History of Boodle Fight
What is a Boodle Fight? It is a style of eating in the Filipino Military. Boodle sometimes spelled “Budol”, is a term used by military cadets referring to “food” and Boodle Fight associates itself as a “free for all eating battle”.
The food is placed on top of long tables or any large surface, then it is lined with “banana leaf”. Several types of Filipino foods are placed in rows to accommodate the large groups of soldiers. This style of eating requires you to use your hands with no aid of utensils or plates for obvious reasons. In theory, plates and utensils were not used, due to soldiers needing to remain quiet and undetected from enemy soldiers. Some Boodle Fights took place in the dark and using your hands was the most logic thing to do.
I assume that the Boodle Fight commences by saying “Kain Tayo”, which in Tagalog means “Let’s eat”. When signaled, the soldiers eat as much as they can and quickly as possible, making it a “fight for their food”. Due to the severe conditions of wars, there was no time to stay idle for long periods, unless it’s a “Commemorative or Victory Boodle Fight”. The food normally gets consumed immediately and soldiers that ate slowly would stay hungry or be less satiated.
In the Filipino Military, Boodle Fight was a symbol amongst soldiers where you may eat together as equals. There is no rank (rank normally has its privileges) or chain of commands during this style of eating, for they feasted together as a “Brotherhood” and ate the same foods.
North American Boodle Fight
First of all, Boodle Fights are becoming a quite popular style of eating at Filipino family gatherings and celebrations. Boodle Fight is not to be mistaken as a traditional way Filipinos eat. Some traditional Filipinos do eat with their hands but on plates, that method is called “Kamayan”. I know from experience that eating with your hands makes the food taste better. There is no metal touching your palette first and then the food.
“Kamayan means, eat with your hands”
So what kind of foods are in a Boodle Fight?
The types of foods included in a Boodle Fight may vary from each Province, if hosted in the Philippines. In North America the food spread may also be different due to the indigenous foods of the Philippines.
Here’s a common list of foods found at Boodle Fights:
- Stir fried thin rice noodle dish with fish ball, pork or chicken, vegetables and seafood. This is a common dish found at Filipino gatherings.
- Filipino BBQ Meats
- Pork, Chicken, beef marinated in a sweet soy sauce mixture with garlic
- Grilled/Fried Fish
- Fried or grilled Tilapia fish or Tuyo which is a salty dried fish.
- Sweet pork sausage
- Pork belly with a similar marinade and flavour to Longaniza.
- Whole roated pig
- Crispy skin and tender meat
- Presented as a centerpiece at the Boodle Fight table.
- Vegetable or meat spring roll
- Crab, Prawns, lobster and grilled squid etc.
- Eggplant Salad
- Salted duck egg mixed with chopped grilled eggplant.
- Mango Salsa
- Chopped mangoes, cilantro, red onions, tomatoes, minced hot peppers (optional)
4. Chopped Tomatoes & Onions
- with a sprinkle of salt or patis (fish sauce)
- Fermented green papaya in a vinegar base
- Filipinos use this as a side in many meals. Like Kimchi-Koreans, Chutney-Indians, Sauerkraut-Germans.
Sawsawan (Dipping Sauces)
- Spicy vinegar
- Used for dipping BBQ meats and fried foods, especially seafood.
- A mixture of Soy sauce, vinegar, Siling labuyo (Bird’s eye chili) and red onion.
- Soy sauce with Calamansi Juice
- Calamansi, a tropical lime grown in the Philippines, aka the “Golden Lime”.
The sawsawan was incorporated later on when Boodle Fights were hosted outside of the military. So, the use of sauce bowls were included at Boodle Fights.
During my trip to Kelowna on July 15th, I had the opportunity to enjoy my first Boodle Fight at a family friend’s home. Actually, it was a first for most of us. I was able to document the different stages of preparation for this feast.
Preparing for a Boodle Fight: My First Experience
- Clean the banana leaves by wiping each leaf down with paper towels.
- Cover the table that you are going to eat on with the clean leaves. Make sure you overlap each leaf so that the food won’t slide underneath the lining. Would you eat on a plate with a hole in the middle? Of course not.
- Place cooked food on the leaves. There is no particular order to place the food down. However, the presentation is one of the key elements to a beautiful looking Boodle Fight. The “Ulam” should also be evenly distributed throughout the whole table. This ensures that everyone is at arm’s reach of the food.
- The word “Ulam” doesn’t have a one word translation in English. Ulam is referred to as a main dish and something that is eaten with rice. Well my parents explained it to me as “you eat it with rice”. I eat many things with rice, it’s probably just me or a Filipino thing.
- Place the side dishes and sawsawan’s around the spread evenly.
- The feast is ready! Now, let’s take pictures and gather everyone to the table.
- Finally, let’s eat! Or should I say, Kain Tayo!
Keep in mind that there is a lot of planning and preparations for making a successful Boodle Fight. It all depends on how many people are participating, how much food to cook and having enough space to do it.
So, next time…
If you ever get an invitation to a Boodle Fight, get ready to wash your hands and dig in. It doesn’t hurt to ask your Filipino friend if they are able to teach you how to eat with your hands. Believe me, you will be amazed by learning a very old technique.
If I missed anything or you’d like me to expand on certain parts of this article, please Contact Me. Maybe I could explain “How to properly eat with your hands” in a new blog post. Thank you for reading and don’t forget to check out my pictures.