Filipino Food: A Guide to the Delicious Cuisine of the Philippines
Filipinos are known for their welcoming smiles and remarkable hospitality, but if there’s one thing that makes every day truly beautiful in the Philippines, it is Filipino food. Filipino cuisine is a melting pot of flavors, influenced by the country’s rich history and diverse culture.
The Philippines is an archipelago with over 7,000 islands, each with unique food traditions. The cuisine is a fusion of indigenous, Malay, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, resulting in a diverse and flavorful cuisine.
Filipino food is known for its bold flavors and use of fresh ingredients. Rice is a staple in the Filipino diet, often served with various meats, seafood, and vegetables. Some of the most popular dishes in Filipino cuisine include adobo, a tangy and savory dish made with meat or seafood marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic; sinigang, a sour soup made with tamarind and a variety of meats or seafood; and lechon, a whole roasted pig that is crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. Filipino cuisine also features a variety of street food, such as lumpia (spring rolls), kwek-kwek (deep-fried quail eggs), and balut (boiled fertilized duck eggs).
The history of Filipino cuisine is intertwined with the country’s colonial past. The Spanish occupation of the Philippines from the 16th to the 19th century introduced new ingredients, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and chili peppers, now staples in Filipino cuisine. The American occupation in the early 20th century also had an impact on Filipino cuisine, introducing new cooking techniques and ingredients, such as canned goods and processed foods. Despite these influences, Filipino cuisine has managed to maintain its unique identity and is now gaining recognition worldwide for its bold flavors and diverse dishes.
Understanding Filipino Food
At its core, Filipino food is big on three flavors: salty, sweet, and sour. These flavors are often combined to create complex and satisfying dishes.
Filipino food is not just about the main courses or ulam. It also includes breakfast dishes, merienda or snacks, and street foods. One of the most popular breakfast dishes is tapsilog, which consists of cured beef (tapa), garlic fried rice (sinangag), and fried egg (itlog). Another breakfast favorite is champorado, a sweet chocolate rice porridge often paired with tuyo or dried fish.
Merienda is a light meal or snack that is often enjoyed in the mid-morning or mid-afternoon. It can be sweet or savory, usually accompanied by coffee or tea. Some popular merienda dishes include bibingka, puto, and turon.
Filipino street foods are also a must-try for anyone visiting the country. These foods are often sold by street vendors and are popular among locals and tourists. Some famous street foods include isaw (grilled chicken or pork intestines), balut (fertilized duck egg), and kwek-kwek (deep-fried quail eggs).
Filipino food is also known for its feasts or fiestas. These celebrations are held by whole communities and are marked by singing, dancing, and, of course, eating. Some of the most popular dishes served during these feasts include lechon (roasted pig), kare-kare (oxtail stew), and adobo (meat or chicken cooked in vinegar and soy sauce).
Influences on Filipino Cuisine
Filipino cuisine is a vibrant and unique blend of different cultures and traditions, making it a truly diverse and exciting culinary experience. From the Spanish-inspired adobo to the Chinese-influenced pancit, the flavors of the Philippines are a delicious fusion of the various cultures that have shaped its history. From the savory American-style barbecue to the fragrant Malay-style curries, Filipino food offers an array of flavors and textures that delight even the most discerning palate.
The Spanish colonized the Philippines for over three centuries, and their influence on Filipino cuisine is evident. Spanish dishes such as paella, adobo, and caldereta have become staples in Filipino cuisine. Using tomatoes, garlic, and onions in Filipino cooking is also attributed to Spanish influence. The Spanish also introduced various cooking techniques, including stewing, frying, and roasting.
The Chinese have been trading with the Philippines for centuries, and their influence on Filipino cuisine is significant. Chinese dishes such as pancit, lumpia, and siopao have become popular in the Philippines. The Chinese also introduced soy sauce, tofu, and noodles to Filipino cuisine. The use of chopsticks in Filipino dining can also be attributed to Chinese influence.
