The Typical Filipino Meal

Pork Sinigang (Ulam) with Kanin

“You know you’re Filipino when you use a spoon and fork instead of a knife and fork.”

This is because the typical Filipino meal always has rice, which is spooned into the mouth. Spoon in the right hand, fork in the left. 

Cooked rice (kanin) is the basis of almost every Filipino meal. The main dish that goes with the rice is called ulam. This can be a meat dish, fried fish or a vegetable stew. 

The basic traditional Filipino meal consists of two essential things: kanin and ulam

Pork Sinigang (Ulam) with Kanin


If the ulam is dry (not a sinigang or nilaga that has liquid broth), then there might be a small separate bowl for soup. This is not so common though.There are Filipinos who are so poor that they cannot afford ulam, so what they do is eat kanin with white rock salt (asin).

In restaurants, the ulam is often served on the same plate as the rice. At home, the ulam can be in a communal dish in the middle of the table from which one can get a portion. 

A meal that does not include rice is generally not considered proper for lunch or dinner. For example, spaghetti is not a meal. Pancit by itself is not a meal — it can serve as a subsititute for a meal, particularly if eaten with bread, but it’s not really a meal, unless perhaps you have it with rice.