Healthy Filipino food? You might think that that's the last word you would use to describe Filipino cuisine, but you'll soon see that many dishes are healthy, health-boosting, and this is important: Delicious. Salads for example, is a heavy feature, with ingredients like sea grapes (a type of seaweed) and all kinds of vegetables- bittergourd is a huge favourite. Others, like Sinigang, is a lovely and spicy tamarind-base soup with chicken, beef or pork and smells of Thai Tom Yam. Don't miss all the rest in my 10 Must-Eat Healthy Filipino Food list!
Sigarilyas (winged bean) in coconut milk, chilis and lean ground beef or pork. Technically gising gising means Wake up! Wake up! in the filipino language, tagalog. The dish is called gising gising because of the use of bird’s eye chili. It’s a very addictive spicy dish and a most wonderful way of preparing winged green beans (sigarilyas), high in vitamin A.
Essentially, it's raw fish soaked in vinegar. This one's a good source of protein and acetic acid - if you’ve ever tasted Peruvian ceviche, this dish will be familiar to you. Tanigue is a national saltwater white fish that is similar to what is internationally known as snapper. It is very rich in vitamins B-12 and riboflavin, also in the trace metal antioxidant called selenium. Kinilaw refers to the style of curing the fish in a vinegar or acetic citrus fruit juice. This is actually a very simple recipe in which you cube the fish, add very thinly sliced onions, peppers (the small spicy and the large mild capsaicin), and pour in a respective amount of vinegar or citrus juice. After placing the bowl sealed in the refrigerator for 15 minutes, the vinegar has already seeped into the fish, cooking it from the outside in. This was a go-to for me when I was trying to lean out for a role I had.
Tinola is a ginger based soup, with most of its delicious flavor coming from the bone broth from chicken or fish. The soup is rich with nutrients coming from the filipino herb malunggay, papaya or chayote wedges, and ginger.
Salted duck egg yolk, a key ingredient for this tasty salad
In the Province of Aurora, eastern Luzon, wild ferns grow all about the flora of the land, so just as easily as you can bend down and pick them up in the forest, you can wash and eat them! The pako is the edible fiddlehead part of the fern that curls as it’s younger and unfurls as it’s grows, but when harvested, simply wash and add sliced tomato, onion, and salted egg. It’s simply delicious! Of course the usual “dressing” of vinegar with some pepper and sugar is common, soy sauce is sometimes also added to enhance the dressing. The fiddleheads are crisp and crunchy potassium and zinc and are high in antioxidants, vitamin A, C, and B.
Bittergourd, often used in Filipino salads
A vegetable stir-fry made of lots of bitter gourd (or melon)- this is one of the most nutrient-dense vegetables known to mankind. It is especially rich in vitamins C and A. For this dish, the vegetable is sautéed with egg, tomato, onion, and sometimes garlic, shrimp, or pork, but the bitter melons is always the star.
This beef bone soup warms the heart and soul! First, make sure it’s as healthy as it can be, so get rid of the first beef and bone boil to clear out the extra fat, oil, and impurities. Then, continuously stew it with onions, potatoes, pechay (internationally known as bok choy), peppercorns, and if desired cabbage and carrot. A family favorite!
Sinigang is a sour soup owing to its notable tamarind base, stewed with a protein of choice ranging from pork, beef, shrimp, fish, or chicken, and containing loads of healthy vegetables thrown into the mix, such as okra, gabi (internationally known as taro root), long beans, onions, tomatoes, and siling haba (filipino for long chili, green in color and somewhat spicy). Sinigang is always a hit, as the explosion of flavor impresses most anyone, international or filipino. I like to compare this soup to Tom Yum for it’s sourness and vegetable (hence vitamin) content, but it is definitely VERY different.
This Eggplant salad includes grilled talong (filipino for eggplant) to remove the skin, combined with chopped fresh onion and tomatoes, with vinegar added on the top. Depending on your taste, you may add bagoong, which is shrimp paste, an extreme version of umami flavoring, to add an explosion of taste to the veggies.
Squeeze a calamansi for some great zing
This salad is comprised of thinly sliced bitter gourd, very lightly salted then drained, tossed with shallots, bird’s eye chili, thinly sliced pepino (small cucumber), and a tablespoon of lemon juice or calamansi juice (a small sweet and sour citrus fruit from the Philippines). You must let the flavors saturate for 10 minutes before serving to let them come together.
Sea grapes, a type of edible seaweed found in this Filipino salad, and used in Japanese appetisers
Seagrape salad! This amazingly unique salad features a special edible seaweed that is shaped like little spheres aligned on stems of seaweed - all edible and very seafood umami! If you are very knowledgeable on Japanese food, this is referred to as umibudo, a very succulent seaweed either served as sushi wrapped in nori and rice or as is. Very similarly to the other Filipino salads, vinegar is the “dressing” to the salad, with added salt, pepper, and sugar, spun with onion and tomato. After 10 minutes, it is ready to be enjoyed with the sea grapes popping in your mouth.