Much like sari-sari stores, carinderias are a common sight here in the Philippines. These eateries serve inexpensive, but hearty meals to the masses, and they can be found in residential, commercial, and industrial areas alike. Homemakers, skilled workers, professionals, students, tourists, and just about anyone is welcome to point out the dish they want from the carinderia’s selection. The patrons can choose to eat at the place itself, or they can ask the person in charge to pack the dish in a plastic bag so they can enjoy it in the office or in the comfort of their home.
Carinderias cater to everyone, but that doesn’t mean that they all look the same either. These food outlets can be as ephemeral as a food cart with a wooden bench in front of it or as permanent as a brick-and-mortar eatery that serves as the main landmark in the area. Some eateries offer all types of food and are open from dawn until dusk, while there are others that specialize in a particular type of meal or dish and are only open during certain hours of the day or night. Still, when a person heads to a carinderia, they have a set expectation of what they want to find there. Here are some of the most common dishes that one can expect to be sold at their local streetside eateries:
Tangy, salty, sweet, and spicy—a serving of chicken adobo is sure to be a feast of flavors for one’s taste buds. Every province in the Philippines seems to have its own version of this dish, and some varieties of it have more salt, vinegar, sugar, or other types of spices and flavoring in them compared to others. Aside from chicken, en, adobo can also feature pork, beef, fish, or even vegetables like water spinach and string beans. Adobo is easy to cook at home, and it can last for days even if left at room temperature.
Best paired with garlic fried rice, beef pares is a braised beef stew with meat that’s been tenderized to perfection. It’s easy to recreate a beef pares recipe at home, as it only takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes to prepare the dish. Those who don’t have the time to tenderize beef in a pressure cooker, however, can readily buy this comfort food from their local carinderia.
Menudo is a tomato-based pork stew that has potatoes, carrots, chopped liver, and sometimes, chickpeas. This savory dish is often lumped together with mechado, afritada, and kaldereta, but these are actually different recipes. Afritada has bell peppers and slightly less viscous sauce, mechado is a thick beef stew, and kaldereta can include cheese in its list of ingredients, to name a few differences.
Those who prefer to eat more healthily can also find vegetable options in their local carinderia. Pinakbet, for example, is a veggie dish that originated from the northern regions of the country. This dish features a mix of vegetables like okra, string beans, eggplants, tomatoes, and many others. It’s often flavored with fermented shrimp or fish paste. In fancier settings, pinakbet can also be topped with lechon, chicharon, or other types of pork dishes.
Dinuguan takes its name after its main ingredient: dugo or blood. This pig blood stew is a complex dish that can taste sour, salty, and savory all at the same time, and its texture can be anything from thin and soupy to thick and grainy. The dish can feature chopped pig entrails or regular meat.
A perfect dish for the rainy days, sinigang is a sour soup that’s often flavored using tamarind, citrus, mangoes, vinegar, and other fruits and native ingredients. Carinderias often feature pork sinigang, but beef, shrimp, fish, and chicken can also serve as the main ingredient of the dish. To encourage their patrons to buy food, some eateries even include a bowl of free sinigang soup with every order.
People have their preferred taste for particular dishes, and it’s possible that the food sold in carinderias won’t match the quality of the home-cooked meal that one is used to eating. Still, visiting and eating at a carinderia has its own appeal.
For one, the eatery’s patrons can expect to find ready-to-eat and budget-friendly meals whenever they come by their favorite carinderia, and this can be such a relief if they’re particularly famished. At the same time, some people consider their local carinderias as a community space where they can get the latest news and exchange opinions about life in general. It’s a place for eating as much as it’s a space for social gathering. Sure, the dishes may not exactly taste like the ones people are used to eating in their own homes, but the convenience, price, and social interactions more than make up for it.