3 Ingredients That Make Filipino Spaghetti “Filipino”

A plate of my dad's Filipino spaghetti.

A plate of my dad’s Filipino spaghetti. Photo by me

Recently, my father whipped up a batch of his famous spaghetti. It’s a serious guilty pleasure: it’s rich, comforting and, well, sweet. That last term isn’t normally used to describe traditional spaghetti. But for Filipino spaghetti, it’s standard.

Filipino spaghetti is a hybrid dish that shares the same ingredients from its Italian influence. The dish tends to be on the sweeter side and has an uncommon protein, but I promise you it tastes better than it seems.

To be completely honest, it’s not a revolutionary dish. If anything, it’s an unusual take on traditional spaghetti and meatballs that would probably cause celebrity chef Giada de Laurentiis‘ Aunt Raffy to scoff at the dish (if you’re a Giada at Home fan, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.)

But there’s just something about Filipino spaghetti that makes it delicious and comforting. I don’t know whether if it’s a play on sweet where savory should be, or the unfamiliarity of the “mystery meat.” All I know is that growing up, Filipino spaghetti was one of those dishes comfort dishes to look forward to for seconds. And thirds. Sometimes fourths.

Here are the three ingredients that converts traditional Italian spaghetti into a Filipino masterpiece.

1) Banana ketchup

A bottle of Jufran-branded banana ketchup.

If you’re not familiar with banana ketchup, good news: neither am I! The odd condiment is primarily made of mashed bananas, sugar and vinegar (no tomatoes!), and is dyed to a bright red hue to match its traditional tomato counterpart.

The banana ketchup is, if you hadn’t guessed, sweet. The condiment is essentially the “Filipino” component to Filipino spaghetti.

The condiment always had a spot in my cupboard growing up and managed to replace the traditional Heinz bottle every American household has.

2) Sugar

Sugar is an unfortunate ingredient on its own, but banana ketchup doesn’t entirely get the “sweet” part of the job done.

Sugar turns the otherwise savory pasta dish into a sweet and savory blend. But it takes precision finding a balance in flavor; a few tablespoons over, and you’ll be stuck with an overly sweet disaster.

3) Hot dogs

Embed from Getty Images
I wish I was kidding with this one, but Filipino spaghetti just isn’t complete with chopped hot dogs. Though all variations of hot dogs can be used, the red kind is preferred (and no, I don’t know why there’s a red kind.)

I’m personally not a fan of the taste of the traditional “frank,” but the hot dog flavor is subtle and goes fairly well with the sweetness of the spaghetti sauce. It’s an oddity, but it’s certainly welcomed.

I’m interested in reading some of your experiences with Filipino spaghetti. Drop a comment below!


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