30 Must-Try Food of Philippines - Riot Of Hot, Sour, Sweet & Spicy

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Phillippines is one of the largest archipelagos in the world. With more than 7000 islands and hundreds of ethnolinguistic groups, the cuisine of the Phillippines is a mosaic of cultures and traditions. Coupled with the many international influences, its food is refreshingly different yet, underlaid subtly with known tastes and flavors. Surprisingly, Philippine cuisine is not as popular as other Asian cuisines, such as Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, etc. However, its simplicity and delicious flavors are increasingly gaining recognition and limelight. But before we dive into the many lip-smacking delicacies of the nation, it is worth learning a little about the culture and history of its food. 

What is Filipino Cuisine?

Philippines food has strong local and regional flavors that result from its local ingredients and traditional cooking methods. However, the Philippines has had several foreign influences reflected in its food. The country had ties with China, Mexico, and India through trade. It was under the colonization of Spain for almost 300 years, whereas Americans ruled the Philippines for several decades. The Japanese and Indians (serving in the British army) had a hold on the islands during the Second World War. Thus, the food in Phillippines is often known as a ‘fusion of Asian’ foods because the dishes have deep ties to both local and foreign influences. 

Some Facts About Philippines Food

  • Unlike other Asian cuisines, Filipino food is not spicy. It is in fact, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. The sourness is often derived from leaves, fruits, and fermentation. 
  • Filipinos enjoy their rice. Most of the dishes usually serve a generous helping of rice alongside. Rice dishes are common as breakfast and snacks too.
  • The people of the Philippines eat more than three meals a day. Yes, that's not an exaggeration! Filipinos love food and can eat 5-7 hearty meals daily. 
  • Filipino dishes are incomplete without a variety of condiments, such as banana catsup, buro, and bagoong. Similarly, the dips and sauces accompany fried items to enhance flavor.  
Since eating is such an integral part of their culture you will be often greeted with ‘Kumain ka na ba?’ or ‘Have you eaten?’ And no matter what your answer is, there will be a plate of food brought to you soon enough! So without further adieu, let’s begin our food journey across this island nation. ‘Kain na tayo,’ or ‘Let’s eat.’

1. Pancit (Filipino Rice Noodles) 

Pancit are traditional Filipino noodles that come in different sizes, shapes, and types. A Chinese-inspired dish, the noodles are made from rice, flour, or egg. They are mixed together with either meat, vegetables, or seafood. It is a common dish that is prepared also on all special occasions, such as holidays and birthdays. Though pancit on its own is quite filling, but it is often not eaten alone. Instead, it is treated as a side dish along with rice or other dishes. Both dry and soupy versions of pancit are popular and equally delicious. There are several varieties and ways in which the pancit is prepared. The popular way is when the egg noodles are stir-fried along with meat and vegetables. It tastes crunchy, fresh, and zingy as the chili, soy sauces, and lime juice all melt seamlessly along with the fried noodles. Pancit is also a popular street food and is reasonably cheap when one is eating out. Other varieties of pancit include the Cha Misua (flour noodles), Pancit Bihon (rice noodles), Pancit Sotanghon (vermicelli), and more. Also, different islands of the Philippines have their own special version of the pancit. For example, in Quezon the Pancit Habhab is enjoyed with vinegar.

2. Halo-Halo (Filipino Shaved Ice Dessert)

Halo Halo
A fantastic Philippines dessert, this traditional dish is a mix of sweetened fruits, crushed ice, gels, legumes, and milk. The ingredients do change across the island nation and there are variations in taste and presentation. Halo-Halo may also contain coconut, sweetened beans, leche flan, kaong, and other local ingredients. However, as long as the halo-halo is colorful, the locals love it! It is usually served in long glasses through which consumers can see the colorful layers of goodies inside. The dish is topped with ice cream or halaya and then condensed milk or evaporated milk is poured into it as a finishing touch. It can be found in restaurants but is also a staple on promenades, broadway, beaches, and more. A popular summer dish, the halo-halo finds its origins in Japan and is similar to the Japanese dessert kakigori. 

