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The Filipino Lunch – Rice and Ulam

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Fried tilapia with rice – Eating fried fish with rice is common in the Philippines.

Last time, I talked about the Filipino breakfast. This time around, let’s take a look at the Filipino lunch. As you may already know, many Asian cuisines are dependent or based on rice. The same is true for Filipinos. Filipinos eat rice at every meal – breakfast, lunch and dinner.

You’ll often hear a Filipino say that a meal is not complete without rice, or say that he is already hungry a few hours after a meal without rice. It may be a psychological thing resulting from eating rice at every meal from childhood to adulthood. Maybe rice just really is much more filling compared to other sources of carbs.

Typically, Filipinos eat rice with ‘ulam’. What is ‘ulam’? It is anything that you eat with rice. If I had to choose an English translation, the closest word would be ‘viand’. A variation of the word – ‘ulamin’ means ‘to eat with rice’.



Adobo with rice – One of the most popular “ulam”


Popular viands (or ‘ulam’) in the Philippines include sinigang, adobo, menudo, mechado, etc. Basically, regular Filipino cooking involves the use of local spices, mainly garlic, onion, soy sauce, vinegar and these dishes are usually eaten with rice.

Even foreign food that are not naturally eaten with rice are still eaten with rice in the Philippines and they also get branded as ‘ulam’. Steak that is normally served with mashed potatoes is eaten with rice in the Philippines. Barbecue, which is eaten as is, is also eaten with rice.


ulam with rice

Barbecue and grilled squid with rice on a banana leaf


The type of ulam that families serve also varies by region. People from the Bicol Region serves some spicy food with coconut milk. The Northern regions such as Ilocos make use of fermented anchovies or what is locally known as ‘bagoong’. In the central plain regions like Pampanga, they cook with a sweet flavour incorporating sugar into many of their cuisine. The Visayas Region, being surrounded by bodies of water, makes use of a lot of fish.



Author: Rhett Kinneas  


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Related post:

Traditional Filipino Breakfast

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