Fil-Mex cooking, which fuses the cuisines of the Philippines and Mexico, continues to wow local diners who appreciate the familiar flavors stemming from the two nations’ shared experience under the Spanish.
Driving this popularity are the intense flavors and spices favored by Fil-Mex chefs – diners in the Philippines love spicy food – as well as the use of umami-rich cheeses, another comfort taste for Filipinos.
Mexico is famous for its cheeses, each of which plays a different role in Fil-Mex cooking. Making sense of the cheeses might be tough, so here’s a primer for chefs eager to incorporate this latest fusion trend into their menus.
Queso fresco, or fresh cheese in Spanish, is made from raw cow and goat milk, or from raw cow milk alone. This cheese has a naturally creamy texture that isn’t buttery and a salty, sour taste that balances flavor-heavy dishes like enchiladas or grilled meats.
It makes an excellent garnish for creamy soups or tacos, as well as a surprisingly tasty substitute for feta.
Chihuahua cheese takes its name from the state in Mexico’s north that also produces the toy dog breed of the same name. Also known as queso menonita, the cheese was first made by the residents of local Mennonite communities, who came up with the recipe after experimenting with unpasteurised milk. Chihuahua cheese is like a mild cheddar, featuring a buttery taste, a semi-soft texture and a pale yellow color.
This cheese melts easily, which is why it’s used in chiles rellenos (stuffed Mexican peppers), queso fundido (melted cheese and spicy chorizo) and quesadillas.
Originating in the US, Monterey Jack cheese is a big part of Fil-Mex recipes. Milder than cheddar, pale yellow Monterey jack is made is made from pasteurised cow’s milk. It’s a slightly sweet cheese that melts easy. It has a creamy texture, something that’s pretty familiar to the Filipino tongue.
Monterey Jack is perfect for burritos or for creating amazing dips for nachos. Pro tip: Combine Monterey jack with herbs, spices, and Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise for added creaminess and flavor.
These three cheeses can jump-start your Fil-Mex culinary odyssey, but don’t stop there. Queso freso, Chihuahua and Monterey Jack are versatile additions for a host of other menu items. Try them yourself and see.