3. Lumpia (Filipino Fried Crispy Spring Roll)

An appetizer dish, the lumpia is somewhat like a spring roll. Thin paper crepes are stuffed with varied fillings and then deep-fried. Lumpia Shanghai is one of the most popular types of lumpia. It is filled with pork, vegetables, raisins, and more. Other types of lumpia, include the lumpiang ubod,lumpiang togue (made from bean sprouts), lumpiang tinapa (made from fish) and cheese lumpia. The lumpias are often served with banana ketchup and other sauces. Though most of these are fried, there is also the fresh lumpia, called lumpia sariwa. Lumpia sariwa is similar to the popiah from Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, and other Southeast Asian countries. 

4. Kare Kare (Peanut Stew)

Kare Kare
Kare-Kare is a curry or stew made from vegetables and meat. The gravy is thick and has a discernable taste of peanut sauce. Different meats make kare-kare, including pork, oxtail, and tripes. However, the meat has to simmer and cook for hours before the sauce is added to it. The sauce is made of peanut butter or ground peanuts and rice flour. Different vegetables, such as cabbage, beans, and eggplant, are added to the gravy. The stew is also often prepared in clay pots. Kare-kare is eaten with steamed rice and bagoong alamang or shrimp paste. Interestingly, it is believed that the South Indians deployed in the Philippines made the gravy and called it kari-kari, which later became the Filipino kare-kare. 

5. Pinakbet (Filipino Vegetable Stew)

Another popular local dish, the pinakbet is made from pork belly and vegetables, all of which are sauteed in shrimp or fish sauce. It originates from the Ilocos region, where pinakbet means ‘shriveled.’ The name is derived from the state of the shriveled vegetables after being cooked for long. Pinakbet uses many vegetables and root crops, such as bitter gourd, okra, eggplant, kamote or sweet potato, beans, and more. Pinakbet is a dish found in all regions and is enjoyed with white steamed rice. The flavors are a good mix of sweet, salty, and bitter, along with the distinct taste of the shrimp or fish sauce. 

6. Adobo (Filipino Chicken Stew)

Chicken Adobo
The adobo has its origins in Mexican cuisine. But the name itself has Spanish origins. Abodo comes from ‘adobar’ which means marination or to marinate. Adobo is thus both a dish and is also referred to as a cooking method. It is usually a meat dish, but can also be prepared with vegetables. The meat is cooked in vinegar, garlic, soy sauce, and more spices. Made usually with chicken or pork, the marinated meat is then cooked to simmer over low heat. The adobo is also made with squid (Adobong Pusit) and water spinach (Adobong Kangkong). There are many other varieties of adobo and it is often considered the country's national dish due to its popularity and ease of availability. 

7. Sisig (Filipino Crispy Pork with Eggs) 

Sisig was first made in the Pampanga province in Aling Lucing’s restaurant in the 1970s. From there on, the dish became a hit amongst many other regions of the Philippines, until it became a national culinary force. Filipinos hate to waste any part of the meat. The sisig is in fact, made from the leftover meat of pork and chicken, including the liver, ears, face, head, cheeks, and more. The final dish is crunchy, chewy, and a wonderful appetizer with sauce. Traditionally, sisig is made from pork. But there are many other varieties of it including sisig made from crocodile, ostrich, tuna, squid, oyster, and more. The sisig is served on a sizzling cast iron dish along with chicken liver and onions from keeping the fat from turning cold. The original Aling Lucing’s restaurant is still open and you can enjoy the sisig there or in any other part of the country. 

8. Bulalo (Filipino Beef Marrow Stew) 

Bulalo is a soup that is made of green vegetables, corn and beef bones filled with marrow. The beef shanks are boiled on the stove before adding other ingredients to the soup. The bones are big and juicy and relished with the sumptuous marrow inside. Bulalo is most popular in the Batangas and Cavite provinces. The soup is warm and hearty and accompanied best with rice and a sauce made of calamansi and fish sauce. 

