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MY COOKBOOK IS OUT! What The Heck Is Filipino Food? A Beginner’s Guide to Filipino Cooking

Submitted by on April 15, 2012 – 10:35 am137 Comments

The day has come where I can finally hit the publish button on this long awaited post and announce: My Cookbook is OUT! Deep breath…and exhale…

Keeping this project a secret for two years was super hard. Seriously. But with enough dedication, I was able to keep my mouth shut and remain completely focused on getting it off the ground. I took every opportunity to write, recipe develop, write, test and write some more. From late nights, before work, after work, lunch breaks, weekends, on the plane during business trips, on holidays, on warm summer days resisting the beach and in the car (not whilst driving!) to then photographing it all. Juggling this enormous task with my day job, my blog and my social life was no easy feat. But despite the many setbacks, as soon as I received my first proof in the mail, all the blood, sweat and yes, tears was all worth it as I danced around the house like some crazed lotto winner to then seeing mum’s joyously tearful reaction as I surprised her with the book. She couldn’t even turn the first page as she was so excited and shocked because she had thought it was still being completed!

Releasing the cookbook today also comes at good timing as 2012 marks the National Year of Reading and is Melbourne’s turn to host the Supernova Comic-con which is all very fitting considering the theme of the book.

The Beginnings and family history

I actually had no intention of writing cookbook until a discussion with my mum ignited the idea. We were talking about how I was promoting our cuisine and her slammin recipes through my blog. To break the ice about Filipino food and its mystery, particularly in Australia so to speak. You see, none of her recipes have been written down and everything she cooked for us kids was from memory. “Blog? What’s that?” she asked. Let’s just say that a very lengthy conversation later, I came to the conclusion that penning a book for her would be a wiser choice and for many other reasons. What we didn’t expect was that a few months in, it became apparent that the book also needed to be shared with the world, not just with our family.

The book stands as a tribute to my mum’s infamous drool-worthy recipes, how she taught me how to cook, for being the backbone of the family and for continually inspiring me.

Mum was a single parent raising two rowdy boys, working two jobs to support us and put us through school. We weren’t exactly well off but we made do. Yet, despite all the madness and life’s challenges, my mum still managed to put the most delectable meals on the table with a smile and even managed to fit in some volunteer work on the side as well for many years – all on her own without any help from anybody. Mum is my OPRAH. In fact, to this day, she makes such a positive difference to everyone she meets and puts on the best community events like the annual community Christmas party. My friends keep telling me I’ve got the best mum and I can’t help but agree and thank my blessings. Because of our struggles and seeing my mum work so damn hard for us, it certainly made me into the person I am today and made me even more determined to see this project through no matter what or how hard it was going to be. To give something back and to pass onto future generations.

One of Australia’s First Filipino Cookbooks

logoThe inside sleeve

The Trip Back Home to the Philippines

I couldn’t bring myself to start writing without going back home first, to relive and experience our culture and cuisine. I came to Australia at such a young age, I barely remembered what it was like. It was so inspiring to see how the elders prepared traditional dishes. I immediately felt at home. So much so, that I went absolutely ape over the food. I thought I’d tasted it all, but there were a plethora of dishes I’ve even heard of so of course, I ate everything in sight. I was like a kid who’s had way too much sugar running from one street stall to another, not even knowing what I was devouring half the time. Even the massive malls had food courts bursting at the seams with choice! I just couldn’t stop eating to the point of concerning where I think my heart skipped a beat or two. *YELP*

After the trip, my brain was on maximum drive full of crazy ideas and concepts from the hawker stalls to the island flavours from Boracay and over the next year, I began the process of turning what looked to be a jigsaw puzzle into a book.


PREVIEW! Many pictures taken in the Philippines. Above: Boracay

Since I was a kid, I’ve always dreamed about creating a comic book of my own.

I envisioned it to have superheroes fit with different powers from controlling the elements to morphing into any object in sight. Unfortunately, my illustrative skills never bloomed so when I decided to pen a cookbook, my goal was to somehow, blend both passions into one book.

