than other countries. Usually, either breakfast or lunch is the largest meal. Food tends to be served all at once and not in courses. Unlike many of their Asian counterparts Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks. Due to Western influence, food is often eaten using flatware—forks, knives, spoons—but the primary pairing of utensils used at a Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork not knife and fork. The traditional way of eating is with the hands, especially dry dishes such as inihaw or prito. The diner will take a bite of the main dish, then eat rice pressed together with his fingers. This practice, known as kamayan, is rarely seen in urbanized areas. However, Filipinos tend to feel the spirit of kamayan when eating amidst nature during out of town trips, beach vacations, and town fiestas.
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