Are you a foodie looking to explore the delicious and diverse flavors of Filipino cuisine? Look no further! The Philippines has a rich culinary history and a unique blend of influences from Spanish, Chinese, and Malay cultures. From the famous adobo to the lesser-known kare-kare, there are endless options for you to indulge in. But, as a tourist, navigating the local food scene and knowing where to start can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled a guide to help you discover the best Filipino food.
We’ll introduce you to the must-try dishes, the best places to eat, and the cultural significance behind each dish. Get ready to embark on a delicious adventure and explore the vibrant and flavorful world of Filipino cuisine.
The essence of Filipino food
Filipino cuisine is a unique blend of flavors influenced by the country’s history and geography. The food reflects the Filipino people, who are diverse and full of personality. Filipino food is known for its combination of sweet, sour, and salty flavors, often paired with rice. A staple in the Filipino diet, rice is served with almost every meal. Coconut is another essential ingredient in Filipino cooking, used in savory and sweet dishes. Fish and other seafood are also prominent in Filipino cuisine, given the country’s location near the sea.
One thing that sets Filipino food apart is the use of vinegar, which is used as a condiment or in cooking. Vinegar is often paired with garlic and soy sauce to make adobo, one of the most popular Filipino dishes. Another popular dish is sinigang, a sour soup made with tamarind or other souring agents. Filipino food is also known for its use of offal, such as pork liver and intestines, which are used in dishes like dinuguan and sisig.
Filipino food is also deeply rooted in tradition and culture. Many dishes have a special significance and are served during special occasions and celebrations. For example, lechon, a whole roasted pig, is often served during festivals and celebrations. Lumpia, a type of spring roll, is served during important events like weddings and birthdays. Filipino food is not only about the flavors but also about the stories and memories that come with each dish.
Must-try Filipino dishes
If you’re a first-time visitor to the Philippines, there are some dishes that you must try. These dishes are not only delicious but also represent the essence of Filipino cuisine. Here are some of the must-try Filipino dishes:
Adobo is considered by many as the national dish of the Philippines. It’s a dish made with meat (usually chicken or pork) marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black pepper. The meat is then simmered until tender and served with rice. Adobo is a versatile dish that can be made with different meats and vegetables.
Sinigang is a sour soup made with tamarind or other souring agents. The soup is usually made with pork, fish, or shrimp and includes vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and green beans. The sourness of the soup is balanced by the sweetness of the vegetables, making it a delicious and comforting dish.
Kare-kare is a stew made with oxtail, tripe, and vegetables in peanut sauce. The dish is typically served with bagoong, a condiment made with fermented fish or shrimp paste. Kare-kare is a hearty and flavorful dish perfect for a chilly evening.
Lechon is a roasted pig often served during festivals and celebrations. The skin is crispy, and the meat is juicy and flavorful. Lechon is usually served with a vinegar-based dipping sauce and is a must-try for meat lovers.
Halo-halo is a popular Filipino dessert that is perfect for hot summer days. The dessert is made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, and various toppings like sweet beans, fruits, and jellies. Halo-halo is a refreshing and colorful dessert that will satisfy your sweet tooth.
Filipino cuisine varies from region to region, and each part has its own specialties. Here are some regional specialties that you should try:
Bicol is a region in the Philippines known for its spicy food. One of the most popular dishes is Bicol Express, a spicy pork stew made with coconut milk, chili peppers, and shrimp paste. Another dish to try is laing, a dish made with taro leaves and coconut milk.
Ilocos is a region in the northern part of the Philippines known for its crispy and salty dishes. One of the most famous dishes is bagnet, a deep-fried pork belly similar to lechon kawali. Another dish to try is pinakbet, a vegetable dish made with bitter melon, eggplant, and okra.
Visayas is a region in the central part of the Philippines known for its seafood dishes. One of the most popular dishes is kinilaw, a dish made with raw fish marinated in vinegar and calamansi juice. Another dish to try is lechon de Cebu, a version of lechon that is stuffed with lemongrass and spices.
Mindanao is a region in the southern part of the Philippines known for its flavorful and spicy dishes. One of the most popular dishes is piaparan, a chicken dish made with turmeric, ginger, and coconut milk. Another dish to try is beef rendang, a spicy beef stew famous in the Muslim areas of Mindanao.
