Food in the Philippines – 10 Most Popular Filipino Dishes
The food in the Philippines is a mixture of sweet, salty, and sour flavours. Filipino cuisine has been influenced by Spanish, American, and Chinese traditions due to their rich colonial history. Similar to other Asian countries, rice is a staple food in the Philippines. Filipinos rarely eat a meal without steamed rice and it’s usually eaten with meat and vegetable dishes. Let’s explore more of the most popular food in the Philippines.
Food in the Philippines – Most Popular Filipino Dishes
Not quite as diverse as other Southeast Asian cuisines, the food of the Philippines is heavily based on sour flavourings, steaming, and deep-frying methods. Filipinos cook with souring agents which helps to preserve food in the tropical climate. Ingredients such as tamarind, batwan and calamansi (Philippine lime/lemon), and vinegar are commonly used.
You will discover that food in the Philippines has been dried, fermented and pickled for this reason too.
Most Popular Food in the Philippines
One of the top choices of the best food in the Philippines is Lechon. You may also know this delicious dish as suckling pig and also very popular in other countries like Indonesia and Tonga.
Lechon is a fully roasted pig with juicy meat on the inside and crispy skin on the outside. The perfect Lechon skin is cooked evenly and remains shiny. The best Lechon in the Philippines is found on the island of Cebu, however, you can also find it as the star of the table at Filipino celebrations, special occasions, and fiestas.
2) Silog – Filipino breakfast
Breakfast food in the Philippines – Cornsilog (Corned beef, rice and egg)
A Filipino breakfast typically consists of sinangag (garlic fried rice), itlog (egg) and meat. The name of the dish changes depending on the protein served with the rice and egg. For example, my favourite Silog food in the Philippines is a plate with tocino (sweet cured pork) called Tocilog. Silog that contains Filipino longganisa(sausages) is known as longsilog, and tapa is dried or cured beef, this dish is called Tapsilog.
Either way, Silog is a cheap and filling breakfast food in the Philippines that will get you through to the next merienda (snack).
Credit: Wikipedia – Pritong Saging (deep fried bananas). The perfect merienda or snack food in the Philippines.
Essentially, a merienda is a snack between meals. You could say that merienda is a Filipino food tradition and the locals enjoy merienda or snacks at various times of the day. Merienda could be skewered BBQ pork sticks, deep-fried bananas, a cheeky steamed bun or any number of food in the Philippines readily available for consumption. Once you travel in the Philippines, you will notice that the locals seem to be forever eating or snacking.
Pares, a word for a Filipino dish of braised beef stew with garlic fried rice and a bowl of clear soup. This is a very popular food in the Philippines. The thick, decadent, and slightly sweet gravy in addition to the delicate meat make pares one of the most popular beef dishes in the nation. Pares is a specialty of small eateries on the roadside and these ‘Pares Houses’ are by far the best places to try this tasty Filipino food.
5) Inasal na manok
Inasal na manok – My favourite food in the Philippines.
A Filipino dish of grilled chicken that developed in Bacolod, a city on the northwest coast of Negros Island in the Philippines. It’s so popular that it became the signature dish of the whole Visayas region of the country.
It’s prepared using different cuts of chicken that have been marinated in a delicious combination of vinegar and spices such as ginger, garlic, and lemongrass. The secret to why this dish is loved by all has to be the annatto-infused oil that is brushed onto the meat as it’s being grilled. It adds a lovely golden colour and a mildly sweet and spicy taste.
Lumpia, is a much-loved snack food in the Philippines. Known as egg rolls or spring rolls in other parts of the world, these deep-fried rolls are cheap and easy Filipino food.
Stuffed with either minced meat or vegetables only and served with the standard Filipino sweet and sour dipping sauce. Lumpia always make an appearance at large family gatherings or special occasions in the Philippines due to how easy they are to prepare in cooking in large quantities. This makes them a Filipino food tradition.
Lugaw is a Filipino rice porridge that is commonly eaten for breakfast. It’s filling and consumed warm. The porridge serves as a base for meat and added seasonings.
Other typical ingredients are freshly grated ginger, lemon, and spring onion. The diner can then flavour it to their taste with fish sauce, dried garlic, and slices of boiled egg. It’s very similar to ‘congee’, a popular breakfast dish in China and other Asian countries.