Arascaldo Food Rehab Book


The Journey

When it came to naming the book, let’s just say that the word ‘options’ was an understatement. With the abundance of titles that were up for consideration, there was one that stuck out and was more to the point. So after much deliberation, the book was aptly named:

What the heck is Filipino Food? A Beginner’s Guide to Filipino Cooking.

Making a profit or recuperating the money I put into the project wasn’t the motivating factor which is why I kept it a secret. And considering how much it costs to print each book sold, it would take several truckloads to make a real difference to the hip pocket. I thought if it sells, it sells and if it doesn’t, well, it ain’t the end of the world homeboy. The real achievement was actually finishing the book for mum. I just wanted to produce something meaningful with full creative control. Something that I worked my butt off for and poured my heart and soul into, not too mention keeping the weight gain virus at bay. It’s contagious! But it didn’t mean I didn’t set myself any deadlines. Knowing how much I invested into turning our dream of making this book into a reality – turning back or procrastination was not an option. In fact, I haven’t been this tough on myself in years and definitely pushed it to the limits.

I made sure everything was inline with my vision from the front cover design which took several months to develop to the overall layout which finally came together late last year.

I had so many questions in the beginning and made many mistakes (and costly ones at that). But I kept one saying in mind ” The most successful people fail the most” as I was faced with countless setbacks and moments where giving up seemed so easy.

There were many months of recipe testing, re-testing, a near kitchen fire {yikes}, winter burdened photography where I’d need to rush home after work to cook and photograph whilst there was still natural light, late night recipe re-writes and editing of seemed to be a million photos where I literally fell asleep on the keyboard relying on Creamy the Cat to wake me up by sitting on my head, trialing a multitude of various concepts, designs as well as taking a dive in my social life neglecting my loved ones and friends.

KalamayFood Rehab Book


The Recipes and the culling

Another challenge was making the food look pretty. You see when it comes to Filipino food, it’s not about the presentation, it’s about the taste. In fact, when we see something like our pork and chicken adobo look too neat, we assume something’s wrong with it. It must look comforting, rustic.

Deciding what recipes would make the final cut was another difficult task. I didn’t want the book to look like an encyclopedia and keeping the production costs and therefore, the costs of buying the book down meant enforcing page limits and culling recipes and various chapters I wanted to include. Gasp! I think it felt worse than being a judge on American Idol because there were no duds! But not too fret, in the book are some of my mum’s secret recipes and my all time favourite dishes I ate when growing up to this present day from our national treasure Chicken and Pork Adobo (+ a twist) to homemade Pandesal bread, Pork Tocino, Aroscaldo, Candied Banana Crunchy Fritters (with a twist!) and dishes like Sabaw Sa Kamatis that is true to my province, Pampanga, that I happily gulped down after school every summer and a pimped up version of a childhood gem and flu curing; Chicken Tinola.

I also made a few twists on the classics from Pulled Pork Adobo Pie to Frenchy Filipino Toast with Maple Butter and a few other blinged up dishes – taking our traditions into the 21st century.

In addition to the recipes, there are also a few chapters on how I grew up, my family, about my country, our humour and our love for pork as well as a glossary (so you know what the heck I’m cooking!) and juicy photos of food taken during my travels in The Philippines.

The book may also explain why there has been a lack of recipe posts on the blog – they all ended up in the book!

how to cook adobo


The most challenging part was actually getting the measurements right. When describing a recipe, mum would usually say “Add a cup here, half a sprinkle there and half a bowl here.” Bless her. Although, I think that would actually apply to most Filipino cooks in that, most of the time, exact metrics aren’t used – we just know how much is enough or too much. We continually taste as we go and throw in an extra spoon of sugar here and a clove of garlic there – something that I would encourage when cooking any of the recipes in the book.

There were so many memories behind each dish that I relived when putting this project together from eating Kamote Kue (candied sweet potatoes) that I used to devour whilst playing the Nintendo (though now I eat this when blogging!) to now having a deeper appreciation for pig’s trotters when cooking up a family treasure, Estofado. There are also chapters on how I grew up, how other children’s lunchboxes were different to to mine, Filipino food in Australia, about my country, our humour, how food relates to comics, culture, our love for all things pork and much much more.

