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Five fabulous Filipino foods foreigners find foul flavored

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The fabulous five Filipino foods I am writing about are fish heads, spiky fruits, house plant vegetable soup, bitter melon and pork blood stew. When writing an interesting blog article, I find it necessary to sometimes overgeneralize. Some foreigners may agree with me that some or most or all of these foods are delicious. We all have our own taste. The beauty of the comment section is opinions can be expressed and information added. Anyway, on with the article!

Fish Heads

Filipino Fish Head Soup

Tagalog Buddy

One thing my Filipina wife and I have in common is that both our fathers were fishermen. We ate a lot of fish growing up and we still enjoy eating fish frequently. Dad still shares some of his catch with us. My wife insists on Dad leaving the heads on some of the fish he cleans to give us. As a boy, we did not eat fish with heads attached, but I have found that I agree with my wife that fish cooked with the head have more flavor. Sometimes my wife even makes a stew with just the fish heads. The stew to me is very good. My only complaints are not a lot of meat on the fish head and fish heads are not cheap here about $8 a pound! I always allow my wife to eat the eyes of the fish which she claims are the best part. Ain’t I a peach!

I am not sure why some people don’t like the fish to have the heads on when served for dinner. I like being able to identify what I am eating like in the old days. Now everything is cut up and you can hardly tell what kind of animal paid the ultimate price for your meal. My youngest son does not like seeing the heads. He used to think if the fish still had its head it was still alive. What do you think about eating fish with the heads attached?

Spikey Fruits

Rambutan

Rambutan

The spikey fruits I am talking about are breadfruit, durian, jackfruit, and rambutan. I will confess now that I actually have not eaten durian, yet. Bob Martin says it is great and I take his word on it based on my experience with eating durian’s close relatives jackfruit and breadfruit. I have tried the others and found all of them when ripe delicious. Rambutan is different in that it is small in size, but it is also delicious. They sure do look strange and they may taste a little different than fruits you are used to, but for me, if I wanted everything to be the same I would never have married a lady from the other side of the world with a different culture and different foods.

House Plant Vegetable Soup

We have these plants growing around our house and one day I notice all the leaves are gone. Then at dinner, my wife serves as a side dish this soup with the houseplant leaves in to eat. I eat almost everything my wife presents me without question, so in the pie hole, the soup goes. This soup tastes great. My wife calls it horseradish soup, but it has horseradish, eggplant and ginger root hunks cut up in it. I love the taste and all those vegetables got to be good for the old ticker. Is hemlock a vegetable? Some of my friends who are Americans married to Filipinas saw me eating it and they wanted no part of the soup. I for the life of me am not sure why.

Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

Bitter Melon

The last two foods on my list are ones I kind of had to work on to get where I enjoy them, but I now feel excitement when they are served. I tried bitter melon the first time it was offered to me. I did not like it. I did not understand why someone would want to expose their taste buds to such a bitter tasting food. The second time if was offered to me by my wife I actually declined to eat bitter melon. The third time it was offered I tried it and I enjoyed it a little and I have come to enjoy it more with each exposure. I guess bitter melon is what I would call an acquired taste.

Pork Blood Stew

Dinuguan, pork blood stew is the one Filipino dish I actually declined trying at first. The first time I saw pork blood stew was at a potluck dinner. To be honest the sight of the dinuguan made me a little nauseous. Dinuguan looks thick dark purple almost black and has an inky texture with bits of pork parts in it. There were plenty of other dishes available that I enjoyed so I passed up on this one.

Dinuguan, pork blood stew

Dinuguan, pork blood stew

One day my wife asked if I wanted to try dinuguan. I eat pretty much whatever my love gives me so I gave it a shot. I took a spoonful up with some rice and was pleasantly surprised the dinuguan was delicious. I asked my wife what the crunchy chewy part was and she informed me it was cut up pig ears. I thought those were the best pig ears I have had in my life! Last night, my wife bought some Dinuguan at a Filipino store and I asked about what part of the pig each piece I was eating was. It turns out the crunchy chewy part I like so good is the intestine. Most of the meat in this version was just pork.

