My Family Recipes

By Isabella Chua

Isabella shares some of her favorite recipes from growing up in a Filipino family. She loves learning about her heritage by simply cooking these meals with her mother. Food can be a powerful and tasty way to connect with family! Enjoy these yummy traditional meals.

Philippine Adobo

Adobo is a popular Filipino dish that has occasionally been considered the unofficial national dish in the Philippines. Its rather simple cooking process involves meat like chicken and/or pork, seafood, or vegetables getting marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves, which are then browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. During my youth, adobo was one of my favourite dishes to eat and the easiest one to prepare, according to my Filipina mother. To this day, I like to cook this meal on special occasions (with Mum’s loving supervision) to enjoy and share with my whole family.

• Chicken pieces
• Pork chunks (optional)
• Light soy sauce
• White vinegar
• 5 large garlic cloves (peeled)
• 5 tbsp brown sugar
• Crushed pepper
• Water
• Bay leaves (optional)

• 5-6 people

1. Fill a measuring cup three-quarters with light soy sauce. Then, fill the remaining one-quarter of the measuring cup with white vinegar.
2. Crush the garlic cloves and add to the mixture along with the sugar. Combine with crushed pepper afterwards and stir well.
3. Fill the measuring cup almost to the rim with water, mix, and set aside.
4. Next, lightly drizzle a large pan with canola or vegetable oil and set over stove at medium heat.
5. When the oil starts to bubble, place the meat in and around the pan and fry until golden-brown.
6. Pour the adobo sauce from the measuring cup into the pan; covering all the pieces of meat. (Tip: Pour from and stir the measuring cup simultaneously so you would not miss any remnants of sugar.)
7. Add in bay leaves (optional) and cover pan with lid. Allow adobo to simmer at a slightly higher temperature until the sauce is slightly thickened. Keep turning over the meat while doing so.
8. Remove the pan from the stove and divide the meat into plates of 5-6. Serve with rice.
9. Dig in and enjoy!!!

Ube-Macapuno Cake

Ube-Macapuno cake, or Ube cake, is a Filipino sponge cake or chiffon cake made with ube halaya (or purple yam). Like most ube dishes in the Philippines, it is distinctively and vividly purple in coloration, and is usually topped with a buttercream, cream cheese, or whipped cream frosting flavoured with coconut. Typically served at Pinoy birthday parties, this particular recipe was personally sent from one of my honorary aunts, Jackie, and is, according to her, a great Filipino purple yam cake.

• 2 ½ cups cake flour
• 3 tsp baking powder
• 1 tsp salt
• 1 cup ube/purple yam (cooked and finely grated)
• ¾ cup milk
• 1 tsp vanilla extract
• ½ cup corn syrup
• 7 egg yolks (lightly beaten)
• ½ cup vegetable oil
• 7 egg whites
• 1 tsp cream of tartar
• 1 cup white sugar
• 6 drops red food colouring
• 6 drops blue food colouring
• 12 ounce or 1 jar macapuno (coconut preserves)

• 1 cup evaporated milk (chilled)
• ¾ cup white sugar
• 1 cup butter (softened)
• 1 drop violet food colouring

• 12 people

1. Preheat oven to 165 degrees Celsius. Line bottoms of 3–9-inch pans with parchment paper, but do not grease. Mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt, then set aside.
2. Place grated ube in a large bowl. Mix together the milk and vanilla, and gradually blend into ube until smooth. Blend in corn syrup, egg yolks, and oil. Beat in flour mixture until smooth and set aside.
3. In a large metal or glass mixing bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar until foamy. Gradually add sugar, then red and blue food colouring, continuing to beat until stiff peaks form. Fold 1/3 of the whites into the batter, then quickly fold in remaining whites until no streaks remain. Pour batter into prepared pans.
4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-36 min, or until the centre of cake bounces back when lightly tapped. Invert pans on a wire rack and let cool upside down. When cool, run a knife around the edges to loosen cake from pans. Fill between layers with coconut preserves, then frost top and sides with butter icing.
5. To make butter icing, combine evaporated milk and sugar, then set aside. Cream butter until light and fluffy, before gradually adding sugar mixture, and continue beating to desired spreading consistency. Add violet food colouring, one drop at a time until desired tint is achieved.
6. Dig in and enjoy!!!