I want people who aren’t really interested in cooking or food for that matter to pick up the book and take some interest in Filipino food. Why? Because it simply rocks and have made it my mission to help spread the word. Judging from the reactions I have gotten so far from some amazing people who have purchased the book (thank you!), I am happy to say I have converted more than few!

The Writings on the Wall and The Front Cover

The book was written and designed in the same style as my blog – a little comical, full of colour, questionable language and not all too serious as you can tell from the front cover (except for the recipe instructions of course!)

What the heck is Filipino Food? A Beginner’s Guide to Filipino Cooking could be your BFF in the kitchen but also a funky coffee table book to build your appetite.

You’ll notice that the front cover is a comic sequence of me holding a spit roast pig (lechon) party just for myself and eating it all until I end up in food coma with my cat Creamy also asleep on my big tummy dreaming about more food. My character and the Food Rehab blog mascot “Happy Toastie” appears throughout the book as well giving readers cooking tips and anecdotes. I worked with an amazing front cover designer and book designer who brought my concepts to life.

It has the look and feel of a comic book complete with flashy quote boxes, superhero fonts, cartoon characters and way cool colours.

What the heck is Filipino Food book cover

The front cover!!

How to grab a copy of my cookbook!!

The book is available in a rock hardcover version which I prefer. Cookbooks take a beating in the kitchen!

1. Order securely online by clicking on the following retailers. Bear in mind, each retailer may apply their own discount rate, RRP and FREE shipping offers that may vary from country to country. 10% OFF OFFER at Book Depository with FREE delivery worldwide: Enter the code APMA12 at checkout. Expires 14th May 2012.

barnes and noble

Book Depositry logo10% OFF OFFER with FREE delivery worldwide at Book Depository : Enter the code APMA12 at checkout. Expires 14th May 2012.

amazon USA

amazon uk

Alternatively, you can click away at the below links:

2. You can also order the book at your local bookstore. Mention the ISBN Number: 9780987229212 (book ID) just in case. Otherwise, look for it on the shelves. The book has been registered at The National Library of Australia

I’ll keep you posted as it appears in other retailers.

Thank you

I want to take this opportunity to thank you – yes you my beloved readers for coming over to my blog over the years to read my ramblings for carrying me through. I’ve been so fortunate to have met many of you in person where we have cooked and feasted together. You along with your tweets, words and emails of encouragement inspire me to keep doing what I’m doing. I appreciate ya and love ya much. Sorry for not posting enough recipes but hopefully through the book, you’ll understand why. Now that the book has been done, my blog will evolve to be more recipe focused. I will never claim to be an expert at Filipino cooking or at cooking for that matter but making this book has taught me so much. I will always be forever humble and open to learning new things which I’ll continue to share with all of you.

I am truly grateful for the experience of making this book because I did it on my own with the support of a special someone and my mum of course. And again, keeping the book a secret was so bloody HARD! I learnt a great deal about the the publishing industry that I wouldn’t have otherwise known if it weren’t for the experience and most importantly, my passion for food went through the roof with each page and photograph taken. The roof, the roof, the roof is on fiyaah! Also much props to my book designer who managed to help produce something I’m most proud of and who tolerated my insistent and perfectionist ways.

Have you ever wondered what the heck Filipino food is? Hopefully my book can answer that burning question.

Also, visit the official cookbook blog where I’ve documented my journey at:

Official Twitter hashtag: #wthfilipinocookbook

P.P.S. Forgive me, but by the time you finish the book, I guarantee you’ll be craving pork.

P.P.P.S If you do end up buying my humble little book, from the bottom of my chocolate filled heart, thank you. Love ya much.

P.P.P.P.S OMG…I’m so freaking excited!!!!!

Let me know if you end up cooking any of my recipes!

If you’re not already signed up for updates from Food Rehab, get on the list and I’ll do my best to keep us learning about none-other than glorious, GLORIOUS food! Also, follow me on Facebook or Twitter if you have either of those addictive things.

Keep eating,


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