As with most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. It is most often steamed and served during meals.

Leftover rice is often fried with garlic to make sinangag, which is usually served at breakfast together with a fried egg and cured meat or sausages. Rice is often enjoyed with the sauce or broth from the main dishes. In some regions, rice is mixed with salt, condensed milk, cocoa, or coffee. Rice flour is used in making sweets, cakes and other pastries. While rice is the main staple food, bread is also a common staple.

A variety of fruits and vegetables are often used in cooking. Bananas (the saba variety in particular), kalamansi, guavas (bayabas), mangoes, papayas, and pineapples lend a distinctly tropical flair in many dishes, but mainstay green leafy vegetables like water spinach (kangkong), Chinese cabbage (petsay), Napa cabbage (petsay wombok), cabbage (repolyo) and other vegetables like eggplants (talong) and yard-long beans (sitaw) are just as commonly used. Coconuts are ubiquitous. Coconut meat is often used in desserts, coconut milk (kakang gata) in sauces, and coconut oil for frying. Abundant harvests of root crops like potatoes, carrots, taro (gabi), cassava (kamoteng kahoy), purple yam (ube), and sweet potato (kamote) make them readily available. The combination of tomatoes (kamatis), garlic (bawang), and onions (sibuyas) is found in many dishes.

Meat staples include chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Seafood is popular as a result of the bodies of water surrounding the archipelago. Popular catches include tilapia, catfish (hito), milkfish (bangus), grouper (lapu-lapu), shrimp (hipon), prawns (sugpo), mackerel (galunggong, hasa-hasa), swordfish, oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong), clams (halaan and tulya), large and small crabs (alimango and alimasag respectively), game fish, sablefish, tuna, cod, blue marlin, and squid/cuttlefish (both called pusit). Also popular are seaweeds, abalone, and eel.

The most common way of having fish is to have it salted, pan-fried or deep-fried, and then eaten as a simple meal with rice and vegetables. It may also be cooked in a sour broth of tomatoes or tamarind as in pangat, prepared with vegetables and a souring agent to make sinigang, simmered in vinegar and peppers to make paksiw, or roasted over hot charcoal or wood (inihaw). Other preparations include escabeche (sweet and sour), relleno (deboned and stuffed), or "kinilaw" (similar to ceviche; marinated in vinegar or kalamansi). Fish can be preserved by being smoked (tinapa) or sun-dried (tuyo or daing).

Food is often served with various dipping sauces. Fried food is often dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from Kalamansi (Philippine lime or calamansi), or a combination of two or all. Patis (fish sauce) may be mixed with kalamansi as dipping sauce for most seafood. Fish sauce, fish paste (bagoong), shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) and crushed ginger root (luya) are condiments that are often added to dishes during the cooking process or when served.

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