If you’ve never heard of Filipino food, you’re in for a treat. The Philippines is an archipelago in Southeast Asia that may not be as popular as other East Asia in terms of food but has so much punch to throw when it comes to its local dishes, which will have you craving for more, again and again.
One thing that I’ve found unique in the Philippines, aside from their original chicken and pork adobo, the extremely sour sinigang, and the wholly roasted pork Lechon, is the way they make even the most western of dishes fit on their palate.
A very popular example of this is Filipino Spaghetti. But what is Filipino Spaghetti, and what makes this seemingly Italian dish very… Filipino?
First things first, what is spaghetti?
Spaghetti is a type of long, thin, and cylindrical pasta made of milled wheat or flour and water. This type of pasta is commonly served with tomato sauce and meat toppings and is considered a staple food in Italian cuisine.
Did you know that ‘spaghetti’ is a plural form of the word ‘spaghetto’ which means thin string, a trait of classic spaghetti pasta.
Spaghetti can be made fresh through a rolling pin and a knife and a pasta machine with a spaghetti attachment. Fresh spaghetti is often cooked hours after making.
For those who cannot make homemade spaghetti pasta, there are readily available dried spaghetti in supermarkets and cooked with boiling water to soften them for cooking with the sauce.
What is Filipino Spaghetti?
So, what is Filipino Spaghetti, and how is Filipino Spaghetti different from other spaghetti variations, especially Italian spaghetti?
The thing about Filipino Spaghetti, and perhaps Filipinos in general, is that they are very sweet (yes, both the spaghetti and the people, I can attest!). Filipinos have a sweet tooth, and they have evolved the classic Italian dish into an almost absurd version of spaghetti, making it both sweet and spicy at the same time, with heaps of red sauce, all kinds of ground meat, hotdogs, and every kind of cheese they kind find on the fridge.
It’s no wonder people get so confused about why they needed to label it ‘Filipino’ spaghetti simply because it’s definitely how your usual spaghetti would taste like.
So why is Filipino Spaghetti sweet? We can trace that back to the American influences back in the 1940s. Because the Americans were looking for spaghetti, and red tomatoes and ketchup were not locally available in the country, the Filipinos resorted to using bananas to make ketchup and added chopped hotdogs instead of meatballs. Thus, the sweet Filipino-style spaghetti was born.
Ingredients in Filipino Spaghetti
Now we know what Filipino spaghetti is, it’s time to find out what to put in Filipino spaghetti and what Filipino spaghetti sauce is made of.
The Filipino spaghetti is made of red sauce, which the red sauce primarily comes from store-bought Filipino-style Spaghetti sauces. We would also need spaghetti noodles (which can be homemade, but Filipino spaghetti is usually made from dried spaghetti noodles), condensed milk, banana ketchup, ground pork, luncheon meat, chopped hotdogs, shredded cheddar cheese, beef broth, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and cooking oil.
You may wonder what kind of meat is in Filipino spaghetti. Believe it or not, you can put any kind of meat in Filipino spaghetti, but the most popular ones are ground meat and chopped hotdogs. I tell you, never remove ground meat and chopped hotdogs in Filipino spaghetti. Children, most significantly, don’t consider spaghetti as Filipino spaghetti without hotdogs.
Regarding what cheese to use for Filipino spaghetti, you can simply put cheddar cheese in them. You can put cheddar cheese (and heaps) while cooking the sauce and add another batch of cheese as toppings for the spaghetti.
How to Cook Filipino Spaghetti
The first thing to remember in making Filipino spaghetti is to make sure the sauce is sweet. Here, I will show you a foolproof way to cook it and what Filipino spaghetti sauce is made of.
In a large pot, heat cooking oil and sautee garlic and onions until the aroma comes out and the garlic is browned. Add and lightly fry the hotdogs and the ground pork until brown. Add the Filipino-style spaghetti sauce (which you can buy in any Filipino store), banana ketchup, and condensed milk.
When all the ingredients are in, stir them together and let them simmer and boil for 20 to 30 minutes. To know if the sauce is ready, taste them and add salt and pepper if necessary.
Remember that the best Filipino-style spaghetti is the one that satisfies your sweetness meter, so you can add more condensed milk or even sugar to pump up that sweetness even more.
While the sauce is cooking, you can cook the spaghetti noodles according to the package instructions. A popular way of knowing when the noodles are cooked is to take one strand, throw them onto your wall, and if the noodle sticks, it’s good to go. Peculiar, but very reliable! Wash the noodles in running water after cooking, then set them aside. You may also want to salt your pasta before cooking, so it doesn’t become too bland.
When your pasta is ready, pour the cooked sauce over the pasta, and top with shredded cheese. The more cheese, the better! Now, your Filipino spaghetti is ready to serve!
The sweet flavor of Filipino-style spaghetti has made this dish one of the most beloved dishes by children, especially at birthday parties. However, it’s not just kids but adults alike who are whipped for this sweet spaghetti version that will undoubtedly change how you want your spaghetti made from now on.