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The Art Of Kamayan Dining In The Philippines

Travelers Today       By    JC Santos

Updated: Mar 22, 2017 06:21 AM EDT

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Eating With Hands - Kamayan
"Kamayan" is the art of eating with one's hands. In the Philippines, almost every Filipino practices this tasty and somewhat intimate way to eat food with one's family and friends.
(Photo: Zagat/YouTube Screenshot/

Before the Western empires even discovered the Philippines, its culture is already evolved to the same levels of customs and civility as their soon-to-be colonizers. Early Philippine empires have dined without utensils -- they only use their bare hands, which according to some elders make the food somewhat tastier. This is known as "Kamayan," and it is a traditional dining art form in the Philippine culture.

Filipinos love food and eating. As early Philippine tribes have eaten food placed on leaf plates, one places a small amount of viand on their rice and this small amount is carried using the finger and thumb. A step-by-step guide by Filipino Recipe is a detailed one and the website says that Kamayan is effective for chicken, roasted pig, grilled pork, fish, and barbecue dishes.

Will "Kamayan" work with saucy or soupy dishes? Indeed, it does -- but it can be a bit more messy and difficult compared to sauce and soup-less dishes. Rice does come apart after being seasoned with spectacular sauce.

According to Travel Deep and Wide, most Filipino households serve food without having to use utensils. In some restaurants, food is served on Banana leaves, allowing hot rice to steam the leaves giving off an amazing aroma -- and food is eaten by hand by guests as part of the experience. The blog highlights that desserts, in the form of mango or other fruits, could be served in halves and without spoons with "everyone diving face-first" using their teeth to eat the reversed mango half.

Culturally, Filipino households allow visitors to eat food using their hands -- any traditional household holds pride in being capable eating with their hands. But Filipino dining etiquette demands that no one dips twice in the communal sauce -- although some households allow it as a sign of trust and camaraderie especially between close blood-bound families and family friends. Just like Japan's rules with chopsticks, Filipino diners should not transfer food from one hand to the other -- a small plate or putting the serving on the co-diner's plate is proper.

Nothing can make Filipinos happier than food and serving it to their guests. Hospitality is indeed part of their culture along with "Kamayan," which, without scientific backing, seems to make dining more friendly, intimate and memorable between hosts and guests in the country.

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