Setting the table for a Filipino kamayan feast.

By Yana Gilbuena
Carson Downing

Setting the table for a Filipino Kamayan

1. Cover the table with butcher paper or newspaper. Banana leaves may otherwise leave a faint white residue behind.

2. Unfold and layer cleaned banana leaves, ridged side up. (The ridged side of the leaf is the waxy side, the one that will keep your sauces from soaking through.) Align their spines with a table edge and be sure the leaves don't hang over the sides of the table.

3. Arrange scoops of rice, piles of pickles, sliced vegetables or fruits, and any other shared dishes in the middle of the table. Leave space around the edges as a place mat for each guest. Layer in lettuce leaves, coconut cups, or crisped Vietnamese sesame crackers to help contain sauces and individual servings.

4. Dig in!

Luisa Brimble

5. After you've eaten, fold in the leaves and newspaper along the long edges, then roll the whole thing from a short end, rolling it up like a big cigar. And then compost that cigar!

Luisa Brimble

Eating-with-your-hands Etiquette

Wash your hands. Don't use hand sanitizer! It tastes bad.

Select foods from the table with your nondominant hand, and eat with your dominant hand. That way, only your cleanest hand touches communal food. P.S.: Everything in the middle is considered communal food!

Pick, pack, and push: Pick up some rice and a little bit of vegetable or meat with your nondominant hand, pack it into a little ball in your dominant hand, push it into your mouth with your thumb.

Luisa Brimble

A Few of My Favorite Filipino Sayings

bahala na: Loosely translates to "Whatever will be will be." In other words: Trust in the universe! 

kamayan: Eaten with your hands (not necessarily from banana leaves or in a group). Kamay means "hand" in the Tagalog language.

mabuhay: A Filipino toast "to life and to live." 

salo salo: A gathering, dinner party, or get-together, as in "Let's have a salo salo." You say salo twice. In Filipino culture, more is more!

Key Ingredients

Banana leaves (dahon ng saging) serve as wrappers, pan liners, and compostable table coverings. Look for them folded and frozen at Asian markets. Thaw them a day ahead in the fridge or run them under hot water, then unfold, rinse well, and wipe dry.

Carson Downing

edible orchids: double as a garnish and a casual alternative to a bouquet.

Carson Downing

Filipino soy sauce (toyo) is so distinct from Japanese or Chinese soy sauce. There's no light or dark—just toyo. I like Datu Puti brand.

Filipino vinegars (suka) are many and varied. My favorite is sinamak, a spiced cane vinegar with chiles, garlic, and onions. There's also the spiced coconut vinegar tuba, the palm vinegar paombong, and the cane wine vinegar sukang iloko. I like Datu Puti and Mama Sita's brands. You can use white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, or rice vinegar as a substitute for cane vinegars. And Whole Foods carries a coconut vinegar called Coconut Secret. But dude: Go to the Asian market!

fish sauce (patis) is the ultimate umami sauce and the reason I rarely use salt. I always look for ones with just three ingredients: anchovies, sugar, and water. I really like Megachef brand. 

Philippine limes (calamansi) have a juice that's unparalleled. They taste like a cross between mandarin orange, lemon, and yuzu. At the Asian market, look for Sun Tropics brand bottled unsweetened juice on the shelf — or Manila Gold juice packets, often frozen and sold near the banana leaves. In a pinch, substitute a half-and-half mixture of lemon and lime juice and a dash of sugar. 

preserved young coconut strings (macapuno) are sold in 24- to 32-oz. jars, near other preserved fruits at Asian markets. I like Sun Tropics or Kapuso brands. In a pinch, you could use sweetened shredded coconut instead.

ube yam spread or jam (ube halaya), a sweet paste made from purple yams and sweetened condensed milk, is common at Asian markets (I like Sun Tropics brand). Feel like making your own? Try this recipe for purple yam jam on Allrecipes.

Related

We're serving up and celebrating the biggest home-cooking trends from the most enthusiastic cooks we know: our community. We crunched the data from 1.2 billion annual Allrecipes.com visits and 2.5 billion annual page views. Then we dug even further, surveying Allrecipes cooks about what's in their carts and fridges, on their stovetops and tables, and on their minds. Filipino food is just one of the topics they're most curious about. See more of the "State of Home Cooking" special report.

This article originally appeared in the February/March 2020  issue of Allrecipes Magazine.

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