A Filipino delight made of glutinous rice packed with sweet fillings such as red bean paste, shredded coconut, and creamy lotus. It’s rolled in sesame seeds and finally fried until golden and delicious. The crispy shell and chewy texture are wonderful, and the creamy filling is the best part to complete this delicious snack or dessert. Best eaten with some fresh tea or coffee.
This one isn’t for everyone, but it’s certainly a popular food in the Philippines, especially on the streets. Isaw consists of marinated, boiled, and grilled pork and chicken intestines which are usually curled and skewered on a stick. Pork Isaw is usually a little larger and tougher to chew than the chicken version, so the chicken is often in higher demand.
The marinade is prepared using common Filipino condiments and ingredients. Soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, oil, and seasonings. Naturally, the intestines are thoroughly cleaned and boiled before being threaded on the skewers and grilled for consumption.
Balut is a very popular Filipino food that is served by street vendors to upmarket restaurants. Balut is a fertilised duck egg, complete with a developing embryo. This source of food in the Philippines is a cheap snack, high in protein and much loved by Filipinos.
Balut has usually been incubated for 14 – 21 days which ensures that the partially-developed embryo bones are soft enough to chew and swallow as a whole.
To prepare this delicacy, Balut is boiled or steamed for 20-30 mins. Once it is cooked, crack open the heavier end of the egg and sip the soup first. Then peel half of the egg, and scoop out the contents.
Balut can be seasoned with garlic, vinegar, salt, and pepper to add more flavour.
It’s popular in Southeast Asian countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Southern China too. Balut made it to our bizarre list of the 10 Weirdest Foods in China. How many would you dare to try?
As with other delicacies in Southeast Asia such as snake wine, scorpion, and other creepy crawlies, balut is considered to be an aphrodisiac.
Is there a national dish of Philippines?
Chicken adobo. Credit: Wikipedia
Adobo is by far one of the most loved Filipino dishes and it’s considered by many Filipinos their national dish.
Vinegar is a key ingredient of adobo. So, how is the unofficial national dish of Philippines prepared? Pork or chicken is stewed or braised in a marinade of vinegar, oil, fresh garlic (and lots of it), bay leaves, peppercorns, and soy sauce. Adobo is usually served with a mountain of white rice. It’s also enjoyable with some mashed potato or bread to soak up all the flavourful sauce.
The food of Philippines varies from island to island
The food of the Philippines does vary depending on what island you’re visiting. With an archipelago consisting of 7000+ islands and islets, the basic ingredients of Filipino food are similar and grown in their tropical climate. Think plantains, bananas, coconuts, mangoes, and vinegar which is used for marinating, glazing, adding flavour to rice, eggs, or as a dip.
The staple meat of the Philippines is pork, chicken, and beef, yet fish and seafood, including sea urchins, are popular. The fish eaten here is Bangus (milkfish).
Filipino food includes lots of meat
Filipino food or ph cuisine as it is sometimes referred to is very heavy on the meat. I’d have to admit that vegans would have a difficult time travelling in the Philippines and having variety in their diet, yet vegetarians could get by OK. Eggs, vegetables, and truckloads of rice are at your disposal.
Nothing goes to waste with Filipino food
Filipinos are clever at preparing tasty dishes with any ingredients at their disposal and the food of Philippines was developed for necessity and flavour. Often this means that Filipino food utilises every part of an animal, with very little disregarded. It makes for an interesting cuisine indeed.
The best Filipino food is eaten fresh
If you do travel around the beautiful islands of the Philippines, my top tip is to try and eat fresh food cooked in front of you. Choose meat or fish that hasn’t been grilled or deep-fried yet. This way you can be sure that it’s fresh and not from yesterday’s batch (which could make you ill). Simply avoid the cooked meat on sticks that may have been laying around in small shop food windows in 35-degree heat all day.
Learn more about food in the Philippines and how to cook some of the best recipes for Filipino food at AllRecipes.com. You can find many traditional Filipino food recipes and Filipino dishes to inspire you to cook ph cuisine.
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Rach is a self-confessed travelling foodie. Her passion for food and culture has seen her eat her way through 190 countries. She's currently on a big food adventure to visit EVERY country in the world!
When Rach isn't travelling, you can find her at the beach, drinking coffee or wine with friends or chowing down on the best eats around her home city of Melbourne, Australia.