We’re sure you’ve heard of the term “comfort food”. Even before the New York Times used the term in May 1966, people were already indulging in food that evoked good feelings and helped them cope with overwork, stress, and other problems. But what is considered comfort food exactly?
There’s no one answer to that question. Browse through this Quora thread asking exactly the same thing, and you’ll find different answers based on which country they came from. You can bet that we Filipinos have different kinds of comfort food than people who grew up in Los Angeles or in the United Kingdom.
It will also depend on what people associate with fond memories of when they were younger. For example, some Americans consider apple pie comforting because it reminds them of their childhood. The same goes for us when we Pinoys eat egg pie and other bakery products we love to eat.
In this blog, we’ll take a deeper look at what comfort food is. We’ll also look at the different kinds and some specific examples of what people considered comfort food. Plus, we’ll find out if it’s okay to be indulging in these all the time – and why some of them are rightfully called guilty pleasures.
Hint: a lot of them are not healthy!
- Comfort food is a term for different kinds of food that can help you cope with bad emotions and stress. In short, comfort food comforts!
- You cannot define comfort foods as only one kind. People turn to different foods based on where they came from and the good memories they associate with that kind of food.
- Some comfort food, while delicious, are not necessarily healthy, making indulging in them not good for you in the long run.
What is comfort food?
As mentioned above, you can consider a food comfort food if it’s something that gives you relief and relaxation when you need it. It can be in the form of soups and stews, hash browns, ice cream, or fried chicken.
Whatever it is, it’s something that when you eat it, hits the spot and automatically makes you feel better.
Why is food comforting, anyway?
So why does comfort food work? Aside from food tasting good and filling your stomach, there’s actually other reasons why we get comforted when we eat food.
According to CUNY.edu, when we eat our comfort food, we feel safer and in control of the situation, because the food lessens the impact of stress hormones. That’s especially when we eat sweet and starchy foods. Studies have shown that people feel less depressed and anxious after they finish eating carb-rich foods, as well as fatty-foods.
Another reason for us being comforted by food is that we tie certain things we eat to a good experience in our childhood, back when we felt truly protected and secured. Let’s say one of your core childhood memories is that your grandma used to bake you chocolate chip cookies. You’re likely to find comfort in eating a chocolate chip cookie every time you’re dealing with stress.
Is comfort food healthy?
Think hard about your favorite comfort foods. Maybe french fries, or pizzas, or chocolate cakes, or anything from your favorite fast food outlets. Would you consider these foods healthy?
Well, we’re sure you’re going to say NO – but they do taste good!
That’s because according to The Nuttery, foods that rank high in carbs, sugar, and fatty acids trigger the brain’s rewards and pleasure centers. So if you want to feel good, you’ll likely indulge in these unhealthy treats all the time.
But don’t worry. The FAQ Kitchen says that there are three kinds of comfort food:
So while you might experience those so-called “guilty pleasures” most of the time, you can also turn to healthier ones. The Upside by Vitacost.com says that some people actually consider fruits, vegetables and fish as comfort food. Even if you can’t imagine eating anything made with a green bean or something, some still do.
And that means not everyone’s diet is in danger of being ruined. That also means that the cliche that comfort foods are bad is not true. That’s especially if you control yourself or swap ingredients.
One example of this is instead of buying the usual desserts, try getting keto dessert foods instead. Most taste the same but have none of the brown sugar or carbs that can add to your weight and unhealthiness. At least you’ll still feel like you have satisfied your cravings, right?
And as long as you’re able to control yourself and your diet, there’s nothing wrong with indulging in your favorite foods once in a while to feel good.
What foods are considered comfort foods?
As we mentioned above, there’s no definite list for what is considered comfort food. However, we feel like there are some universal agreements for certain foods, such as:
Ask anyone “What is your comfort food?” and we bet that chicken soup is one that most people will answer. Not only do people eat this when they want to feel better emotionally, they also eat this when they want relief from cold and flu. The warm and nourishing broth also brings about feelings of nostalgia and memories of being taken care of when you were younger.
Is pizza considered comfort food? Well, it’s warm, savory, and very satisfying, so we’d say yes. You can even customize your toppings for added control (and therefore, comfort).
Additionally, you usually eat pizza with other people. If memories of eating with people you love help comfort you, you’d likely order a slice (or a whole one) just to feel better.
