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(CNN) — Filipino food may not be as famous as that of its Thai and Vietnamese neighbors.
But with more than 7,000 islands and a colorful history, this archipelago has some delicious dishes of its own.
Blessed with an abundance of seafood, tropical fruits and creative cooks, there's more to Filipino food than the mind-boggling balut (duck embryo).
You just have to know where to find them and how to eat them.
Let us know your favorites by posting photos on Twitter or Instagram with the #CNNFood hashtag.
No list of Filipino food would be complete without adobo.
A ubiquitous dish in every household in the Philippines, it's Mexican in origin.
But Filipinos found that cooking meat (often chicken and pork) in vinegar, salt, garlic, pepper, soy sauce and other spices was a practical way to preserve it without refrigeration.
This cooking style can be applied to different meats or even seafood.
It's best sample it in a Filipino home, but the garlicky version of the lamb adobo can be found at Abe restaurant in Taguig.
The lechon is the most invited party guest in the Philippines.
The entire pig is spit-roasted over coals, with the crisp, golden-brown skin served with liver sauce, the most coveted part.
In Cebu, the stomach of the pig is stuffed with star anise, pepper, spring onions, laurel leaves and lemongrass resulting in an extremely tasty lechon, which needs no sauce.
In Manila, folks can get their piggy from Elar's Lechon, while in Cebu, the best is CnT Lechon.
Nothing goes to waste in Filipino food.
In the culinary capital of Pampanga, they turn the pork's cheeks, head and liver into a sizzling dish called Sisig.
The crunchy and chewy texture of this appetizer is a perfect match for a cold beer.
Serve with hot sauce and Knorr seasoning to suit the preference of you and your buddies.
Credit goes to Aling Lucing, who invented this dish at a humble stall along the train railways in Angeles City, Pampanga.
While Sisig can be found in many restaurants, try the original version at Aling Lucing Sisig.
4. Crispy pata
Not for the easily spooked, this pork knuckle is simmered, drained and deep fried until crisp.
The meat is tender and juicy inside, with a crisp, crackling exterior.
Served with vinegar, soy sauce and chili.
5. Chicken inasal
Yes, it's grilled chicken.
But in Bacolod, this is no ordinary grilled chicken.
The meat is marinated in lemongrass, calamansi, salt, pepper and garlic and brushed with achuete (annatto seeds) oil.
Every part of the chicken is grilled here from the paa (drumstick), pecho (breast), baticulon (gizzard), atay (liver), pakpak (wings) and corazon (heart).
It must be eaten with a generous serving of garlic rice, with some of the orange oil used to marinade the chicken poured over the rice.
You can go chicken crazy at Manokan Country where there is a row of authentic Inasal restaurants.
MORE: How to cook like Asia's best female chef
6. Taba ng talangka
The fat of a small variety of crabs are pressed and sauteed in garlic.
This cholesterol-laden Filipino food is often used as a sauce for prawns or eaten with fried fish and rice.
The best taba ng talangka comes from the provinces of Pampanga, Tarlac and Bulacan.
It's worth buying a bottle or two from the markets there, or pasalubong shops like Bulacan Sweets.
Bulacan Sweets, 155 N.S. Amoranto Ave., Quezon City, Metro Manila; +63 2 740 2171
7. Pancit Palabok
When Filipinos have guests, they don't skimp.
The pancit palabok served on most birthday parties oozes with flavors and textures.
The noodle dish is layered with rice noodles, a rich orange sauce made from shrimp broth, pork, hard boiled eggs, shrimps, chicharon (pork rinds) and sometimes oysters and squid
Despite the perennial heat, Filipinos often enjoy sipping piping hot bulalo soup made with from freshly slaughtered Batangas beef.
The broth is rich with flavors seeped from the beef after boiling for hours.
The bones are big, meaning more bone marrow to enjoy.
In Santo Tomas, Batangas, there's a row of restaurants along the highway serving bulalo.
9. Arroz Caldo
While chicken soup soothes sick Westerners, Filipinos turn to arroz caldo, a thick chicken rice porridge.
Cooked with ginger and sometimes garnished with a hard-boiled egg, toasted garlic and green onions, this Filipino food is sold in street-side stalls.
If dining al fresco doesn't suit, there's the Via Mare outlets around Manila.
10. Fish tinola
The freshness of Cebu's rich marine life can be tasted in its fish tinola.
The simple sour broth is flavored with onions, tomatoes and sambag (tamarind) and cooked over coco-lumber firewood for hours.
Cebuanos know to go to A-One, a small hole in the wall known, cooking up to 200 kilos of fish daily.
A-One, Rd. North 6, North Reclamation, Cebu City
This stew of oxtail has the most delicious sauce made from ground toasted rice and crushed peanuts.
Banana blossom, eggplants and string beans add more interesting textures, making it a complete meal on its own.
It's eaten with steamed rice and bagoong (shrimp paste).
While mom's kare-kare is always best, the version at Cafe Juanita is authentic.
Serious gourmands know the best cooks come from Pampanga.
So do kamaro, these mole crickets they cook into a delicious appetizer.
What makes this delicacy special?
Well, if catching these bugs is tough, so is cooking them.
Legs and wings must be removed, then the body is boiled in vinegar and garlic.
It's then sautéed in oil, onion and chopped tomatoes until they turn chocolate brown.
These bite-size appetizers are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.
Sample Kamaru at Everybody's Cafe, an authentic Pampango dining institution for many decades now.
13. Ilocos empanada
Yes, its name reveals its Spanish origins.
But its ingredients are all local.
Grated unripe papaya or bean sprouts, egg and loganiza (pork sausage) are stuffed in the empanada and deep fried, accompanied with a spicy vinegar sauce.