The American colonization of the Philippines in the early 1900s also significantly impacted Filipino cuisine. The Americans introduced fast food chains such as McDonald’s and KFC, which have become popular in the Philippines. American cuisine, such as burgers, hotdogs, and fries, has also been incorporated into Filipino cuisine. The use of ketchup in Filipino dishes can also be attributed to American influence.
The Malay people were the first to settle in the Philippines, and their influence on Filipino cuisine is still evident today. Malay dishes such as sinigang, tinola, and adobo have become staples in Filipino cuisine. The use of coconut milk, ginger, and turmeric in Filipino cooking can also be attributed to Malay influence.
Popular Filipino Dishes
The country’s rich culture (thanks to both local and foreign influences) gave the culinary scene an exciting appeal. Coupled with stories of warmth, families, and friendships, these are the Filipino dishes that you should try soon. In this post, we listed popular Filipino Foods you must eat in the Philippines.
Adobo has existed since the Pre-Hispanic Period, when locals added vinegar and salt to cooked meat to preserve it. Adobo has a sour and mild to salty taste. It contains soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaf, garlic, and pepper, which up its flavors.
Adobo is a cooking method indigenous to the Philippines, and while there’s Adobo in other countries, the process and ingredients are not the same. Pork Adobo is, hands down, everyone’s favorite among different types of Adobo.
Lumpia is a Filipino version of the classic spring roll, made with a delightful combination of savory meats, vegetables, and sometimes noodles, all wrapped in a thin, crispy wrapper. After being deep-fried to perfection, it is served with a sweet vinegar dip that perfectly complements the savory flavor.
Kare-Kare is a beloved Filipino dish that has been delighting the palates of many for generations. Its thick, nutty, and sometimes sweet and salty flavor results from slow-cooking oxtail, tripe, and vegetables in a rich peanut sauce.
To add an extra layer of flavor, bagoong (a fermented shrimp paste) is often served alongside it. This hearty and flavorful stew is the perfect dish to enjoy on special occasions and celebrations, and it’s no wonder why it has been a staple in Filipino cuisine for so long.
Sisig is a beloved dish that has its roots in Pampanga, the home of the “Sisig Queen,” Lucia Cunanan, or Aling Lucing. She reinvented the dish, making it even more popular and beloved by foodies all over the world.
Every year, the province celebrates the savory dish with an annual festival. Made with chopped pig’s head and liver, onions, and chili peppers, the ingredients are cooked on a hot plate until they are crispy and sizzling. Served with rice and a raw egg on top, Sisig is a truly unique and delicious experience that is not to be missed!
From the traditional Lechon of Cebu to the unique variations from Leyte, Bohol, Batangas, and Zamboanga, the Philippines is home to some of the most delectable roasted pigs in the world. Every year, La Loma in Quezon City and Balayan in Batangas host the Lechon Festival, where locals and visitors enjoy the succulent pork prepared over an open flame.
The crispy skin and juicy meat of the Lechon make it a staple in Filipino buffets and special occasions, such as weddings and fiestas. Whether you’re a fan of the traditional Cebu Lechon or prefer the unique flavors of the other regions, the Philippines will surely have a Lechon that will surprise your taste buds.
Pork Sinigang is a beloved dish of Filipinos, originating from the Philippines and bringing a smile to many faces. It is a sour soup-based dish cooked with pork, vegetables, and green chili pepper and is the go-to dish when a family member is feeling under the weather.
Sinigang has been praised and awarded globally, with the international food database Taste Atlas citing it 4.8 stars out of 5 for its unique blend of sourness, sweetness, and saltiness. Not only is it delicious, but it’s also incredibly comforting, often served with a side of rice and fish sauce, chili, and calamansi.
If bacon uses a lot of salt, Tocino or tosino uses a lot of sugar, making it a “sweet bacon.” The word tosino is tocineto in Spanish, meaning the fat under the pig’s skin. Tosino can be part of Spanish Cocido, which includes other ingredients, but the Pinoy version highlights the tocino as a main dish.
Dinuguan is a stew with chicken or pork meat, blood, vinegar, and spices. The dish has a dark color and a rich, savory flavor. Dinuguan is often served with rice and puto (steamed rice cake).