9. Dinuguan (Filipino Pork Blood Stew)

The dinuguan is not for everyone! Made from the insides of the pig and pork, the dish is cooked in the blood of the pig. Other ingredients added include vinegar, chili, garlic and other spices. Typically the dinuguan is made using organs such as pork/pig kidneys, intestines, lungs, heart, ears, snout and more. It is eaten best with rice or puto (rice cakes.) The dinuguan is called different names across the Philippines. It is also called sinugaok in Batangas, tid-tad in Kapampangan regions, tinumis in Bulacan, dinardaraan in Ilcos and more. 

10. Chicharon (Deep Fried Pork)

Chicharon is deep-fried pork whose origins are in Spain. It is also closely similar to the Mexican delicacy chicharron, crunchy fried pork rinds. It is one of the most popular snacking dishes with beer and other beverages. The chicharon is dipped in vinegar and often comes in 2 types, with and without fat. Chicharon with fat is a yummier version for sure. Also, chicharon can be made with chicken. Chicken skin chicharon or chicharon manok is essentially chicken skin that is deep fried. 

11. Lechon (Filipino-Style Roasted Pork Belly)

Lechon is another traditional Philippines dish and refers to a roasted pig. Lechon in Spanish means roasted piglet, and this dish is a common preparation during holidays and special occasions. However, in the Philippines, the lechon is a roasted-grown pig. There are different types of Lechon, such as the Luzon Lechon and Visayas Lechon. The Luzon Lechon is simple and served with a sarsa liver sauce. Visayas or Cebu Lechon is stuffed with other ingredients, such as scallions, lemongrass, garlic, peppercorn, bay leaves, and more. Lechon usually implies roasted pig, but lechon is also prepared using chicken and calf in certain places. Lechon manok is roasted chicken, whereas Lechon baka is roasted calf. 

12. Kinilaw (Filipino-Style Marinated Fish)

Kinilaw is a delicious seafood made from a variety of fish. The ceviche is cooked on flame and served with vinegar dressing. However, it can also be served with calamansi juice, salted eggs, soy sauce, onions and more. It is usually made with bangus, tanigue, yellow tuna and other types of fish. Kinilaw can also be prepared with other seafood, such as oyster, shrimp, squid, clam and more. Another dish called Kilawin might sometimes be interchangeably used with kinilaw. However, kilawin usually refers to marinating other meats, such as pork, beef, goat, etc, whereas kinilaw is raw fish that is prepared with vinegar and other ingredients. 

13. Silog (Filipino Breakfast Dish)

Silog is a typical breakfast dish that is made from different meats, fried eggs and garlic rice. Depending on which meat is being used, the dish is named accordingly. If beef (tapa) is used then the dish is called tapsilog. Other types of silogs, include the cornsilog (made from corned beef), hotsilog (hot dog) or bangsilog (made from bangus). However, tapsilog is the most popular among them all and can be a bit spicy, sweet and sour at the same time. Tacilog and longsilog are other popular variants of the silog. 

14. Chicken Inasal (Filipino Grilled Chicken)

Chicken Inasal
Extremely popular throughout the Philippines chicken inasal is the go-to comfort food for locals and tourists. The chicken is marinated in vinegar, calamansi, pepper, achuete and then grilled over charcoal. The marinated chicken is cut into pieces and inserted into bamboo sticks before being skewered. Chicken inasal is served with white rice and sauces. 

15. Bicol Express (Filipino Stew With Pork, Coconut, and Chiles)

Bicol Express
Bicol Express is a spicy special from the Bicol region. The pork belly stew is made using coconut milk or cream, shrimp paste and loads of chilies. The stew is delicious when coupled with hot steaming rice. 

16. Buko Pie (Filipino Coconut Pie)

Buco Pie
Let’s try a sweet dish next on our list. Green coconuts are available in plenty across the islands of the Philippines. And hence made from these fresh green coconuts comes one of the country's most popular and yummy sweet dishes - the Buco Pie. The coconut is cooked in sugar and milk and then in pastry. Inspired by the American apple pie the Buco pie is often the best choice for following the Filipino tradition of bringing home something sweet after a trip. 

