Spaghetti comes in many variations; there's red sauce, white sauce, meat sauce, seafood, and even squid ink spaghetti. But when I try to describe Filipino spaghetti to friends, they act all surprised, and sometimes, offended. What's the deal?
Filipino spaghetti consists of your average pasta noodles and red meat sauce, only with two added ingredients: a sweetener and hot dogs. Filipino flavors tend to be savory and sweet, and the sweetener helps to tone down the acidity and tanginess of the tomato sauce. The sliced hotdogs? They serve as a meatball substitute that adds texture and flavor to the dish.
Most Filipino spaghetti dishes start with your basic sautée of onions and garlic, followed by ground beef and tomato sauce. More often than not, Banana Catsup is then used as the sweetener, though many people use brown sugar or honey. Banana Catsup is a transparent type of ketchup that's a staple in Filipino households. It's mainly used as a condiment, for scrambled eggs, or, as mentioned above, as the foundation of our spaghetti sauce.
At Jollibee, the Philippines's fast food giant, you can get your sweet spaghetti in many combinations. Want your spaghetti with a side of chicken, rice, and gravy? You got it. Spaghetti hamburger combo? Heck yeah; you can even kick that burger up a notch by dipping it in some spaghetti sauce.
If you aren't convinced that Filipino spaghetti is something your life is severely lacking, I am here to tell you that renowned food traveler Anthony Bourdain has featured Jollibee spaghetti in several of his hit TV shows. Yes, even those with a refined palate can appreciate the simplicity and comfort of that sweet, sweet spaghetti hot dog dish.
Whether you make yourself a pot at home, or you pester your Filipino friend's mom to make it for you, I urge you to take off that spaghetti-snob hat and give it a try. If Anthony Bourdain can hang out with a giant, jolly "Bee" and enjoy spaghetti hotdogs once in a while, you can too.