Pancit is a broad term for various stir-fried noodle dishes in the Philippines. The noodles can be made from rice, wheat, or mung beans and are often mixed with vegetables, meat, and seafood. Pancit is a popular dish for celebrations and gatherings.
Many provinces in the Philippines have their own take on longganisa, even going as far as having a Longganisa Festival, which takes place in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. Longganisa has a garlicky flavor and sometimes sweet flavor. Depending on the location, it also comes in different sizes and shapes.
Pancit palabok is a beloved Filipino classic served on many unique and festive occasions for generations. Made with thin rice noodles covered in a creamy shrimp-infused sauce and topped with hard-boiled eggs, pork cracklings, shrimps, pork, fish flakes, and scallions, this traditional dish is a unique Filipino invention and is sure to satisfy your taste buds.
Bistek is the Filipino version of Beefsteak. Bistek is the Tagalog term for the Mexican word “bistec,” which is breaded meat flavored with salt and pepper. It’s a chunky or thin slice of pork or beef meat marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and calamansi (Philippine lime). Sauteed onions are placed on top.
This savory and comforting dish is made with chicken, ginger, garlic, and rice, all simmered in a flavorful broth. It is then finished with a sprinkle of fried garlic and green onions for a truly mouth-watering flavor.
Though the name is Spanish, the origins of Arroz Caldo are Filipino, an adaptation of a congee created by Chinese-Filipino immigrants. Enjoy this hearty dish as a breakfast, lunch, or dinner meal!
Maybe Westerners will shriek at the mere sight of this fatty, salty, yet crunchy Filipino delicacy, but not everyone is faint-hearted, so those who aren’t can consider themselves lucky. Chicharon is a versatile staple in Filipino households, used in mung bean soup and other preparations like dinuguan.
This creamy, comforting Filipino-style monggo beans (aka mung bean soup) is easy to make! The name, which translates to “sauteed mung bean,” is a nod to the first step of the cooking process, where you sauté the spices and secondary ingredients before adding water and the mung beans.
Coconut milk, ginger, garlic, and malunggay come together to create a delicious soup that’s sure to be a hit with the whole family. Depending on the region, some add smoked fish, while some add pork chicharon to add flavor to this classic Filipino soup dish.
Laing and Pinangat
Laing and Pinangat (except the one that uses bilimbi or kamias) come from Bicol and contain coconut milk. Laing has a pungent taste and uses taro leaves as the main ingredient. At the same time, pinangat will ensure a tingling sensation on your tongue because lemongrass gives a mild biting taste.
Filipinos love a good celebration, and kinilaw is the perfect dish to add spice to the festivities. This raw seafood dish, similar to ceviche, is marinated in vinegar and can be spiced up with a few green chili peppers for an extra kick. The vinegar gives the fish a tangy flavor and perfectly accompanies any bar-hopping event with friends.
Pinakbet is an authentic Filipino dish of vegetables, and this recipe is originally from the Northern provinces. The vegetables are cooked in shrimp or fish sauce (bagoong isda) until tender. It’s fishy in flavor but a good kind of fishy.
When you’re in the mood for something simple yet extraordinary, look no further than Inasal, the famous grilled chicken dish from Bacolod. This succulent dish is marinated in a tantalizing blend of vinegar, calamansi juice, garlic, and lemongrass before being grilled to perfection.
Adding sinamak, lime, pepper, salt, and annatto gives it a unique flavor that will satisfy your taste buds. Serve it with rice and a savory dipping sauce for a truly memorable meal.
Goat meat isn’t as popular as pork, beef, and chicken in the Philippines, but when people cook it, it’s common for them to cook Caldereta. It has a gamey flavor, thanks to the meat, and the sourness of the sauce emphasizes it. If you are not a fan of goat meat, you can try out Kalderetang Baka or Beef Caldereta. It’s probably the most popular Caldereta dish since not everyone loves the aftertaste of goat meat.
Crispy Pata is a deep-fried pork knuckles dish that is a Filipino favorite, especially for special occasions. Its crunchy exterior gives way to a tender, juicy interior that will make your mouth water.
The perfect accompaniment to this flavorful dish is a dipping sauce made with vinegar, soy sauce, and chili peppers. Enjoy the best of Filipino cuisine with Crispy Pata!
