Food for Thought: Boodle Fight

Dive into the cultural, political, and personal significance of food

A hearty Filipino feast. Illustration: Alyssa Marie Umbal / The Peak

By: Charlene Aviles, Peak Associate

Many of my family members live in different countries, so there are few occasions where we can all gather together. Whenever I visit my parents’ hometowns in the Philippines, my relatives always greet us with food to celebrate our family being reunited. One food experience on my bucket list is a boodle fight, or kamayan feast

A boodle fight is a Filipino feast served on banana leaves and traditionally eaten with one’s bare hands. Depending on the region, food served at boodle fights varies, but it usually consists of steamed rice and a type of protein (like fish or pork), incorporating Chinese or Western influences

This feast, originating in the military and arranged on one long table, encouraged soldiers from all ranks to mingle with each other instead of branching off into separate cliques. This tradition later became popular among tourists.

Since typhoons are common in the Philippines, boodle fights are also a time to count one’s blessings. Coming from a family that sells rice, I recognize the time and dedication involved in cultivating rice crops. During typhoons, many farmers struggle to salvage their crops, so boodle fights are often a time to be grateful for one’s health, safety, and family. 

The boodle fight is on my bucket list because it would allow me to taste more authentic Filipino food. Since I have not visited the Philippines in 10 years, food brings back comforting memories of my last visit. Some ingredients, like fresh banana leaves, are scarce in Canadian grocery stores, making me look forward to my first boodle fight even more.

How to prepare your own boodle fight, according to Great Big Story on YouTube:

  1. Cover the table in one layer of clean, fresh banana leaves.
  2. Place rice in the middle of the table.
  3. Add your protein on top of the rice.
  4. Evenly distribute vegetables.
  5. Prepare a bowl of vinegar or other dipping sauces for each individual.
  6. Enjoy!

If you’re looking to try a boodle fight in the Lower Mainland, check out Grandt Kitchen by SFU Surrey.