Get this staple Filipino food from stalls beside the cathedrals in Vigan and Laoag.
Sinigang is a stew of fish, prawns, pork or beef soured by fruits like tamarind, kamias or tomatoes.
Often accompanied by vegetables like kangkong, string beans and taro, this stew is eaten with rice.
A modern, but delicious spin on Sinigang is Sentro 1771's version called Sinigang Corned Beef.
Filipinos are huge rice eaters, and breakfast is no exception.
A tap-si-log consists of thin slices of dried marinated beef served with fried egg and garlic rice.
While it is breakfast fare, it's also a quick, satisfying meal you can eat anytime and available in most places.
Making it accessible all the time and even available for deliveries, Tapa King serves it in the classic, sweetish and spicy versions.
16. Dinuguan at puto
It may not look appetizing.
But this black dish of pork and pig innards -- stewed in fresh pig blood seasoned with garlic, onion and oregano and eaten with a white puto (rice cake) or steamed rice -- is a comforting dish for many Filipinos.
The MilkyWay Cafe's version tastes homemade and clean.
The French may have turned frogs' legs into a delicacy, but Filipinos take it to the next level.
They get a frog, stuff it with minced pork and deep-fry it.
While betute isn't for everyone, the adventurous can try it at Everybody's Cafe.
This dish of taro leaves cooked in rich coconut milk is an everyday staple in Bicol.
Morsels of meat and chili are added to give punch to the Laing.
It's eaten with steamed rice.
The authentic versions from kitchens in Naga and Albay are most delicious.
In Manila, it can be found at Dencio's.
Up north in Ilocos, the vegetable dish of okra, eggplant, bitter gourd, squash, tomatoes and bagoong (shrimp or fish paste) called pinakbet is a favorite.
And now, this healthy, cheap, and easy to cook dish has made its way around the archipelago.
It is cooked in most households and local restaurants.
Try it at Max's Fried Chicken in Manila.
Cooking with coconut milk is common in the province of Quezon, south of Manila.
Freshwater tilapia fish is grilled then simmered in coconut milk and chili.
It's definitely freshest when eaten close to the fishponds as they do in Kamayan Sa Palaisdaan.
The lechon kawali, the deep fried pork, is a popular Filipino food all over the country.
Meanwhile, bagnet, a siimlar dish from the northern province of Ilocos, is coveted for its irresistible crunchy skin dipped in the sweet-sour vinegar sukang Iloko.
Buy it from the markets of Ilocos, or try it at Cafe Juanita.
22. Pancit habhab
Trust Filipino ingenuity to adapt noodles to their lifestyle.
In Lucban, Quezon, pancit habhab is served on a banana leaf and slurped.
Garnished with carrots, chayote, and a few pieces of meat, this cheap noodle dish is most often eaten by students and jeepney drivers on the go.
For an extra special version, there's the Old Center Panciteria which has been making the noodles since 1937. Cooks there add lechon, a generous serving of vegetables, and even hand you a fork.
Old Center Panciteria, 85 San Luis St. Lucban, Quezon; +63 42 540 3068
MORE: Manila's world street food festival
23. Pork barbecue
In a country where almost everything is marinated, skewered and grilled in the street corners, everyone has their favorite barbecue meat.
Pork is the most popular.
Cebu is known for barbecue stalls along Larsian Street just off Fuente Osmena Circle.
Manila residents are addicted to that from Ineng's, which has many outlets in Metro Manila, for its big, chunky pieces of pork with a perfect, salty-sweet marinade.
Ineng's, Dela Rosa Car Park, Dela Rosa Street, Legaspi Village, Makati City, Metro Manila
Every province has their version of the pork sausage called longaniza.
It varies from sweet to garlicky to spicy.
Usually eaten for breakfast with garlic rice, fried egg and a dipping sauce of vinegar.
Zoricho, 118 Silver City, Frontera Verde, Ugong, Pasig City, Metro Manila; +63 2 571 3269
25. Lumpiang ubod
The fruit, leaves and even the pith of the coconut tree is used in Filipino food.
The pith makes a sweet and tender filling for the fresh lumpia, our version of the spring roll.
A delicate egg wrapper contains a savory filling of ubod (the pith of the coconut tree), shrimps, pork, onions and a garlicky sweet sauce.
Bacolod city is known for its petite version of this spring roll.
Bailon Homemade Ilonggo Delicacies, 1115 Rodriguez Ave., Bangkal, Makati; +63 2 843 6673
26. Bicol express
A fitting tribute to people who love coconut and spicy food is bicol express, a fiery chili, pork and coconut milk stew.
It can be tried at the hole-in-the-wall eatery called Top Haus in Makati.
Top Haus, 5994 J.D. Villena St., corner Mabini Street, Poblacion, Makati
27. Relyenong alimango
Filipino cooks are never fazed by fuzzy food preparations like relyenong alimango.
The crab is delicately peeled then sauteed with onions, tomatoes, herbs and stuffed back into the crab shell, then deep fried.
Chicken or bangus (milkfish) are also cooked relyeno.
Often cooked in homes for fiestas, but enterprising housewives sell them at the Sunday market in Quezon City (Centris Mall, Edsa, Quezon City) or the Saturday market in Makati (Salcedo Village, Makati).
No trip to the Philippines would be complete without sampling its famous balut.
Vendors peddling these eggs on the street chant "Baluuuuut!" to entice buyers.
This 17-day-old duck embryo is boiled, served with rock salt or spicy vinegar and is often consumed with beer.
29. Inihaw na panga ng tuna
General Santos and Davao City are known for their numerous ways with tuna.
The panga or jaw is often grilled over coals and dipped in sauce of soy sauce, vinegar, chili and calamansi (local lemon).