17. Crispy Pata (Filipino Pork Dish)

Crispy Pata
As the name suggests this dish is crunchy, crispy and a wholesome crackling delight. Deep-fried pork knuckles or trotters are scintillating hot, soft and tender from the inside and crisp outside. The dish is enjoyed with a gorgeous dip of soy sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic, sugar and black pepper. Crispy pata is usually the main dish, served with rice. Or it is also a good dish to go with drinks and beverages. 

18. Sinigang (Filipino Stew)

Sinigang is a stew or soup which has distinct savory and sour flavors. The soup is a tamarind base dish, but other acidic fruits are also added to enhance the flavor. These souring ingredients include local fruits, such as santol, batuan, kamias, guava and more. Sinigang is made from meat or seafood, including beef, pork, fish, shrimp and more. Vegetables are also added to the stew which is served with rice and fish sauce. The added vegetables include okra, white radish, yardlong beans, water spinach, eggplant, etc. Again, like many other dishes of the Philippines, Sinigang is both the dish and the name of the preparation method. It has many varieties, such as sinigang na baboy (made from pork), sinigang na isda sa miso (made from fish and fermented soya bean paste). 

19. Laing (Taro Leaves in Coconut Milk)

Laing is prepared with whole or shredded taro leaves. The taro leaves are cooked with pork or any other seafood along with coconut milk, chili peppers and other ingredients, such as garlic, lemongrass, onions, ginger and more. The result is a creamy and spicy dish, a common side dish eaten alongside steamed white rice or grilled pork and fish. 

20. Balut (Filipino Fertilized Duck Egg)

Balut is one of the commonest dishes in the Philippines. A fertilized egg of the duck embryo is incubated for 14-21 days and then boiled. The ideal incubation duration is, however, 17 days. Balut refers to this boiled egg and is eaten directly from the shell. It usually consists of four parts, the yolk, embryo, albumen, and soup. Depending on the days of incubation, the balut may vary in size and texture. It is seasoned with garlic, vinegar, salt, chili, and more. Though ubiquitous as street food and also in restaurants, it's not often easy to eat a balut because of its texture and because it is an embryo egg. However, many tourists consider it a challenge, while many avoid it. 

21. Lugaw (Filipino Rice Porridge)

A delicious rice porridge, the Lugwa’s basic ingredient is boiled rice mixed with garlic, ginger and salt. However, it has several variations to it, depending on which other component is added to the dish. When the rice is served with pork oral and beef it is called Goto. When chicken is alongside lugaw then the dish is called Arroz Caldo. The arroz caldo is in fact, cozy warm food that is often eaten as a breakfast. Interestingly, there is also a sweet version of the lugaw made with chocolate and milk called Champorado. It can be eaten alone or in combination with tuyo or dried fish!

22. Longganisa (Filipino Sweet Sausage)

Derived from the Spanish word longaniza, this dish is the humble sausage of the Philippines. However, it is an extremely popular dish with a dozen variations across the nation. It is usually made of pork and eaten for breakfast. It is enjoyed with garlic rice, atchara (green papaya pickle), fried egg and a vinegar sauce. Longaniza are broadly categorized into types - the de recado or savory types and hamonado or the sweet-savory types. There are other variations of longaniza that are known for their particular ingredients, shape and color. Some of these are Vigan longaniza (strong garlic flavor), Lucban longaniza (uses oregano), Chorizo de Cebu (red color), and many more. 

