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There are three things that go undeniably well together: the scorching Philippine heat, ice cold beer, and delicious pulutan. Pulutan (whose root word pulot literally translates to “pick up”) is finger food eaten when drinking — so basically, bar chow. But Filipino bar chow is much more than your ordinary peanuts. Read on and learn how to enjoy your next beer night the Filipino way.
There are many variants of chicharon from all over the world, but in the Philippines, this refers to deep fried pork rinds. Usually, these pork rinds come in two types: with or without laman (a little bit of meat that’s left attached to the skin and deep-fried along with it). This sinful snack can be found everywhere in the country from supermarkets to street vendors so getting your hands on it won’t be a challenge. Serve this up on beer night along with a bowl of spicy vinegar for dipping and it will quickly become a new favorite.
This next snack is as popular to the locals as it is odd-sounding to the foreign eater. Sisig is a well-loved Filipino dish that originates from the province of Pampanga. It is made mainly from chopped up parts of a pig’s head and is served sizzling on a hot plate. While this can also be eaten with rice as a meal, sisig is also a favorite Filipino pulutan when drinking. Upon serving, squeeze the kalamansi (Philippine lime) over the plate, mix in the raw egg while it’s hot, and savor all its flavors.
This Filipino appetizer simply translates to “tofu and pig”. The meat, usually a combination of pork belly and ears, is cooked in boiling water until tender, while the tofu is deep fried. Both are then served in a sauce of mainly soy sauce and vinegar. It is made slightly sweet with a bit of sugar, and extra tasty by adding pork broth to the mix.
Filipino pork bbq is cuts of pork marinated in a sweet mixture of soy sauce and brown sugar (sometimes, banana ketchup), skewered, and then grilled. Allowing it to marinate overnight ensures extremely tasty meat to go with your beer the following day. The marinade is also usually used as the basting sauce upon grilling. If you and your drinking buddies are feeling a little more adventurous, try grilling skewered isaw (pork or chicken intestine) and balunbalunan (chicken gizzard) alongside it too. Both of these are popular Filipino street foods that are ubiquitous in the country.
No, this is not the same as the infamous Filipino lechon, but it is just as guilt-inducingly delicious. Unlike its whole-roasted counterpart, lechon kawali is made by boiling pork belly until tender and then deep frying it to perfection — when the skin is crisp and golden, and the meat is juicy and tender. Chop up the end product to bite-sized pieces and serve beside a cold bucket of beer — a sinful match made in heaven.
In the Philippines, dilis, or anchovies, are typically dried and eaten as either a snack, or with rice and fried eggs for breakfast. A great way to have this with beer is to quickly fry them in a bit of oil and serve as is. To avoid the hassle, fried dilis is also sold in stores and supermarkets in the country. For a bit of a kick, there are also spicy versions on offer.
Chicharon bulaklak (literally translated, “flower chicharon”) is deep fried pig mesentery (perhaps it’s becoming very evident right about now just how much Filipinos enjoy deep-fried pig — no matter what part). In preparation, this cut of pork must be cleaned thoroughly before deep frying until golden brown. It dons a distinctive rippled shape, resembling that of some flower petals, hence the name. It is then served with a side of spiced vinegar, which cuts the richness of the deep-fried pork and balances out the taste with its acidity.
Another beer partner that tastes delicious dipped in vinegar is kropek. These are light and airy prawn-flavored crackers that are eaten as a snack or served as an appetizer with Asian meals. While popular in the Philippines, these crackers are also common in other Asian countries like China, Indonesia, and Malaysia. In supermarkets, packs of the dehydrated snack are sold to be freshly fried at home, but they also come in bags as chips, ready to be eaten upon opening.
If a snack company specifically labels one of its products as a “beer match”, it probably is. These chips are shaped like a thicker version of prawn crackers and are generously infused with a salt and vinegar flavor. They don’t hold back on the spiciness, so for those who enjoy a play of flavors, this would be a great snack (and an even better one alongside cold beer). These can be found everywhere, from small stores to supermarkets, and the best part? No preparation required.
This next dish is the country’s version of the Peruvian ceviche. Using fresh fish (usually tanigue or tuna), kinilaw is prepared with the raw fish of choice, coconut or cane vinegar, onions, kalamansi, ginger, chilli peppers, and in some recipes, coconut milk. Other seafoods, such as shrimp or squid, can also be incorporated in the dish.
No, we’re not quite done with deep fried pork just yet. Similar to lechon kawali, crispy pata is deep fried pork leg until golden crackling skin and a moist interior is achieved. It is then served with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce and, for meals, these go wonderfully with rice. As bar chow, however, it would be best to chop it up and serve for sharing with forks (though this doesn’t guarantee that utensils will be used for this mouthwatering dish).