30. Fish kinilaw
The day's fresh catch is dressed in palm coconut vinegar, ginger, chili and spices.
Each province has its own way of preparing kinilaw.
Most wet markets will prepare this for you.
Most popular in Cebu is to eat it in Su-tu-kil, the row of seafood eateries (Lapu-LapuCity, Mactan,Cebu).
31. Kuhol sa gata
Fresh snails cooked in coconut milk and leafy vegetables.
The snails are served in the shell and a tiny fork (or toothpick) is used to loosen the meat inside.
This is usually served as an appetizer or a snack, but it works well with hot rice.
Fresh tilapia is first stuffed with tomatoes and onions.
Then simmered in coconut milk and wrapped in pechay leaves (similar to bokchoy), which helps keep the fish together and adds a peppery taste.
It's a staple Filipino food.
33. Inihaw na Liempo
A Filipino-style barbecue using a popular pork part: liempo (pork belly).
Arguably, the best is Cebuano style -- a slab of liempo stuffed with herbs and spices and roasted.
The result is juicy flavorsome meat inside and crackling skin outside.
34. Empanada de kaliskis
The literal translation of these words is scaly pie.
A traditional meat pie from Malolos, it is a flaky, croissant-like pastry filled with chicken and deep fried.
Best freshly made, get it when in Malolos or from a reputable restaurant such as Adarna Food and Culture.
35. Tinolang tugac
Frog isn't common in Manila.
But a few miles away in Pampanga you'll see it stuffed or stewed.
Or simply taking the place of chicken, such as in the common tinola -- a ginger-based soup usually cooked with chunks of green papaya and chili pepper leaves.
36. Camaro rebosado
Shrimp coated in egg and flour batter and deep fried.
Served with a tomato-based sweet and sour sauce for dipping.
For many Filipinos, Christmas is marked by the scent of bibingkas cooking at dawn.
These rice cakes are made by soaking the rice overnight, grinding it with a mortar stone and mixing in coconut milk and sugar.
The batter is poured into clay pots with banana leaves, with coals on top and below.
It's garnished with salted eggs, kesong puti (white cheese made from Carabao's milk) and slathered with butter, sugar and grated coconut.
Best eaten hot from weekend markets.
The best one is from Aling Linda at the Sidcor Sunday Market at Centris Mall, Edsa, Quezon City.
For the rest of the week, there's Via Mare or Ferino's Bibingka with branches all over Metro Manila.
38. Suman at manga
Sold along the roadside, suman are sticky rice snacks steamed in banana or coconut leaves.
There are many versions of suman, depending on the ingredients and leaves used.
These Filipino food snacks are often paired with sweet ripe mangoes.
They're cheap snacks, which travel well.
They can be bought from roadside stalls, or enterprising vendors peddling them on buses.
When the rains start pouring and classes are suspended, children love this comforting breakfast -- a chocolate rice porridge.
It's hot, rich and filling.
To offset the sweetness it's often served with dried fish.
This breakfast of champs can be eaten in roadside carinderias or there's the triple chocolate version at Max's Fried Chicken in various cities.
Many people joke that the Philippines has two seasons: hot and hotter.
Cool off with some halo-halo.
In Manila, MilkyWay Cafe offers the best halo-halo with finely shaved ice and a generous serving of leche flan, gulaman, ube, banana, kaong, beans and garbanzos, milk and a scoop of ube ice cream.
41. Buco pie
Go loco over coconut.
In the province of Laguna, buco pie (young coconut pie) wars are hot.
Each claims to be the best.
Orient D' Original may have a tacky name but this pie shop has been a favorite for 45 years.
They serve the pie hot, with a delicious filling with generous layers of tender coconut meat.
Orient D' Original, National Highway, Los Banos, Laguna, +63 4 9536 3783
42. Ensaymada at tsokolate
Ensaymada is a handmade cheesebread topped with sugar and cheese, and best served with thick Filipino hot chocolate.
Mary Grace cafe serves this unbeatable combination popular for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
43. Pastillas de leche
Made from fresh carabao milk and sugar, this sweet confection is stirred until thick and melts in the mouth.
Each piece is double wrapped in paper.
Traditionally, in the province of Bulacan, they hand cut ornate designs for the wrapper.
A consistent source of all things pastillas is Bulacan Sweets with more than 40 years of experience in making these sweets.
Bulacan Sweets, 155 N.S. Amoranto Ave., Quezon City, Metro Manila; +63 2 740 2171
44. Puto bumbong
These may look like miniature chimneys along the roadside stalls, but that's what gives the chewy purple snacks their name.
Traditionally, purple mountain rice was used to make these, steamed in bamboo tubes, then served with butter, panocha (brown concentrated sugar) and grated coconut.
The Via Mare chain has been consistently producing chewy snack for years.
This fried banana with langka (jackfruit) all sealed in a lumpia wrapper is our version of a sweet spring roll.
It is peddled around the cities and towns for the perfect merienda (mid-morning or afternoon snack).
46. Pan de sal
Pan de sal are small oval buns often eaten by Filipinos for breakfast. A brownish crust conceals a soft and fluffy inside. The best pan de sal is baked in an oven using firewood, naturally infusing the wood flavor into the bread.
Everyone has their favorite bakery, but Pan de Manila with outlets all over Metro Manila is consistently delicious.
Brown sugar syrup is stirred into warm soybean custard and topped with sago pearls.
Traditionally sold by vendors walking the streets calling out to those at home, but can also be sourced from supermarkets and restaurants.
48. Tablea tsokolate
A customary hot chocolate drink that stems from Spanish colonial times, tablea tsokolate is made from tablea de cacao -- bittersweet, thick flat chocolate disks.
