Who said our Filipino food is all brown and unattractive? Actually, I think it is a pretty fair description of much of what we eat. But I also totally agree it doesn’t HAVE to be that way and that by crafting menus with interesting pairings and paying attention to plating, the food can and should be made to look a bit more appetizing to our eyes before our taste buds. Since we tend to stew or deep fry or grill a lot of our dishes, we do end up with a lot of brown and black tones… but the fantastic colors of our tropical fruits and some of our vegetables and herbs should be able to balance out what I would call “the blah factor.” Yesterday for lunch we had a home-cooked meal of paksiw na lechon (I actually like this dish better than lechon itself), a hearty pinakbet tagalog style, with lots of kalabasa, some brown rice under the guise of trying to eat healthy, and a few slices of acid green mango with bagoong to temper the oiliness/richness of the lechon paksiw.
The photos here were of my actual lunch plate and as an afterthought, I took a photo. Yup, pretty brown to me but if this was to be “styled,” one could gussy up the lechon paksiw a bit, see this earlier version here, make the pinakbet with a little more attention to the colors as in this recipe here, and maybe throw in a tomato and salted egg salad or a tomato and green mango salad/relish for a burst of bright color. Making the food look more appealing is one area where I have to applaud several restauranteurs here and abroad that are employing more classic western touches to bring life to the food. The two cookbooks on Filipino food recently published in the U.S. do a great job of styling food to look better and more appealing. I would draw the line at completely altering the underlying essence of a dish and still calling it a pinakbet or adobo, for example, but nothing wrong with changing the presentation of a classic dish…particularly if it gets more folks to give it a try!