Street food culture in the Philippines
If you’re a foodie, you can’t miss out on the street food culture in the Philippines. Street food is a big part of Filipino cuisine, and you can find vendors selling all sorts of delicious snacks and meals on the streets. Here are some famous street foods to try:
Isaw is a popular street food made with chicken or pork intestines. The intestines are cleaned, skewered, and grilled over charcoal. Isaw is usually served with a vinegar-based dipping sauce and is a local favorite.
Balut is a fertilized duck egg boiled and eaten with salt and vinegar. The egg is usually served warm and is considered a delicacy in the Philippines. Balut is not for the faint of heart, but it’s an experience you won’t forget.
Turon is a dessert made with banana and jackfruit wrapped in a deep-fried spring roll wrapper. The turon is then coated in sugar and served hot. Turon is a delicious and affordable snack that you can find on almost every street corner.
Kwek-kwek is a popular street food made with quail eggs that are battered and deep-fried. The eggs are usually served on a stick and are dipped in a vinegar-based sauce. Kwek-kwek is a crispy and delicious snack that is perfect for on-the-go eating.
Best Filipino desserts
Filipino cuisine is not just about savory dishes; it also has a wide variety of desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth. Here are some of the best Filipino desserts that you should try:
Halo-halo is made with shaved ice, evaporated milk, and toppings like sweet beans, fruits, and jellies. This dessert is a refreshing and colorful dessert perfect for hot summer days.
• Leche flan
Leche flan is a Filipino version of crème caramel made with egg yolks, condensed milk, and sugar. The dessert is typically served cold and is a creamy and indulgent treat.
• Ube halaya
Ube halaya is a dessert made with purple yam, coconut milk, and sugar. The dessert is usually served cold and has a sweet and nutty flavor. Ube halaya is a popular dessert during the holiday season and is often served alongside other Filipino desserts.
Bibingka is a type of rice cake made with glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, and sugar. The cake is usually cooked in a clay pot lined with banana leaves and is topped with butter and grated coconut. Bibingka is a popular dessert during Christmas, and you can find vendors selling it outside churches.
Filipino beverages and drinks
Filipino cuisine also has a wide variety of beverages and drinks worth trying. Here are some of the best Filipino beverages and drinks:
• San Miguel Beer
San Miguel Beer is the most popular beer in the Philippines. It’s a light, refreshing lager that pairs well with local cuisine. San Miguel Beer is also affordable, making it a favorite among locals.
• Calamansi juice
Calamansi juice is a refreshing drink made with calamansi, a type of citrus fruit native to the Philippines. The juice is usually sweetened with sugar or honey and is a great way to cool down on a hot day.
• Sago’t gulaman
Sago’t Gulaman is a sweet drink made with tapioca pearls and gelatin. The drink is sweetened with brown sugar and is usually served cold. Sago’t Gulaman is a popular drink during fiestas and other celebrations.
• Barako coffee
Barako coffee is a type of coffee that is grown in the Philippines. The coffee is known for its strong and bold flavor and is a favorite among coffee lovers. Barako coffee is usually served black and is perfect for a morning pick-me-up.
The best places to eat Filipino food
If you’re a foodie looking to explore the local food scene, here are some of the best places to eat Filipino food:
1) Bicol Express
Bicol Express is a popular restaurant in Manila that serves authentic Bicolano cuisine. The restaurant is known for spicy dishes, including the namesake Bicol Express.
2) Romulo Café
Romulo Café is a restaurant in Quezon City that serves classic Filipino dishes with a modern twist. The restaurant is named after Carlos P. Romulo, a Filipino diplomat and writer.
Abe is a chain of restaurants that serves traditional Filipino cuisine. The restaurant is known for its delicious adobo and other classic Filipino dishes.
Mesa is a chain of restaurants that serves Filipino food in a modern and stylish setting. The restaurant is known for its delicious sisig and other Filipino favorites.
Filipino cuisine is a reflection of the country’s culture and history. It’s a unique blend of flavors and influences that make it one of the most interesting and delicious cuisines in the world. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, there are endless options for you to explore and indulge in.
From the must-try dishes to the regional specialties and street food culture, there’s something for everyone in the vibrant and flavorful world of Filipino cuisine. So, what are you waiting for? So, grab a fork and prepare for a delicious adventure!