The traditional version is available at Adarna Food and Culture.
49. Halayang ube
The ube or purple yam is a popular ingredient used for desserts and here it's made into a sweet halayang ube (ube jam).
For decades the nuns of the Good Shepherd Convent in Tagaytay have been producing this jam.
Their product is smooth and creamy, and helps provide a livelihood to the single mothers who make them.
50. Leche flan
This is a popular dessert among locals -- an egg and milk-based custard capped off with glistening caramelized sugar.
Originally published March 2012, updated May 2016
Filipino cuisine (Filipino: Lutuing Filipino or Pagkaing Filipino) is composed of the cuisines of 135 distinct ethno-linguistic tribes found within the Philippine archipelago, however, majority of mainstream Filipino dishes that compose Filipino cuisine are from the cuisines of the Bikol, Chabakano, Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Meranaw, Pangasinan, Sebwano (or Bisaya), Tagalog, and Waray ethno-linguistic tribes. The style of cooking and the food associated with it have evolved over many centuries from their Austronesian origins (shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines) to a mixed cuisine of Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and American influences, in line with the major waves of influence that had enriched the cultures of the archipelago, as well as others adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate.
Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the complex paellas and cocidos created for fiestas of Spanish origin. Popular dishes include: lechón (whole roasted pig), longganisa (Philippine sausage), tapa (cured beef), torta (omelette), adobo (chicken or pork braised in garlic, vinegar, oil and soy sauce, or cooked until dry), kaldereta (meat in tomato sauce stew), mechado (larded beef in soy and tomato sauce), puchero (beef in bananas and tomato sauce), afritada (chicken or pork simmered in tomato sauce with vegetables), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), pinakbet (kabocha squash, eggplant, beans, okra, and tomato stew flavored with shrimp paste), crispy pata (deep-fried pig's leg), hamonado (pork sweetened in pineapple sauce), sinigang (meat or seafood in sour broth), pancit (noodles), and lumpia (fresh or fried spring rolls).
History and influences
During the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines, the preferred Austronesian methods for food preparation were boiling, steaming and roasting. The ingredients for common dishes were obtained from locally raised livestock. These ranged from kalabaw (water buffaloes/carabaos), baka (cows), manok (chickens) and baboy (pigs) to various kinds of fish and seafood. In 3200 BCE, Austronesians from the southern China (Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau) and Taiwan settled in the region that is now called the Philippines. They brought with them knowledge of rice cultivation and other farming practices which increased the number and variety of edible dish ingredients available for cooking.
Direct trade and cultural exchange with Hokkien China in the Philippines in the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD) with porcelain, ceramics, and silk being traded for spices and trepang in Luzon. This early cultural contact with China introduced a number of staple food into Philippine cuisine, most notably toyo (soy sauce; Chinese: 豆油; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-yu), tokwa; (tofu; Chinese: 豆干; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-koaⁿ), toge (bean sprout; Chinese: 豆芽; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: tāu-koaⁿ), and patis (fish sauce), as well as the method of stir frying and making savory soup bases. Many of these food items and dishes retained their original Hokkien names, such as pancit (Chinese: 便ê食; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: piān-ê-si̍t)(Chinese: 扁食; pinyin: biǎn shí), and lumpia (Chinese: 潤餅; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: jūn-piáⁿ, lūn-piáⁿ). The Chinese food introduced during this period were food of the workers and traders, which became a staple of the noodle shops (panciterias), and can be seen in dishes like arroz caldo (congee), sinangag (fried rice), chopsuey.
Trade with the various neighboring kingdoms of Malacca and Srivijaya in Malaya and Java brought with it foods and cooking methods which are still commonly used in the Philippines today, such as Bagoong (Malay: Belacan), Patis, Puso (Malay: Ketupat), Rendang, Kare-kare and the infusion of coconut milk in condiments, such as laing and Ginataang Manok (chicken stewed in coconut milk). Through the trade with the Malay-Indonesian kingdoms, cuisine from as far away as India and Arabia enriched the palettes of the local Austronesians (particularly in the areas of southern Luzon, Mindanao, Sulu, Palawan, the Visayas and Bicol, where trade was strongest). These foods include various dishes eaten in areas of the southern part of the archipelago today, such as kurmah, satti, and biryani, as well as puto, which specifically derives from Indian cuisineputtu.
Spanish colonizers and friars in the 16th century brought with them produce from the Americas like chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and the method of sautéing with garlic and onions. Chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green. Spanish (and Mexican) dishes were eventually incorporated into Philippine cuisine with the more complex dishes usually being prepared for special occasions. Some dishes such as arroz a la valenciana remain largely the same in the Philippine context. Some have been adapted or have come to take on a slightly or significantly different meaning. Arroz a la cubana served in the Philippines usually includes ground beef picadillo. Philippine longganisa despite its name is more akin to chorizo than Spanish longaniza (in Visayan regions, it is still known as chorizo). Morcon is likely to refer to a beef roulade dish not the bulbous specialty Spanish sausage.
Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques, styles of cooking, and ingredients find their way into the country. Traditional dishes both simple and elaborate, indigenous and foreign-influenced, are seen as are more current popular international viands and fast food fare. However, the Filipino diet is higher in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol than other Asian diets.
Filipino cuisine centres around the combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat), although in Bicol, the Cordilleras and among Muslim Filipinos, spicy (anghang) is a base of cooking flavor.
Counterpoint is a feature in Philippine cuisine which normally comes in a pairing of something sweet with something salty, and results in surprisingly pleasing combinations. Examples include: champorado (a sweet cocoa rice porridge), being paired with tuyo (salted, sun-dried fish); dinuguan (a savory stew made of pig's blood and innards), paired with puto (sweet, steamed rice cakes); unripe fruits such as mangoes (which are only slightly sweet but very sour), are eaten dipped in salt or bagoong; the use of cheese (which is salty) in sweetcakes (such as bibingka and puto), as well as an ice cream flavoring.
