Bar and finger food

Bar and finger food

By
Yasmin Newman
Contains
6 recipes
Published by
Hardie Grant Books
ISBN
9781742705637
Photographer
Jana Liebenstein

Bits, bites and beer snacks

In the Philippines, no activity is complete without food — drinking included. With one hand firmly around a glass, the other picks up crunchy, oily, moreish morsels to devour between swigs of liquor and the next punch line delivered by friends.

Pulutan is sometimes imperfectly translated as appetiser, but a custom of courses does not exist in the Philippines. In common usage, pulutan is synonymous with alcohol. The word is derived from the verb pulutin, meaning ‘to pick up’; fingers are all that are needed. The Spanish have a similar tradition of small bites specially designed for drinks, tapas.

Fried food, barbecued stuff and the obscure make up the Filipino blueprint for pulutan; not surprisingly, these hearty choices go well with beer, whisky, rum, gin and toddy, the country’s drinks of choice. They also profess to temper alcohol, offering a few extra hours of revelling with friends.

On the fried front, chicharon is classic beer food; think deep-fried pork rind, intestines (bulaklak) and chicken skin (chicharon manok), which are plunged into tart vinegar and garlic. Batter adds to the deep-fried party in camaron rebosado (salt and pepper prawns) and ukoy (vegetable fritters), while pork-stuffed spring rolls of lumpia Shanghai are cooked to a crisp. Something about drinking amplifies Filipinos’ lust for offal. Sisig, a sizzling hot plate of pig’s ear and jowl, is considered pulutan heaven, as is balut, the country’s beloved fertilised duck egg.

Drinking does not occur without pulutan, but many beer foods are eaten as a merienda (light meal) or as mains with rice. Pica-pica is the term for finger food eaten sans alcohol; it is probably closer to our notion of snack than the hefty Filipino merienda. Sino-Chinese sio mai (dumplings), sio pao (pork buns), fish balls and kekiam (stuffed bean curd) are pica-pica that double as popular street food fare.

Barkada, the Filipino word for a band or close group of friends, rates not far behind family in the country’s emotional scale. Liquor adds laughter to Filipino drinking sessions, but camaraderie defines them. Food is always there as a shared love and a common language between Filipinos and friends.

Recipes in this Chapter

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