If you’re feeling brave, why not try some balut because it tastes really good. For the best balut, go to Pateros, but if it’s out of the way, don’t let that stop you from experiencing a good delicacy since balut is available throughout the Philippines. Just wait for a roaming balut vendor at night, wherever you are in the Philippines.
Practice your “Ala eh” and head to Batangas or Tagaytay because this comforting dish is native to the province and Tagaytay. The hot soup, tender meat, fresh vegetables paired with patis, kalamansi, and red chili dip is the best partner for steamed rice on a rainy day.
Take a bite of an Ilocos empanada, and you’ll be in for a treat! Filled with papaya, local longganisa, and an egg, this pocket of goodness has its own character. Unlike the sweet style empanadas common to Filipinos, Ilocos empanadas are savory and thin with a crispy exterior and an orange color.
When in Vigan or Laoag in Ilocos, you shouldn’t forget to try this traditional snack filled with longganisa.
Bagnet is called chicharon in Ilocos, but unlike the common chicharon that Filipinos know, bagnet is a thick slab of pork meat and fat deep-fried. The taste is divine, and the skin is crunchy, while the color is golden brown.
Champorado is a Filipino “meryenda” cooked by adding cocoa powder to boiling sticky rice. You can eat it by adding sugar, milk powder, or evaporated milk. It’s Mexican in origin.
During the Galleon Trade, Mexican traders shared recipes of their sweet concoctions with their Filipino friends, and that’s how we got some of our recipes.
Both Tagalog and Visayan use the term tinola, which describes the soup-based dish of chicken, sliced green papaya, chili leaves, onion, ginger, and fish sauce. It’s a comfort dish for gloomy days when you just want to sip on hot soup and chicken.
Filipino beverages are as diverse and flavorful as the country’s cuisine. From refreshing fruit juices to warm ginger teas, there is a drink for every occasion and taste preference. Here are some of the most popular Filipino beverages to try:
Buko juice, or coconut water, is a refreshing and hydrating drink perfect for hot days. It is made from the clear liquid inside young green coconuts and is an excellent source of electrolytes. It is often served with coconut meat inside for a more filling and nutritious drink.
Calamansi juice is a tangy and sweet drink made from the juice of calamansi, a small citrus fruit native to the Philippines. It is often mixed with honey, sugar, and water to balance the sourness.
Calamansi juice is an excellent source of vitamin C and is believed to have health benefits such as boosting the immune system and aiding digestion.
Salabat is a warm, spicy ginger tea often served on cold and rainy days. It is made from fresh ginger root, water, and sugar or honey. Salabat is believed to have medicinal properties such as relieving sore throat, cough, and colds.
Sago’t gulaman is a sweet and refreshing drink made from sago pearls, gulaman (agar-agar), brown sugar, and water. It is often served with ice and is a popular drink during fiestas and celebrations.
Taho is a popular street food and drink made from soft silken tofu, arnibal (caramelized brown sugar syrup), and sago pearls. It is often sold in the morning by taho vendors who carry a large metal container on their shoulders.
Taho is an excellent protein source, filling and satisfying breakfast or snack. In Benguet, you can try a version of taho with caramelized strawberry.
Filipino cuisine is known for its unique and diverse flavors; Filipino desserts are no exception. From the refreshing Halo-Halo to the creamy Leche Flan, there is a dessert for every palate.
Halo-Halo is perhaps the most popular Filipino dessert. It is a refreshing shaved ice dessert perfect for hot summer days. “Halo-Halo” means “mix-mix” in Tagalog, which is precisely what you do with this dessert.
It combines shaved ice with sweet ingredients such as beans, fruit, and jellies. It is then topped with evaporated milk and ice cream. The result is a delicious and colorful, sweet and refreshing dessert.
Leche Flan is a decadent and luxurious Filipino dessert that will tantalize your taste buds. It is a smooth, creamy custard made with egg yolks, condensed milk, and caramelized sugar. The flavor balances sweet and creamy, and the texture is unbelievably silky.