Recently at a party, one of my wife’s friends was supposed to bring dinuguan with primarily pig intestines which my wife says is even better than the variety we usually eat, but for some reason, that guest did not show. I was disappointed apparently there are many varieties of pork blood stew served in different provinces. Dinuguan like many of my favorite Filipino foods for me should be eaten with rice or the taste is too powerful.

What about balut, Jay?

I have never tried balut. My wife seems to be uninterested in it. Not all Filipinos eat balut just like not all Southerners eat chitterlings. Honestly to me, balut does not sound appealing. I kind of think of balut as something one eats on a dare when they are drunk. I suspect I will get around to trying balut one day, but if anyone has tried it and wants to offer a review of it please feel free to post it in the comments section. With Filipino food, I find it best to keep your mind and mouth open and sometimes helpful to keep your eyes and nose closed. Bon Appetit!

Jay Stainback

Jay Stainback lives in Raleigh, NC, USA and is hoping/planning to retire to Bohol in about 10 years. He is married to his beautiful Filipina wife Juliet whom he met on-line. They were married 12/7/02 and have two boys’ ages 9 years old and 5 years old. Jay has visited the Philippines 4 times the first time 1 week, the 2nd time 2 weeks, the 3rd time for 3 weeks, the 4th time 4 weeks spending most of their time in Bohol.

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Dan Kilpatrick
5 years ago

I tried Balut during my last visit. No, I wasn’t drunk. It’s really not that bad but I didn’t particularly like it either. I’m not sure what the attraction is unless one is really hungry!

Gregory T. Bunn
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kilpatrick

I really liked it. Ate it quite often. Of course, there is a difference in how it is prepared as to taste.

Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kilpatrick

Hi Dan-I get the feeling it is a macho thing. Like look like what I can choke down. In the South guys might say, “Look at this!”, before doing some that causes them bodily injury..

Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Dan Kilpatrick

Gregory T. Bunn Glad you enjoyed it. I guess I will have to give it a try. Of course, I will have to say, “Look at this!”

Scott Ruffinen
5 years ago

Dinuguan1 I was at a party thrown by some Filipino friends and, thinking it was some sort of gravy, spooned some over my rice. My wife told me later that she saw me and thought to herself, “Ooh! He’s taking that!” It was delicious but I never had it again for religious reasons rather than aesthetics.

Dennis Glass
Dennis Glass
5 years ago

damn son

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Dennis Glass

Hi Dennis,

Do you care to elaborate?

Peace

Jay

Tom Popp
5 years ago

Balut is pretty good. jus eat it in teh dark so you do not have to look at it. 🙂

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Tom Popp

Hi Tom,

Thanks for the information on balut and the tip on eating it in the dark!

Peace

Jay

Alex Kennedy
Alex Kennedy
5 years ago

You missed the biggest one: Balut

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Alex Kennedy

Hi Alex,

I am well aware of balut, but since I have not tried it yet. I merely mentioned it. Some commenters have stepped up for balut as being good. I currently have no personal knowledge. Thanks for the comment!

Peace

Jay

William Bevis
5 years ago

I love bitter melon, rambutan and jackfruit. Balut doesn’t appeal to me. Fish Head soup is good too.

Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  William Bevis

Hi William-I am with you! I love those, but honestly the bitter melon took a little time to develop the taste.