Vinegar is a common ingredient. Adobo is popular not solely for its simplicity and ease of preparation, but also for its ability to be stored for days without spoiling, and even improve in flavor with a day or two of storage. Tinapa is a smoke-cured fish while tuyo, daing, and dangit are corned, sun-dried fish popular because they can last for weeks without spoiling, even without refrigeration.
Cooking and eating in the Philippines has traditionally been an informal and communal affair centered around the family kitchen. Filipinos traditionally eat three main meals a day: agahan or almusal (breakfast), tanghalían (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda (also called minandál or minindál). Snacking is normal. Dinner, while still the main meal, is smaller than other countries. Usually, either breakfast or lunch is the largest meal. Food tends to be served all at once and not in courses. Unlike many of their Asian counterparts Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks. Due to Western influence, food is often eaten using flatware—forks, knives, spoons—but the primary pairing of utensils used at a Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork, not knife and fork. The traditional way of eating is with the hands, especially dry dishes such as inihaw or prito. The diner will take a bite of the main dish, then eat rice pressed together with his fingers. This practice, known as kamayan, is rarely seen in urbanized areas. However, Filipinos tend to feel the spirit of kamayan when eating amidst nature during out-of-town trips, beach vacations, and town fiestas.
See also: List of Philippine dishes
As in most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. It is most often steamed and always served with meat, fish and vegetable dishes. Leftover rice is often fried with garlic to make sinangag, which is usually served at breakfast together with a fried egg and cured meat or sausages. Rice is often enjoyed with the sauce or broth from the main dishes. In some regions, rice is mixed with salt, condensed milk, cocoa, or coffee. Rice flour is used in making sweets, cakes and other pastries. Sticky rice with cocoa, also called champorado is also a common dish served with tuyo or dried herring.
A variety of fruits and vegetables is often used in cooking. Bananas (the saba variety in particular), kalamansi, guavas (bayabas), mangoes, papayas, and pineapples lend a distinctly tropical flair in many dishes, but mainstay green leafy vegetables like water spinach (kangkong), Chinese cabbage (petsay), Napa cabbage (petsay wombok), cabbage (repolyo) and other vegetables like eggplants (talong) and yard-long beans (sitaw) are just as commonly used. Coconuts are ubiquitous. Coconut meat is often used in desserts, coconut milk (kakang gata) in sauces, and coconut oil for frying. Abundant harvests of root crops like potatoes, carrots, taro (gabi), cassava (kamoteng kahoy), purple yam (ube), and sweet potato (kamote) make them readily available. The combination of tomatoes (kamatis), garlic (bawang), and onions (sibuyas) is found in many dishes.
Meat staples include chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Seafood is popular as a result of the bodies of water surrounding the archipelago. Popular catches include tilapia, catfish (hito), milkfish (bangus), grouper (lapu-lapu), shrimp (hipon), prawns (sugpo), mackerel (galunggong, hasa-hasa), swordfish (isdang-ispada), oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong), clams (halaan and tulya), large and small crabs (alimango and alimasag respectively), game fish, sablefish, tuna, cod (bakalaw), blue marlin, and squid/cuttlefish (both called pusit). Also popular are seaweeds (damong dagat), abalone, and eel (igat).
The most common way of having fish is to have it salted, pan-fried or deep-fried, and then eaten as a simple meal with rice and vegetables. It may also be cooked in a sour broth of tomatoes or tamarind as in pangat, prepared with vegetables and a souring agent to make sinigang, simmered in vinegar and peppers to make paksiw, or roasted over hot charcoal
or wood (inihaw). Other preparations include escabeche (sweet and sour), relleno (deboned and stuffed), or "kinilaw" (similar to ceviche; marinated in vinegar or kalamansi). Fish can be preserved by being smoked (tinapa) or sun-dried (tuyo or daing).
Food is often served with various dipping sauces. Fried food is often dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from Kalamansi (Philippine lime or calamansi), or a combination of two or all. Patis (fish sauce) may be mixed with kalamansi as dipping sauce for most seafood. Fish sauce, fish paste (bagoong), shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) and crushed ginger root (luya) are condiments that are often added to dishes during the cooking process or when served.
A traditional Filipino breakfast might include pandesal (small bread rolls), kesong puti (fresh, unripened, white Filipino cheese, traditionally made from carabao's milk) champorado (chocolate rice porridge), sinangag (garlic fried rice), and meat—such as tapa, longganisa, tocino, karne norte (corned beef), or fish such as daing na bangus (salted and dried milkfish)—or itlog na pula (salted duck eggs). Coffee is also commonly served particularly kapeng barako, a variety of coffee produced in the mountains of Batangas noted for having a strong flavor.
Certain portmanteaus in Filipino have come into use to describe popular combinations of items in a Filipino breakfast. An example of such a combination order is kankamtuy: an order of kanin (rice), kamatis (tomatoes) and tuyo (dried fish). Another is tapsi: an order of tapa and sinangág. Other examples include variations using a silog suffix, usually some kind of meat served with sinangág and itlog (egg). The three most commonly seen silogs are tapsilog (having tapa as the meat portion), tocilog (having tocino as the meat portion), and longsilog (having longganisa as the meat portion). Other silogs include hotsilog (with a hot dog), bangsilog (with bangus (milkfish)), dangsilog (with danggit (rabbitfish)), spamsilog (with spam), adosilog (with adobo), chosilog (with chorizo), chiksilog (with chicken), cornsilog (with corned beef), and litsilog (with lechon/litson). Pankaplog is a slang term referring to a breakfast consisting of pandesal, kape (coffee), and itlog (egg). An establishment that specializes in such meals is called a tapsihan or tapsilugan.