It is the perfect dessert for special occasions like Christmas and birthdays and is a favorite among Filipinos. With its unique flavor and texture, you won’t be able to resist this delectable dessert.
Puto is a steamed rice cake often served as a snack or dessert in the Philippines. It is made with rice flour, sugar, and yeast and can be flavored with coconut or cheese.
Suman is another type of Filipino dessert that is made from glutinous rice. It is usually wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed or boiled. Suman comes in many varieties, but some of the most popular ones include Suman sa Lihiya, Suman sa Ibos, and Suman sa Moron.
Suman sa Lihiya is a type of suman that is flavored with lye water and coconut milk. Suman sa Ibos is a type of suman that is wrapped in young coconut leaves. Suman sa Moron is a type of suman that is flavored with chocolate and coconut milk.
Bread is a staple food in the Philippines, and there are many varieties to choose from. Filipino bread is a fusion of Spanish and American influences, with unique flavors and textures that make them stand out.
Pan de Sal
One of the most popular Filipino bread is the Pan de Sal, which translates to “bread of salt”. It is a small, soft, sweet bread roll perfect for breakfast or a snack. Pan de Sal is usually eaten with butter, cheese, or jam and is often dipped in coffee or hot chocolate.
Another famous Filipino bread is the Ensaymada, a sweet buttery bread topped with grated cheese and sugar. It is often served during special occasions like Christmas and weddings. Ensaymada can also be flavored with ube, a purple yam popular in Filipino cuisine.
Pan de Coco
Pan de Coco is another variation of the classic Pan de Sal. It is made with coconut milk and grated coconut, giving it a unique flavor and texture.
Spanish Bread is a sweet bread roll filled with butter and sugar. It is often coated with breadcrumbs and is a popular snack among Filipinos.
Pianono is a rolled sponge cake filled with sweet buttercream. It is often served during merienda, the Filipino version of afternoon tea.
Taisan is a light and fluffy sponge cake flavored with butter and sugar. It is often topped with grated cheese and is a popular dessert in the Philippines.
Key Ingredients in Filipino Cuisine
One of the most important ingredients in Filipino cuisine is rice. Rice is a staple food in the Philippines and is often served alongside other dishes. It also makes various desserts, such as rice cakes and puddings.
Another key ingredient in Filipino cuisine is garlic. Filipinos love garlic, which is used in many dishes to add flavor and aroma. Garlic is often sautéed with onions and tomatoes to make the base for many Filipino dishes.
Soy sauce is also a common ingredient in Filipino cuisine. It adds saltiness and depth of flavor to dishes such as adobo and pancit. Vinegar is another vital ingredient to balance dishes’ flavors and add a tangy taste.
Filipino cuisine also uses various types of meat, such as pork, beef, chicken, and seafood. Pork is a popular meat in the Philippines used to make dishes like lechon, adobo, and sisig. Beef is also commonly used in beef tapa, kare-kare, and bulalo dishes. Chicken is used for dishes like chicken adobo, tinola, and curry. Seafood, such as shrimp and fish, is also a staple in Filipino cuisine.
Other key ingredients in Filipino cuisine include annatto, tamarind, bagoong, and lemongrass. Annatto seeds give dishes a bright orange color and a slightly sweet flavor. Tamarind is used to add a sour taste to dishes like sinigang. Bagoong is a fermented fish sauce that adds a salty and umami flavor to dishes. Lemongrass is used to add a citrusy flavor to soups and stews.
In addition to these key ingredients, Filipino cuisine also uses a variety of vegetables, such as carrots, onions, bell peppers, eggplants, green onions, and string beans. Herbs like bay leaves and peppercorns are also commonly used to flavor dishes. Liver sauce, kamias, peanuts, cheese, and hot dogs are also used in some Filipino dishes to add unique flavors and textures.
Filipino Cooking Techniques
Here are some of the traditional Filipino cooking techniques that are still widely used today:
Adobo is a popular Filipino dish cooked by marinating meat, fish, or vegetables in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and other spices. The marinated ingredients are then simmered until tender. This cooking technique is believed to have originated from the Spanish colonization of the Philippines.