Marcelino Zabal
5 years ago

My situation is reverse. I’m Filipino and married to white Southern girl, from Georgia. First time I was invited at her parents house for dinner was Grits and deep fried Brim fish and biscuits. I thought grits was for breakfast only. But Savannah is famous for seafood so surprise there. The first meal I cooked in her apartment was the fish Sinigang and invited her Mom, and she liked it. From the above list, she loved everything except Baltimore and dinuguan, also for religious reason. She doesn’t like bagoong, but like anchovies on Caesar Salad. She loved everything about Bittermelon… Read more »

John Reyes
5 years ago

There is this Filipino grocery store/restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, that I go to whenever I am in that area to satisfy my craving for Filipino food. They serve “dinuguan” among other dishes, and pinakbet that has bitter melon (ampalaya) in it. I love both, but I will pass on the “balut”, which they don’t serve anyway. As a kid growing up in the province, I remember fish head soup, usually cooked “sinigang” style, which means, cooked with sour fruit like tamarind. I like the broth on steamed rice, but not the fish head itself. On any given Sunday, in this… Read more »

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

Hi John, Great to hear from you again it has been awhile! I agree with your comment. The purpose of Filipino food seems to be largely to add flavor to rice. This is not meant as a complaint, I love Filipino food! The meat of the fish head itself is not the point. The point is the flavor it adds. On the Dolphins, I was not as shocked as some. This was a classic trap game. New England was looking forward to the Pittsburgh game and not playing with Gronkowski. The Dolphins are capable of playing well, but seem to… Read more »

John Reyes
5 years ago
Reply to  Jay Stainback

Thanks, Jay. Yes, the various assortment of Filipino viands and sauces are what make rice more palatable to digest and vice versa. They go hand in hand, complementing one another. Without either one, a Filipino meal seems incomplete. Nice picture of your family there, Jay.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

Hi John,

Thanks the pictures a few years old. It was taken at my induction in my high school’s athletic hall of fame.

Peace

Jay

Cordillera Cowboy
5 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

Hello John!
Good to see you here again. I’ve missed your informed commentary and the banter.
Take care,
Pete

John Reyes
5 years ago

Hi Pete –
Thank you. I find it hard to stay away from LiP especially at this time of the year when I should be by now savoring the sights, taste and smell of Filipino Christmas, instead of dealing with the teeth-chattering cold and snow and whipping wind in this part of the world where I am.

As you may not know, I have always considered LiP the next best thing to being in the Philippines for it gives me the warmth and solace I seek in winter’s darkness.

Cordillera Cowboy
5 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

I used to like winter. I prided myself on doing he-man stuff like camping above the arctic circle and playing reindeer games with the Army in the alpine snows. It took a toll on my joints.
I’ve only been here half a year, but I think I’m acclimatized now. December temps are in the high 60’s to high 70’s. I’ve rolled my sleeves down, and added a light jacket from time to time.
Happy holidays to you and yours!

Aklan Heat
Aklan Heat
5 years ago
Reply to  John Reyes

“There is this Filipino grocery store/restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, that I go to whenever I am in that area to satisfy my craving for Filipino food.” Haha, John, you sound like me! As a Pinoy though, isn’t that about the truth? Here in the States where I live we also have Pinoy grocery store slash restaurant to go for that craving for Filipino food that you’re talking about. When reading an article about Filipino food, it always gives me a BIG smile on my face! NOTHING in the world can beat Filipino food, no matter what they say! Maligayang Pasko!… Read more »

John Reyes
5 years ago
Reply to  Aklan Heat

You got that right, Aklan Heat, about Pinoy food!

Steve
Steve
5 years ago

Hi Jay. You are much braver than I am. I’ll pass on all the dishes you mentioned…. at least for now. Maybe some day….

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  Steve

Hi Steve,

I was raised in the South and we were taught to try different foods to see if we like them. I am not sure everyone is raised the same way. That isn’t meant in a negative way only a statement of fact. Thanks for commenting!

Peace

Jay

hgb
hgb
5 years ago

Great article Jay.

I like bitter melon. A lot depends on how it is prepared.

Bitter melon is supposed to clean out your blood and lower your sugar levels.

Jay Stainback
Jay Stainback
5 years ago
Reply to  hgb

Hi hgb,

I like bitter melon, but I had to acquire the taste. I agree with you about how it is prepared. The first time I tried it, it was prepared by one of my wife’s friends who I have learned through experience isn’t a very good cook. Thanks for the compliment and comment!

Peace

Jay

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