Although a less known cuisine, Filipino food is on a fast meteoric rise for both foodies and gourmands alike. The cuisine is rich with Spanish and Asian influences, but at the same time there is a distinct Filipino stamp in all of their food that makes it uniquely (and deliciously) Filipino. Whether it may be the partnering of salty-sour, savory-sweet, crunchy-soft, Filipino food is truly masarap (Note: This list is in no particular order and is by no means comprehensive).
Don’t be intimidated by the balut’s infamous reputation. For those who’ve tried it, it tastes just like egg with some delicious soup. Balut is actually a duck embryo that is around 17 days old. It is boiled and served with spicy vinegar or rock salt. A staple in every street corner.
Nothing says Filipino more than adobo. Although it may have originated from Mexico, Filipinos figured out that when you cook chicken and/or pork in salt, vinegar, pepper, garlic, soy sauce, and other spices, this preserves the meat even without putting it inside a refrigerator.
Tinola is a ginger-based stew with meat, either chicken, pork, fish, or frog (for the adventurous!). Also, the dish isn’t complete without chili pepper leaves and green papaya.
For any party or festival, Filipinos have the lechon. This is a complete pig that is spit-roasted on top of coals. The result is crispy and golden-brown pork skin and soft pig’s meat served aside liver sauce.
#5 Inihaw na Liempo
The liempo or pork belly is barbecued (inihaw). The best liempos are those stuffed with spices and herbs and then roasted. It results in crackling skin and juicy meat.
As you will probably find out, nothing is wasted in Filipino food. With the sisig, the pig’s head, cheeks, and liver are used for this sizzling dish. This creates both crunchy and chewy textures, perfect with a cold bottle of beer. You can add soy sauce, Knorr Seasoning, hot sauce, or calamansi to sisig, based on your preference. You can even choose to crack a raw egg on top of it—it’ll quickly cook on the sizzling plate.
#7 Kuhol sa Gata
Kuhol sa gata translated to English is snails in coconut milk. In this dish, fresh snails are cooked in leafy veges and coconut milk. The snails are served in their shell. Usually a small fork or toothpick is used to get the meat out.
#8 Crispy Pata
Not for the faint-hearted, crispy pata is actually pork knuckle, simmered and drained. It is then deep fried until crispy. Its meat is juicy and tender—a delicious contrast to the crackling and crispy skin. Best served with soy sauce, vinegar, and chili.
#9 Fish Kinilaw
It doesn’t matter what kind of fish is used here, it just has to be fresh. Dressed using vinegar, chili, ginger, and spices, each Philippine province has its own manner of making fish kinilaw.
#10 Pancit Palabok
Packing a punch in texture and flavor, the pancit palabok is a noodle dish using rice noodles, layered with a rich orange sauce composed of shrimp broth, pork, shrimps, hard boiled eggs, and pork rinds (called chicharon in the Philippines). Squid and oysters are sometimes mixed in.
#11 Rellenong Alimango
Rellenong alimango takes a while to make. First, the alimango or crab is carefully peeled. Then the crab meat is sautéed using tomatoes, onions, and herbs. The mixture is stuffed back inside the crab shell and deep fried. Other than the alimango, this style of cooking is also done in the Philippines using bangus (milkfish) or chicken.
Even though it’s almost always summer season in the Philippines, Filipinos usually enjoy slurping some hot bulalo soup. Made from fresh beef from the province of Batangas, the bulalo’s broth is rich in flavors from the beef that’s been boiling for hours. Included in the soup are big bones, wherein everyone usually tries to grab the ones with the most bone marrow.
Otherwise known everywhere in the world as pork sausage, longanisa has different versions throughout the country. From garlicky to spicy to sweet, longaniza is typically eaten during breakfast with garlic rice topped with a fried egg (for other food made better when topped with an egg, click here)—the meat is dipped in vinegar to cut into the fat.
Kare-kare is a stew of oxtail. What makes it truly kare-kare is its delicious sauce made from peanuts. Added to the sauce are eggplants, banana blossoms, and string beans. Kare-kare is incomplete without bagoong (shrimp paste) and steamed rice.
Pinakbet is a vegetable dish made of eggplant, okra, squash, ampalaya (bitter gourd), and shrimp or fish paste. A dream for the pesco-vegetarian!
Sinigang is a stew of either pork, beef, fish, or prawns (or a combination thereof) soured using tamarind, tomatoes, or kamias (bilimbi fruit). The sinigang isn’t sinigang without its vegetables like string beans, kangkong (river spinach), and gabi (taro). Eaten with steamed rice, sinigang is so ubiquitous in the Philippines that there are actulally sinigang mixes in every supermarket and convenience store.
Laing is made with taro leaves, cooked in coconut milk. To give it some punch, morsels of chili and meat are added.
Halo-halo in English actually means mix-mix. This concoction is composed of finely shaved ice and milk with generous portions of any of the following: ube (purple yam), banana, gulaman (gelatin), sago, kaong, garbanzos, leche flan (like a creme caramel), or beans. The really special ones are topped off with ice cream. While some Filipinos believe that the more ingredients there are in the halo-halo, the better, others prefer the more simpler halo-halo with just shaved ice and milk, with a topping of leche flan.
#19 Puto Bumbong
These chewy treats is made of purple mountain rice steamed in bamboo tubes (hence, their shape). It is slathered in melted butter, grated coconut, and panocha (raw and unrefined brown sugar) and grated coconut.
Typically sold by street vendors in the morning, taho is a warm soybean custard, topped with sago pearls. Brown sugar syrup is stirred into it.