Filipino Spaghetti

Known as a Filipino variant of Italian spaghetti with Bolognese sauce, this dish is notable for its distinctive sweet sauce, which is made from tomato sauce sweetened with banana ketchup or brown sugar. Relatively cheap and easy to make, this particular dish also uses minced beef instead of meatballs and is usually topped with sliced hot dogs and/or grated cheddar cheese. Nowadays, Filipino spaghetti holds great cultural significance for Pinoy people due to its popularity as a comfort food and is typically served on multiple special occasions, especially children’s birthdays.

• ¾ spaghetti noodles
• 5 large garlic cloves (peeled)
• 1 brown onion (peeled)
• 1 pack of minced beef or ground meat
• 1 whole bottle of Bolognese sauce
• 1 ½ tsp chicken powder
• 5 full tbsp brown sugar
• Crushed pepper
• 1 medium-sized block of cheddar cheese
• ½ red or green capsicum
• 3 hot dogs

• Roughly five people

1. Fill a pot three-quarters with boiled water.
2. Set on stove at high heat until the water bubbles.
3. Add spaghetti noodles and cook until al dente (roughly 8-12 minutes). Remove pot from stove afterwards.
4. Using a colander, strain the noodles over a sink and allow them to rest.
5. Next, fill a saucepan with a tablespoon of either canola or vegetable oil and set on stove at medium heat.
6. Crush the garlic cloves and place the contents into the saucepan. Spread around the pan using a spatula or cooking spoon and fry for roughly one minute.
7. Mince the onion and add to the saucepan. Fry until slightly brown.
8. Add beef mince to the pan and chop finely into tiny pieces using the spatula/cooking spoon. Cook until the meat is predominantly brown.
9. Pour the Bolognese sauce all over the beef mince. Combine and add chicken powder, sugar, and crushed pepper. Stir well.
10. Adjust and lower stove to moderate heat and allow sauce to simmer for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grate the cheddar cheese and set aside in a bowl.
11. Next, mince the capsicum into tiny pieces. Then, peel the skin off the hot dogs and slice vertically into small, circular shapes.
12. Add more crushed pepper and a handful of cheddar cheese to the sauce. Stir well and mix in the capsicum and sliced hot dogs.
13. Continue alternating between stirring and adding crushed pepper until the taste and texture of the sauce is to your satisfaction. Remove saucepan from stove afterwards.
14. Divide the now cooled spaghetti noodles into plates of five. Spread each equally with four large scoopings of the spaghetti sauce.
15. Sprinkle a large pinch of leftover grated cheddar cheese on top of each plate.
16. Microwave each dish for 1 minute to melt the cheese.
17. Dig in and enjoy!!!


Kutsinta (or cuchinta) are Filipino steamed cakes composed of flour, tapioca flour, and brown sugar. Soft, chewy, and topped with grated coconut, kutsinta is perfect as a delicious dessert or snack for sugar lovers everywhere.

• 1 ½ cups plain flour, or alternatively, 1 cup plain flour and ½ rice flour
• ½ cup tapioca flour
• 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar
• 3 cups water
• 1 tbsp atsuete powder
• 1 tbsp lye water

• Varies

1. Combine flour, tapioca flour, sugar, and water into a bowl. Stir well until the ingredients are dissolved and the mixture is smooth.
2. Pour in suete and mix until it is well dispersed and the desired colour is achieved.
3. Add in lye water and stir some more.
4. Lightly grease the insides of silicone molds (if available) with melted butter. Fill molds with mixture to about ¾ full.
5. Add water to a steamer (if available) and bring to simmer over medium heat.
6. Steam kutsinta for about 30-35 min or until the mixture is set. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
7. Gently remove each kutsinta from the molds and serve with grated coconut.
8. Dig in and enjoy!!!