Chances are that you some of you never heard of Philippine cuisine. Unlike the world-famous cuisine of neighboring Japan and Thailand, the fact is that Filipino dishes lack greater care for presentation, making them visually unattractive. But this does not in any way mean that they are bad, on the contrary!
With Spanish, Indian, Chinese, American influences and its own characteristics developed over time, Philippine cuisine is a true melting pot.
No ingredient is used at random, and each dish almost always has a long history. For those who do not like pepper, the good news is that the food in the Philippines is much less spicy than in other Southeast Asian countries. Nevertheless, the spiciness is compensated by the massive use of salt, garlic, onion, and ginger to enhance the flavor of the food.
As in other countries in Asia, rice is the staple food of Philippine meals. It is eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It is quite common to find restaurants with “unlimited refills” of rice. For a good introduction to the local cuisine, try Adobo, without a doubt the national dish of the Philippines: it can be either made with chicken, pork, or both, served in a soy sauce with garlic and vinegar.
Another interesting and easy to find option is Silog, a contraction of the words sinangag (“fried rice”) and itlog (“egg”). Mostly eaten in the morning, the dish is simple but has a number of different combinations, such as Adosilog (with adobo), Tapsilog (with “tapas,” or dried meat), and Tocilog (with bacon). In our opinion, one of the most peculiar and tasty Filipino dishes is Ginataang langka, a soup of jackfruit kernels cooked with coconut milk and shrimp. It is mouth-watering!
Don’t be surprised to see gigantic piglets spinning on skewers over barbecue grills, as if they were mere chickens in a roasting machine. Lechón is one of the tastiest foods found in the Philippines, either in restaurants or on the streets, served mostly on festive dates. The way the animal is roasted turns its skin into a crispy, juicy coating, a unique characteristic of this dish.
There is nothing more authentic (and inexpensive) than trying Filipino street food. Omnipresent in the islands and cities, the Carenderias (stalls with various cooked items on offer) usually offer a portion of rice + 2 choices. The main choices range from seasoned meats to vegetables.
However, many of the items available are not always fresh. Depending on the time of day, it may not be a very safe choice to eat them, especially to the most sensitive stomachs.
Traditional and curious street food Filipino dishes
Some other typical (and curious!) dishes that can be found on the streets of the Philippines:
- Inasal: chicken grilled and marinated with various spices, which take calamansi (a kind of local lemon), orange, pepper, coconut vinegar and paprika.
- Chicharrón: equivalent to our good old “torresminho” (crackling).
- Fishballs/Chickenballs: a kind of fried fish or chicken meatballs. They can also be served on skewers.
- Adidas: the creative name does not refer to the tennis brand, but to the barbecue of fried chicken feet. Makes sense.
- Banana Ketchup: during World War II, the tomato stock ran out and the Filipinos thought it would be a good idea to replace the ingredient with banana. Some people still think it is to this day.
- Sorbete: by name, it needs no introduction, except for the fact that it can be served inside bread (!) and even with fries. Somehow at least strange for the vast majority of occidentals.
Of all the exotic Filipino dishes, no other stands out as much as the Balut, the infamous fertilized duck egg. Inside, there is a practically formed embryo, making the experience of eating a nearly formed duckling impossible for many tourists. Despite this, the p(r)act is relatively common to find – and even considered an “aphrodisiac”. We won’t post pictures, browse at your own risk.
Be sure to try the Philippines’ most traditional dessert, the Halo-Halo. It basically consists of shaved ice with condensed milk, and sweetened beans, jellies, and fruits can also be added.