Merienda is taken from the Spanish, and is a light meal or snack especially in the afternoon, similar to the concept of afternoon tea. If the meal is taken close to dinner, it is called merienda cena, and may be served instead of dinner.
Filipinos have a number of options to take with kapé, which is the Filipino pronunciation of café (coffee): breads and pastries like pandesal, ensaymada (buttery brioche covered in grated cheese and sugar), hopia (pastries similar to mooncakes filled with mung bean paste) and empanada (savoury, meat-filled pasties). Also popular are kakanín, or traditional pastries made from sticky rice like kutsinta, sapin-sapin (multicoloured, layered pastry), palitaw, biko, suman, Bibingka, and pitsi-pitsî (served with desiccated coconut).
Savoury dishes often eaten during merienda include pancit canton (stir-fried noodles), palabok (rice noodles with a shrimp-based sauce), tokwa't baboy (fried tofu with boiled pork ears in a garlic-flavoured soy sauce and vinegar dressing), and dinuguan (a spicy stew made of pork blood), which is often served with puto (steamed rice flour cakes).
Dim sum and dumplings, brought to the islands by Fujianese migrants, have been given a Filipino touch and are also popular merienda fare. Street food, such as squid balls and fish balls, are often skewered on bamboo sticks and consumed with soy sauce and the sour juice of the calamondin as condiments.
Pulutan (from the Filipino word pulutin which literally means "to pick something up") is a term roughly analogous to the English term "finger food" or Spanish Tapas. Originally, it was a snack accompanied with liquor or beer but has found its way into Philippine cuisine as appetizers or, in some cases, main dishes, as in the case of sisig.
Deep fried pulutan include chicharrón (also spelled chicharon or tsitsaron), pork rinds that have been boiled and then twice fried, the second frying gives the crunchiness and golden color; chicharong bituka, pig intestines that have been deep fried to a crisp; chicharong bulaklak, similar to chicharong bituka it is made from mesenteries of pig intestines and has an appearance roughly resembling a flower, hence the bulaklak name; and chicharong manok, chicken skin that has been deep fried until crisp.
Examples of grilled foods include: isaw, or chicken or pig intestines skewered and then grilled; Inihaw na tenga, pig ears that have been skewered and then grilled; pork barbecue, skewered pork marinated in a sweet soy-garlic blend and then grilled; betamax, salted solidified pork or chicken blood which is then skewered and lightly grilled; adidas which is grilled or sautéed chicken feet. There is also sisig, a popular pulutan made from the pig's cheek skin, ears and liver that is initially boiled, then charcoal grilled and afterwards minced and cooked with chopped onions, chillies, and spices.
Smaller snacks such as mani (peanuts) are often sold steamed in the shell, salted, spiced or flavored with garlic by street vendors in the Philippines. Another snack is kropeck, which is fish crackers.
Tokwa't baboy is fried tofu with boiled pork marinated in a garlic-flavored soy sauce or vinegar dip. It is also served as a side dish to pancit luglog or pancit palabok.
You can also find tuhog-tuhog accompanied by sweet or spicy sauce. This include Fish balls, Kikiam, Squid balls etc., these are commonly served during a small gathering or in local bars.
Bread and pastries
In a typical Filipino bakery, pandesal, monay and ensaymada are often sold. Pandesal comes from the Spanish pan de sal (literally, bread of salt), and is a ubiquitous breakfast fare, normally eaten with (and sometimes even dipped in) coffee. It typically takes the form of a bread roll, and is usually baked covered in bread crumbs. Contrary to what its name implies, pandesal is not particularly salty as very little salt is used in baking it. Monay is a firmer slightly denser heavier bread. Ensaymada, from the Spanish ensaimada, is a pastry made using butter and often topped with sugar and shredded cheese that is especially popular during Christmas. It is sometimes made with fillings such as ube (purple yam) and macapuno (a variety of coconut the meat of which is often cut into strings, sweetened, preserved, and served in desserts). Also commonly sold in Filipino bakeries is pan de coco, a sweet roll filled with shredded coconut mixed with molasses. Putok, which literally means "explode", refers to a small, hard bread roll whose cratered surface is glazed with sugar. Kababayan is a small, sweet gong-shaped muffin that has a moist consistency. Spanish bread refers to a rolled pastry which looks like a croissant prior to being given a crescent shape, and has a filling consisting of sugar and butter.
There are also rolls like pianono, which is a chiffon roll flavored with different fillings. Brazo de mercedes, a rolled cake or jelly roll, is made from a sheet of meringue rolled around a custard filling. Similar to the previous dessert, it takes on a layered presentation instead of being rolled and typically features caramelized sugar and nuts for sans rival. Silvañas are large, oval-shaped, cookie-sized desserts, with a thin meringue on either side of a buttercream filling and dusted with crumbed cookies. Not overly sweet, they are rich, crisp, chewy, and buttery all at the same time. Barquillos use sweet thin crunchy wafers rolled into tubes that can be sold hollow or filled with polvoron (sweetened and toasted flour mixed with ground nuts). Meringues are also present in the Philippines, due to the Spanish influence, but they are called merengue – with all the vowels pronounced. Leche flan is a type of caramel
custard made with eggs and milk similar to the French creme caramel. Leche flan (the local term for the original Spanish flan de leche, literally "milk flan") is a heavier version of the Spanish flan made with condensed milk and more egg yolks. Leche flan is usually steamed over an open flame or stove top, although on rare occasions it can also be seen baked. Leche flan is a staple in celebratory feasts.