Remember those movie cliches where the female lead gets heartbroken and is chowing down on a box of chocolates? Well, chocolates DO offer emotional comfort, since it’s a quick and easy way of soothing your negative feelings. Plus, the texture and taste can be quite comforting especially when it’s rich, creamy, and sweet.
Let’s not forget that we also associate chocolate with special occasions and celebrations, which makes us consider this as comfort food.
Noodles and noodle soup are another type of popular comfort food. Just imagining slurping away at the noodles plus drinking the warm soup… Mmm, we’re comforted already!
These come in many forms: instant, ramen for the Japanese, and so on. Of course, there are also other forms of noodles that don’t have soup, like pasta. Spaghetti and meatballs come to mind as another form considered as comfort food.
Noodles are pretty much present in all food cultures which all remind us of home and childhood memories. Admit it – you were thinking of the good old days while reading this!
The fried chicken is one that is associated with home cooking – and like the others on this list, evokes feelings of nostalgia and comfort. It’s very versatile too – a lot of people pair it with mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and even waffles.
It also doesn’t hurt that it has a crispy and salty exterior with juicy, tender meat. Talk about a good meal that will hit the spot!
What is considered comfort food here in the Philippines?
So just to give you an idea that there are some foods unique to each culture that are considered comforting, check these out.
If you’re not familiar with sinigang, it’s a Filipino sour and savory dish that’s composed of soup, meat, and vegetables. It is usually deliciously sour and goes well with steamed white rice.
Sinigang is often considered comfort food to Pinoys because it’s a dish that’s unique to the culture and of course, it’s very satisfying to eat! And a full tummy will make you feel good, right?
Champorado – comfort food for the rainy days
We Pinoys usually eat champorado for breakfast, but it’s also perfectly comforting during bad times or a rainy season. This sweet chocolate rice porridge warms your tummy, and makes you feel good all over! It’s best paired with dried fish for contrast.
To enhance its flavor, you can add milk and brown sugar (or white). And hey, who’s going to say no to chocolate, right?
Pandesal is one of the most popular Pinoy breads out there. We enjoy it for breakfast or for snacking. The soft and fluffy texture and sweet taste make it appealing, agree?
Eating this also takes us back to simpler times, and reminds us that not all comfortable things have to be expensive. It’s also a bread that we can say is very Pinoy, and gives us a comforting familiarity.
For added warmth and comfort, dip it into hot coffee or chocolate and take a bite. Yum!
Adobo – a very Pinoy comfort food
Adobo is what is considered a comfort food for sure for Pinoys! You can see this dish made with pork or chicken, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and bay leaves practically everywhere in the country. And that combination gives it such a delicious flavor! You’ll definitely feel comforted while chowing down.
Make sure to eat it with hot white rice for added yumminess!
As we all know, Pinoys love sweets! And there’s nothing that could be more Pinoy than this sweet dessert. It not only staves off the heat during hot summer days, it also makes you feel in control.
Why? Well, if you’re making it yourself, you can choose the ingredients you want. Select from sago, nata de coco, pinipig, banana, macapuno, leche flan, and even cheese and cornflakes.
It’s really satisfying to eat – especially when you feel the nostalgia of your younger days.
So to end this… there’s no real answer to the question “What is the best comfort food?”
Nope. The only one who can really answer this is yourself since ultimately, it’s you who’s going to be eating.
Here’s an idea of what you can do though: why not try a bunch of comfort food recipes so you can decide what’s THE comforting food of all the comforting foods out there?
Here are two that we recommend you try: pares (a Filipino beef stew) and mami, noodles served with either chicken or beef and with hot soup! These two are roadside favorites of most Filipinos and are definitely what’s considered comfort food in the Philippines.
In this class, not only will you be able to make more than the usual street-style piping hot soup with noodles and beef dish paired with rice, but you’ll also learn to make these side dishes:
- Special Fried Garlic Rice
- Roasted Bone Marrow
- Side Soup
- Crispy Tokwa’t Baboy
You’ll also get a bonus recipe for chili garlic sauce. Combine all these in a meal, and we’re telling you right now: you can bid emotional stress goodbye! Plus, you can use this class to start a food business yourself, especially for those who need comfort and warming up during a rainy day.
So what are you waiting for? Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy today and start making some of the most popular comfort foods here in the country.
Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!