Thanks to Western media, Filipino chefs, and Jollibee’s massive global expansion, Philippine food has expanded beyond Asia. And while the steps we’ve taken throughout the years have been more of leaps, it seems that the cuisine still hasn’t stuck as in the same way, say, Japanese cuisine has. For several times now, Filipino food has been touted as the “next big thing.” And it makes us wonder when it’ll actually be *the* big thing.
Why Isn’t Philippine Food as Big as Its Asian Neighbors?
Pepper.ph, a Filipino cooking resource from the Philippines, interviewed chefs, writers, and food personalities in the Philippines to pick their brains about why Filipino food hasn’t taken off as much as its other Asian counterparts. Here’s a summary of their inferred reasons:
Ambiguity of Filipino Cuisine
The popularity of Filipino food is hindered by ambiguity, leading to a general lack of confidence in our cuisine, especially when it’s pitted against others. This is a shame, given the rich mix of ingredients, techniques, and flavors inherent in Philippine food.
Heterogeneity of Philippine Food
Some Filipino recipes are a product of other cuisines: Spanish, Chinese, Indian, etc. And these similarities make it hard for dishes to stand out since they’re often dismissed as “something similar” to another thing that may be more popular. The heterogeneity of Philippine food also makes it hard to box the cuisine in a category, and the sheer vastness of local recipes makes it intimidating for outsiders to understand.
Inaccessibility of Filipino Ingredients
Ingredients play a huge role in Philippine recipes. Naturally, that’s not a problem locally, even in neighboring Southeast Asian countries. But beyond that, cooks who are interested in the cuisine may find limitations in enjoying it in its glory because the components that make it aren’t readily available where they are.
Bad Quality of Philippine Food Abroad
Filipino cuisine has mushroomed all over the world thanks to overseas Filipino workers. But these restaurants, although serving authentic Philippine recipes, are sadly generally mismanaged, making them uncompetitive in the global culinary stage. That said, we are seeing more Filipino chefs taking the cuisine to the next level, showcasing Filipino food in either a more accessible or elevated way.
Exoticism of the Philippines
One of the major reasons why Filipino cuisine doesn’t become mainstream, in a sense, is because it’s often dismissed as “exotic.” It’s eroticized, making it inaccessible to the public and more of a spectacle than a respectable cuisine. A level of exoticism even happens back in the Philippines, where people in different regions are unaware of the cuisines present in places other than their homes.
Gatekeeping of the Cuisine
Pinoys are all about local pride. We beam about all of our countrymen’s achievements, whether as big as a Filipino winning a Nobel Prize or as trivial as being mentioned in a foreign series’ episode. That said, there’s still a lot of gatekeeping that happens when it comes to Filipino cuisine. Locally, we have much more breadth when it comes to customizing recipes. But when outsiders do it (given that it was done with good intent), people are quick to nitpick and declare it inauthentic, which can be intimidating for foreign cooks who want to learn how to cook Philippine food.
But does it matter?
So Filipino cuisine will always be just “the next big thing.” But does it even matter? Although we think that it definitely deserves to be up there with its Asian countries as a diverse and delicious cuisine, we Filipinos ourselves still have to work on making the cuisine “big” in our own territory. A lot of Filipinos, for example, don’t know about the cuisines of different regions apart from their own. And just a bit of exploration will open the average joe’s eyes to an even bigger perspective when it comes to the cuisine.