A heavier version of leche flan, tocino del cielo, is similar, but has significantly more egg yolks and sugar.
The egg pie with a very rich egg custard filling is a mainstay in local bakeries. It is typically baked so that the exposed custard on top is browned. Buko pie is made with a filling made from young coconut meat and dairy. Mini pastries like turrones de casuy are made up of cashew marzipan wrapped with a wafer made to resemble a candy wrapper but take on a miniature look of a pie in a size of about a quarter. There is also napoleones – again with all the vowels pronounced – a mille-feuille pastry stuffed with a sweet milk-based filling.
There are hard pastries like biskotso a crunchy, sweet, twice-baked bread. Another baked goody is sinipit which is a sweet pastry covered in a crunchy sugar glaze, made to resemble a length of rope. Similar to sinipit is a snack eaten on roadsides colloquially called shingaling. It is hollow but crunchy with a salty flavor.
For a softer treat there is mamon a chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar, its name derived from a slang Spanish term for breast. There's also crema de fruta, which is an elaborate sponge cake topped in succeeding layers of cream, custard, candied fruit, and gelatine. Similar to a sponge cake is mamoncillo which generally refers to slices taken from a large mamon cake, but it is unrelated to the fruit of the same name. Sandwich pastries like inipit are made with two thin layers of chiffon sandwiching a filling of custard that is topped with butter and sugar. Another mamon variant is mamon tostada, basically mamoncillo toasted to a crunchy texture.
Stuffed pastries that reflect both Western and Eastern influence are common. One can find empanadas, a turnover-type pastry filled with a savory-sweet meat filling. Typically filled with ground meat and raisins, it can be deep fried or baked. Siopao is the local version of Chinese baozi. Buchi is another snack that is likely of Chinese origin. Bite-sized, buchi is made of deep-fried dough balls (often from rice flour) filled with a sweet mung bean paste, and coated on the outside with sesame seeds; some variants also have ube as the filling. There are also many varieties of the mooncake-like hopia, which come in different shapes (from a flat, circular stuffed form, to cubes), and have different textures (predominantly using flaky pastry, but sometimes like the ones in mooncakes) and fillings.
For festive occasions, people band together and prepare more sophisticated dishes. Tables are often laden with expensive and labor-intensive treats requiring hours of preparation. In Filipino celebrations, lechón (also spelled litson) serves as the centerpiece of the dinner table. It is usually a whole roasted pig, but suckling pigs (lechonillo, or lechon de leche) or cattle calves (lechong baka) can also be prepared in place of the popular adult pig. It is typically served with lechon sauce, which is traditionally made from the roasted pig's liver. Other dishes include hamonado (honey-cured beef, pork or chicken), relleno (stuffed chicken or milkfish), mechado, afritada, caldereta, puchero, paella, menudo, morcon, embutido (referring to a meatloaf dish, not a sausage as understood elsewhere), suman (a savory rice and coconut milk concoction steamed in leaves such as banana), and pancit canton. The table may also be have various sweets and pastries such as leche flan, ube, sapin-sapin, sorbetes (ice creams), totong (a rice, coconut milk and mongo bean pudding), ginataan (a coconut milk pudding with various root vegetables and tapioca pearls), and gulaman (an agarjello-like ingredient or dessert).
Christmas Eve, known as Noche Buena, is the most important feast. During this evening, the star of the table is the Christmas ham and Edam cheese (queso de bola). Supermarkets are laden with these treats during the Christmas season and are popular giveaways by Filipino companies in addition to red wine, brandy, groceries, or pastries. Available mostly during the Christmas season and sold in front of churches along with bibingka, puto bumbong is a purple yam-flavored puto.
More common at celebrations than in everyday home meals, lumpiang sariwa, or fresh lumpia, is a fresh spring roll that consists of a soft crepe wrapped around a filling that can include strips of kamote (sweet potato), singkamas (jicama), bean sprouts, green beans, cabbage, carrots and meat (often pork). It can be served warm or cold and typically with a sweet peanut and garlic sauce. Ukoy is shredded papaya combined with small shrimp (and occasionally bean sprouts) and fried to make shrimp patties. It is often eaten with vinegar seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Both lumpiang sariwa and ukoy are often served together in Filipino parties. Lumpiang sariwa has Chinese origins, having been derived from popiah.
The Philippine islands are home to various ethnic groups resulting in varied regional cuisines.
Ilocanos, from the rugged Ilocos region, boast of a diet heavy in boiled or steamed vegetables and freshwater fish, but they are particularly fond of dishes flavored with bagoong, fermented fish that is often used instead of salt. Ilocanos often season boiled vegetables with bagoong monamon (fermented anchovy paste) to produce pinakbet. Local specialties include the soft white larvae of ants and "jumping salad" of tiny live shrimp.
The Igorot prefer roasted meats, particularly carabao meat, goat meat, and venison.
Due to its mild, sub-tropical climate, Baguio, along with the outlying mountainous regions, is renowned for its produce. Temperate-zone fruits and vegetables (strawberries being a notable example) which would otherwise wilt in lower regions are grown there. It is also known for a snack called sundot-kulangot which literally means "poke the booger." It's actually a sticky kind of sweet made from milled glutinous rice flour mixed with molasses, and served inside pitogo shells, and with a stick to "poke" its sticky substance with.
Isabela is known for Pancit Cabagan of Cabagan, Inatata & Binallay of Ilagan City are rice cakes prepared year-round in the city and both famous delicacies specially during the lenten season. Cagayan for its famous Carabao Milk Candy in the town Alcala and Tuguegarao City for Pancit Batil Patung and Buko Roll.
The town of Calasiao in Pangasinan is known for its puto, a type of steamed rice cake.
