Thousands of Filipinos like me leave the Philippines to settle in a new country, often as Overseas Foreign Workers (OFW) or seafarers. These Filipinos miss their family, their country, and Filipino food. If you have Filipino friends, you’ve likely experienced their love for recreating Filipino dishes abroad. As with any culture, their traditional cuisine is part of who they are.
Filipino flavors and ingredients are as diverse as the 7,100+ islands that make up the archipelago. The food of the Philippines combines the colonial and foreign influence of Spain, China, and India with local flavor to create unique and delicious dishes. From the mild and familiar adobo to the more adventurous dinuguan, there is a Filipino dish for all types of palettes.
12 Popular Filipino Foods You’ll Want to Try
Filipino food is becoming better known around the world, with many chefs and restaurateurs making a name for the food of the archipelago.
Often, their menus include one of these twelve famous dishes.
Every Filipino knows what adobo is, and lately, it has been making waves in the international scene as chefs present their culinary twist on the classic. Adobo is tangy, sometimes sweet chicken, pork, or beef best served on top of a steaming bowl of white rice.
Adobo comes from the Spanish word “adobar.” However, the Philippine adobo is nothing like its Spanish or Mexican counterpart. Philippine adobo is cooked using soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves, and peppercorn. The most popular types of adobo are chicken and pork. However, you can also cook squid, banana hearts, and water spinach adobo-style.
Nothing beats eating lapaz batchoy, especially on a cold rainy day. Lapaz batchoy is the Philippines’s answer to Japan’s ramen. It consists of thin, firm egg noodles in a clear bone broth topped with a generous amount of chicharron (crunchy pork rinds), meat, innards, small thin slices of liver, and green onion leaves.
You can choose to have raw egg added if you want. Eat it with puto manapla (rice cakes from a town in Iloilo called Manapla) for a more authentic experience.
No party is complete without lechon. Lechon is a whole pig spit-roasted over coals until its skin turns golden-brown and crispy. It’s best served with liver sauce.
There are different ways to prepare lechon, and all of them are equally delicious. In Cebu, they salt the pig and stuff it with star, anise, spring onions, laurel leaves, and lemongrass. The combination makes for a very flavorful lechon, which needs no sauce.
Kare-kare is a rich orange stew, usually made with oxtail simmered in peanut sauce. Vegetables that often accompany it are green string beans, eggplant and Chinese chard.
Kare-kare is almost always served with a side of bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). However, shrimp paste is an acquired taste, and you’re welcome to eat kare-kare without it.
Sinigang is a Filipino classic you need to try at least once. It’s a soup made with sour broth of tamarind and kamias, or tree cucumber in English.
Sinigang is full of different kinds of green leafy vegetables and tomatoes. You can choose to add pork, shrimp, or fish. Eat the addicting sour sinigang by itself or with rice.
Crispy pata is not for the faint of heart, literally. Thus, it’s only served once in a while. Crispy pata is pork leg deep-fried to perfection. Crunchy on the outside and moist, soft, and chewy on the inside, it’s sinfully delicious, especially when dipped in vinegar infused with garlic, onions, and chili pepper.
The Philippines is abundant in fresh fish, and Filipinos have raised the bar for cooking fish. However, some might say nothing comes close to local kinilaw, or vinegar-cooked fish (ceviche).
Kinilaw in the Philippine islands has many permutations — it can be as simple as putting a vinegar dressing over sliced raw fish. However, you can find people experimenting with kinilaw by adding soy sauce, calamansi juice, or bits of pork belly and shrimp.
The Polish have czernina. The British have blood sausage. And the Filipinos have dinuguan.
If you’re an adventurous eater, you want to try dinuguan or pork (and sometimes innards) stewed in fresh pig blood with vinegar and seasoned with garlic, onion, chili, and other spices. This comfort food is best eaten with puto or on top of steamed rice.
Filipinos usually want to eat sisig served on a hot stone plate, as a pulutan (beer food) when they drink. Sisig consists of chopped pig’s face (no part of the animal goes to waste in the Philippines). They boil the meat until tender, then sauté it with onions and chili.
Some people like to add mayonnaise on top or raw egg to give the dish a creamier texture. If pig’s face is not something you’ll want to eat, you can try the non-traditional tuna sisig or tofu sisig.
There’s roast chicken, and there’s bacolod inasal. Bacolod inasal is native chicken marinated in calamansi, lemongrass, tuba (local vinegar), and ginger. As it cooks on hot coals, it’s basted with annatto oil, giving it an orange appearance.
You can eat it by itself or with rice. If you eat it with rice, level up the experience by sprinkling it with chicken fat. Yes, it’s full of cholesterol, but it’s oh-so-delicious.
No list of Filipino food is complete with the infamous balut. Foreigners who visit the Philippines are introduced to the balut as a rite of passage. Balut is a fertilized duck egg. The embryo is allowed to develop in the egg for 16 days (and no more than 18 days) before cooking.
If the thought of eating a fertilized duck egg is unappealing (don’t worry, you’re not the only one), you can go with balut penoy, which is just a boiled duck egg.
Halo-halo is a popular dessert in summer. Halo-halo translates to “mix mix” and consists of shaved ice with kaong (sugar palm), banana, gelatin, beans, halaya (purple yam), macapuno ( sticky coconut strips), sago, and whatever fruit is in season.
This treat is almost always topped with ube ice cream, leche flan, and either condensed or evaporated milk. In the heat of summer, halo-halo is heaven in a cup.
Filipino Food Is All about Family
Overseas Filipinos never forget the taste of their homeland and the people they left behind. Loyal to the end, many Filipinos send money back to the Philippines as a gesture of obligation and love to their families.
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