Grilled to perfection, Inihaw is a beloved Filipino barbecue dish that tantalizes the taste buds. From pork to chicken, it’s usually served on bamboo skewers or in small cubes with a soy sauce and vinegar-based dip. A popular street food, it’s often enjoyed with white rice or rice cooked in coconut leaves (pusô) for a unique flavor experience. Whether you call it Sinugba or Inasal, it’s no wonder why Inihaw is known as the Filipino barbecue.
Sinigang is a sour soup made by boiling meat or fish with vegetables and tamarind. The sourness of the tamarind is balanced by adding vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and leafy greens. This cooking technique is a popular way of preparing soup dishes in the Philippines.
Binalot is a cooking technique in which the main ingredient is wrapped in a banana leaf, pandan leaf, or aluminum foil and cooked or grilled. This cooking method is commonly done with fish as the wrap locks in the heat and moisture.
Halabos is a cooking method in which meats like seafood are steamed in juices. This technique requires minimal ingredients and is a healthy way of preparing seafood dishes.
Guinataan is a cooking technique where coconut milk and/or cream cook meat, vegetables, or fruits. This technique adds a creamy and rich flavor to the dish and is commonly used in Filipino desserts like halo-halo and bibingka.
Filipino cooking techniques are diverse and reflect the rich history and culture of the Philippines. These techniques have been passed down from generation to generation and are used in modern Filipino cooking.
Filipino Food Culture and Traditions
One of the most important aspects of Filipino food culture is the concept of “Kumain Ka Na Ba?” which translates to “Have you eaten yet?” This question is not just a polite greeting but a genuine concern for one’s well-being. It is a way of showing hospitality and care for others. Filipino families often gather around the table for meals, and food is a way of bringing people together.
Traditional Filipino dishes often combine sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Some popular dishes include adobo, a savory stew made with meat, vinegar, and soy sauce; sinigang, a sour soup made with tamarind or other souring agents; and lechon, a roasted pig often served on special occasions.
Filipino cuisine also features a variety of street foods, snacks, and desserts. Some popular snacks include balut, a fertilized duck egg that is boiled and eaten with salt and vinegar; kwek-kwek, deep-fried quail eggs coated in orange batter; and fish balls, deep-fried balls made from minced fish meat.
In addition to its unique flavors, Filipino food culture is also known for its hospitality and generosity. It is common for Filipinos to prepare more food than necessary to ensure that guests are well-fed. Sharing food is a way of showing respect and building relationships.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the most popular dishes in Central Luzon cuisine?
Central Luzon cuisine features a variety of dishes that are popular in the region. Some of the most popular dishes include sisig, a dish made from chopped pig’s head and liver mixed with onions and chili peppers; bringhe, a type of rice dish similar to paella; and adobo, a dish made with chicken or pork cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and other spices.
What are some common side dishes in Filipino cuisine?
Filipino cuisine has a variety of side dishes that are commonly served with meals. Some of the most common side dishes include atchara, a pickled papaya dish; ensaladang talong, a salad made with grilled eggplant and tomatoes; and lumpia, a spring roll filled with vegetables or meat.
What are the best Filipino dishes to try?
There are many delicious Filipino dishes to try, but some of the most popular ones include adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, and lechon. Adobo is a savory dish with chicken or pork cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and other spices. Sinigang is a sour soup made with meat, seafood, and vegetables. Kare-kare is a stew made with oxtail, vegetables, and peanut sauce. Lechon is a whole roasted pig staple at many Filipino celebrations.
What are some traditional Filipino desserts?
Filipino cuisine has a variety of traditional desserts that are popular in the country. Some of the most popular ones include halo-halo, a dessert made with shaved ice, sweet beans, fruits, and milk; bibingka, a type of rice cake made with coconut milk and topped with salted eggs and cheese; and leche flan, a custard dessert made with egg yolks, sugar, and milk.
What are some popular ulam (main dishes) in Filipino cuisine?
Filipino cuisine has a variety of ulam, or main dishes that are popular in the country. The most popular ones include adobo, sinigang, kare-kare, and afritada. Afritada is a tomato-based stew made with chicken or pork and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers.
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