23. Ginataan (Sticky Rice in Coco Milk)

Ginataan Manok
There are different dishes that fall under the Ginataan family of dishes. The ginataan dishes are essentially those that are prepared with coconut milk. Depending on the method and ingredients, they can be both sweet and savory. Liang and Bicol express is also ginataans as they are made with coconut milk. But when someone says Ginataan, they usually mean the sweet dish. In the sweet ginataan the coconut milk is thickened with a variety of ingredients, such as jackfruits, sago pearls, tubers and plantains. The sweet ginataan can be eaten hot as well as refrigerated. However, other ginataans are named depending on the main ingredients used. For example, Ginataan Kuhol is prepared with snails. The snails are cooked and served with their shells and are cooked in coconut milk along with vegetables. It can be eaten as a snack or served with rice as a proper meal dish too. Other dishes include the Ginataan Gulay (made with vegetables) and Ginataan Manok (made with chicken). 

24. Leche Flan (Filipino Creme Caramel)

Leche Flan

A delicious and popular dessert amongst the locals, the Leche Flan is a milk and egg custard that is garnished with caramelized sugar. Served on family occasions, it is usually oval in shape and is steamed traditionally in a mold called Ilanera. One could say that it is similar to the creme caramel dessert. 

25. Turon (Filipino Fried Banana Rolls)

Caption Link
Another munchable and enjoyable sweet dish that is a perfect snack for mid-morning and afternoon is the Turon. The dessert is made from slices of plantain or banana and jackfruit slices wrapped in a lumpia and deep fried. Like a sweet spring roll, the turon can also be classified as a sweet lumpia. 

26. Halayang Ube (Purple Yam Jam)

Halayang Ube
Ube stands out for more than one reason. The Halayang Ube is a purple yam jam that can be used in various desserts. The purple yam is boiled and then mashed and used on cakes, ice creams, cookies, croissants, pies and more. Also, for years this jam is produced by a convent of nuns in Tagaytay that provide a livelihood to single mothers. 

27. Puto Bumbong (Filipino Steamed Rice Cake)

Puto Bumbong
Another purple dish, the Puto Bumbon, is not made of yam or ube. It is prepared from a unique variety of rice known as pirurutong. The rice is steamed in bamboo sticks, served on banana leaves with butter or margarine, and topped with grated coconut and sugar. It is a Christmas special dish though you may also find it available during other times of the year. 

28. Suman Malagkit (Filipino Steamed Rice Cakes)

Suman is a sweet rice dish cooked in coconut milk and then wrapped in banana leaves for steaming. It is eaten with a garnish of sugar and latik (syrup made of caramelized coconut cream). Suman has many variations and is a common street food snack too. Different ingredients are added to it that give rise to different types of the dish. These added ingredients include black rice, pinipig, chocolate, and more. 

29. Bibingka (Filipino Coconut-Rice Cake)

Bibingka is a laborious and tedious sweet dish to prepare. However, its taste is well worth the effort. Bibingka is cooked in clay pots that are lined with banana leaves. A rice paste batter is prepared after soaking the rice overnight and grinding it with sugar and coconut milk. This mixture is poured into the clay pot and heated with coals. The dish is garnished with butter, grated coconut, sugar, salted eggs and kesong puti. This dish is also a Christmas special dessert. 

30. Batchoy (Filipino Noodle Soup)

Batchoy is a noodle soup and probably one of the best noodle soups in the Philippines. The egg noodles are cooked in a broth of beef stock along with pork and shrimp paste. It is also usually served with pork slices, chicharon, pork liver and more. It is the most popular and well-made in La Paz market in Iloila City and hence also often known as La Paz Batchoy. 

Food in Phillippines For Vegetarians

It might seem that the food of the Philippines is mostly for meat lovers. However, if you are a vegetarian, many options are also available. Most traditional dishes are also served with vegetarian alternatives in restaurants nationwide. For instance, lumpia can be without meat and sinigang can be served with dumplings instead of meat. 

Finally, Philippine food is the coming together of different cuisines and flavors. However, the local ingredients, methods of cooking, and traditional flavors give it the bedrock foundation of a welcoming cuisine, yet solidly holding on to its own. For an extravaganza of taste that can delight the palate or for an adventurous edge in food - Philippines cuisine is waiting to be explored!

This post was published by Tasneem

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