“Apritada” or: How I Learned to Love Filipino Food

3 Dec

I must confess. I didn’t like Filipino food for a long time while I was growing up. When I was a young child, I’d willingly eat the food my Mom cooked because I felt I had no other choice. But as I got older, whenever she would cook sinigang or gulay, my Americanized palate longed for dishes like spaghetti instead. My siblings were the same, as far as I know. I feel bad for my Mom, because she knew how much we rejected her home country’s cuisine for so long, being so spoiled and unappreciative of the unique tastes we were born to cherish.

I’m older now, and I don’t know if it’s because I discovered my cultures in high school and college and made friends with a lot of Filipino-Americans, but I actually crave Filipino food these days. The fact that I no longer live at home and am not regularly exposed to my mother’s cooking probably also has something to do with it. But really, when I do get a chance to eat Filipino food, I enjoy it now. I invest a little more time into each bite than usual. I consciously allow those big flavors to take hold of my tastebuds and run away with them. This may all sound very ridiculous, but to someone who, in a sense was lost but now is found, I don’t want to overlook what I don’t often get to taste.

I think because I once hated but now love Filipino food, I’m intimidated by it. Yes, it’s part of my culture, but cooking it is still such a mystery to me. I know that families of more than one race or ethnicity sometimes have difficulty finding a balance with cooking. I don’t know how other families handle it, but my mother did this beautifully. Not only does she have her repertoire of Filipino dishes, but she learned how to make several Indian meals (she does an awesome biryani for someone who’s never been to India), AND she knows several great recipes of other origins (her spaghetti is to die for – and it’s NOT Filipino spaghetti!).

I’m hoping to get to my mother’s cooking status at some point. Luckily, she’s already started me on that path. She visited my sister and I recently, and treated us every night to her home cooking. One dish that she made, that I have eaten my whole life and used to hate but now appreciate, is afritada.

Side note: I actually used to think it was spelled apritada, because that’s how Filipinos say it – Fs sound like Ps, Vs sound like Bs, etc. My accent is totally American but I’m just so used to hearing that Filipino way of speaking, that I can’t bring myself to pronounce it with an American “f” even though I know that’s how it’s spelled. So I apologize if I accidently write “apritada” without spell-checking myself.

However you want to spell it, afritada is easy to make. It needs some time to stew in its pot, so the tomato juices really seep into the skin of the chicken. The potatoes make it hearty, while the peas and peppers add more texture. This is actually one of the few Filipino foods that doesn’t have in-your-face flavor; it relies more on the feel of each ingredient.

But like most Filipino foods, afritada has adapted from family to family, so my recipe may be a bit different than another Filipino’s. Adapt it how you want, just as Filipinos are skilled at doing, especially my mom. It doesn’t matter if you decide to take something out or add something new in. Appreciate its origin, and make it your own.

Filipino Chicken Afritada

  • 1.5 – 2lbs chicken (can use any parts) bone-in and skin-on
  • ½ of a large, yellow onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 cup green and red bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 3 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 can of tomato sauce
  • olive or vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper

I’m going off of memory here, from watching and helping my mother make this a few weeks ago, so hopefully I have all the steps right: start with sautéing the onions and garlic in about a tablespoon of oil until translucent. Add the chicken and allow the meat to absorb the onion flavor and slightly brown. Then add the chicken stock and let that come to boil before adding the tomato sauce. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes, then add the potatoes to cook. After about 10 minutes, or when the potatoes have softened, add the bell peppers and the peas. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let this simmer for another 5-10 minutes to allow the peppers to soften and the peas to cook. Serve with white rice and enjoy!

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4 Responses to ““Apritada” or: How I Learned to Love Filipino Food”

  1. Daniel O'Brien December 5, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    So how was the first batch of Chocolates? Thanks for linking up. Daniel O’Brien

    • TheNoviceNosher December 6, 2010 at 4:35 am #

      They’re awesome! I’ll shoot you an email with more to say and I plan to do a post soon.

  2. filipinorecipe December 8, 2010 at 9:16 am #

    i’ll try to cook your recipe..hope it works!

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