The Paleo Recipe Book

Kamayan - Eat Using Your Hands Culture

Widely known as the Pearl of the Orient, the Philippines stands true to its name all these years. This archipelago of more than 7000 islands remains a shimmering beacon of a culturally diverse and unique society in Southeast Asia. A product of colonialism, revolution and foreign occupation, this country stood out as one of finest countries influenced by both western and oriental cultures. However, despite these influences, there are also a lot of characteristics that are also unique only to Filipinos.

Filipinos love food. Every time there’s food in the dinner table, there’s nothing you can see but a smile adorning their faces. There is a unique way of eating that is common to every Filipino. While the rest of the world used spoons, forks, chopsticks, and knives, Filipinos use their hands. This “eating using your hand” culture has been passed on for generations. Young and old, everyone knows how to do it. If you haven’t tried this yet, remember that it is highly recommended. It is worth the experience. So why do Filipinos eat their food this way? If you ask a Filipino, they’ll surely say “mas nagiging masarap ang pagkain” (the food tastes better). “Kamay” is the Tagalog word for hands and eating using your hands is traditionally called “Kamayan” by the locals.

So how do you do it? Just follow these simple steps:

  1. On a top of a small amount of rice, place a small amount of main dish (“ulam” in Tagalog) using your dominant hand.
  2. Using your finger and thumb, pinch the food together as if you are picking a bit of cheese.
  3. Don’t forget to include the rest of your fingers in the pinch or else it won’t work.
  4. Make sure that your all your fingers are shaped around the rice and viand “ulam”.
  5. Lift your hand towards your mouth while leaning your head forward and place your thumb behind the food.
  6. With one big push using your thumb, shove the food into your mouth. You can do this effectively if you’ll make sure that your fingers are close to your lower teeth.

“Kamayan” is widely used for fried chicken, roasted pig (“lechon” in the local dialect), grilled pork or fish and barbecues. There’s really no restriction as to what food is perfect or not. It just depends according to your preference. Some Filipinos eat by hand even on soupy dishes.

If you’re planning to visit the Philippines, there are tons of restaurants around the country that promotes “Kamayan” to their customers. However, you can also request for a spoon and fork if you feel like you’re not doing it. But before making that decision, always remember that “Kamayan” is the best way to eat your food if you really want to experience the Filipino Culture.

For those who are not planning to visit the Pearl of the Orient, you can always eat “Kamayan” style in your homes and experience it the Filipino way!

So easy right? Try it now!


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