Kapampangan cuisine makes use of all the produce in the region available to the native cook. Among the treats produced in Pampanga are longganisa (original sweet and spicy sausages), calderetang kambing (savory goat stew), and tocino (sweetened cured pork). Combining pork cheeks and offal, Kapampangans make sisig.
The cuisine of the Tagalog people varies by province. Bulacan is popular for chicharon (pork rinds) and steamed rice and tuber cakes like puto. It is a center for panghimagas or desserts, like brown rice cake or kutsinta, sapin-sapin, suman, cassava cake, halaya ube and the king of sweets, in San Miguel, Bulacan, the famous carabao milk candypastillas de leche, with its pabalat wrapper.Cainta, in Rizal province east of Manila, is known for its Filipino rice cakes and puddings. These are usually topped with latik, a mixture of coconut milk and brown sugar, reduced to a dry crumbly texture. A more modern, and time saving alternative to latik are coconut flakes toasted in a frying pan. Antipolo City, straddled mid-level in the mountainous regions of the Philippine Sierra Madre, is a town known for its suman and cashew products. Laguna is known for buko pie (coconut pie) and panutsa (peanut brittle). Batangas is home to Taal Lake, a body of water that surrounds Taal Volcano. The lake is home to 75 species of freshwater fish. Among these, the maliputo and tawilis are two not commonly found elsewhere. These fish are delicious native delicacies. Batangas is also known for its special coffee, kapeng barako.
Bicol is noted for its gastronomic appetite for the fiery or chili-hot dishes. Perhaps the most well-known Bicolano dish is the very spicy Bicol Express. The region is also the well-known home of natong also known as laing or pinangat (a pork or fish stew in taro leaves).
Bacolod City is the capital of Negros Occidental. There are a plethora of restaurants in Bacolod that serve delicious local dishes which visitors shouldn’t miss when they travel in the city. It is known for "inasal" which literally translates to “cooked over fire”. The "chicken inasal" is a local version of chicken barbecue. It is cooked with red achuete or annatto seeds giving it a reddish color, and brushed with oil and cooked over the fire. The city is also famous for various delicacies such as piaya, napoleones and pinasugbo (hard candied banana sprinkled with sesame seeds).
Aklan is synonymous with Inubarang Manok, chicken simmered in coconut milk, as well as Binakoe na Manok, chicken cooked in bamboo with lemongrass. Of particular interest is Tamilok (wood worms), which is either eaten raw or dipped in an acidic sauce such as vinegar or calamansi. There is a special prevalence of chicken and coconut milk (gata) in Akeanon cooking.
Iloilo is home of the Batchoy, derived from “Ba-chui” meaning pieces of meat in Chinese. The authentic Batchoy contains fresh egg noodles called miki, buto-buto broth slow-cooked for hours, and beef, pork and bulalo mixed with the local guinamos (shrimp paste). Toppings include generous amounts of fried garlic, crushed chicharon, scallions, slices of pork intestines and liver. Another type of pancit which is found in the said province is Pancit molo, an adaptation of wonton soup and is a specialty of the town of Molo, a well-known district in Iloilo. Unlike other pancit, Pancit molo is not dry but soupy and it does not make use of long, thin noodles but instead wonton wrappers made from rice flour. Iloilo, is also famous for its two kadios or pigeon pea-based soups. The first is KBL or "Kadios Baboy Langka". As the name implies, the three main ingredients of this dish are kadyos, baboy (pork), and langka (unripe jackfruit is used here). Another one is KMU or "Kadios Manok Ubad". This dish is composed mainly of kadyos, manok (preferably free range chicken called Bisaya nga Manok in Iloilo), and ubad(thinly cut white core of the banana stalk/trunk). Both of these dishes utilize another Ilonggo ingredient as a souring agent. This ingredient is batwan or Garcinia binucao, a fruit closely related to mangosteen, which is very popular in Western Visayas but is generally unknown to other parts of the Philippines.
Roxas City is another food destination in Western Visayas aside from Iloilo City and Kalibo. This coastal city that's about two to three hours by bus from Iloilo City prides itself as the Seafood Capital of the Philippines due to its bountiful rivers, estuaries and seas. Numerous seafood dishes are served in the city's Baybay area from mussels, oysters, scallops, prawns, seaweeds, clams, fishes and many more.
Cebu is known for its lechón variant. Lechon prepared "Cebu style" is characterized by a crisp outer skin and a moist juicy meat with a unique taste given by a blend of spices. Cebu is also known for sweets like dried mangoes and caramel tarts.
In Bohol, kalamay is popular. In Palawan, crocodile meat is boiled, cured, and turned into tocinos. In Romblon, a speacialty dish is pounded and flavored shrimp meat and rice cooked inside a banana life.
In Mindanao, the southern part of Palawan island, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, dishes are richly flavored with the spices common to Southeast Asia: turmeric, coriander, lemon grass, cumin, and chillies — ingredients not commonly used in the rest of Filipino cooking. Being free from European colonization, the cuisine of the indigenous Moro and Lumad peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago has much in common with the rich and spicy Malay cuisine of Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Indonesian and Thai cuisine.
Well-known dishes from the region include Satti (satay) and ginataang manok (chicken cooked in spiced coconut milk). Certain parts of Mindanao are predominantly Muslim, where pork is rarely consumed.
Rendang, is an often spicy beef curry whose origins derive from the Minangkabau people of Sumatra; biryani and kiyoning (pilaf) are dishes originally from the Middle East, that were given a Mindanaoan touch and served on special occasions.
Pyanggang is a Tausug dish made from barbecued chicken marinaded in spices, and served with coconut milk infused with toasted coconut meat.
Popular crops such as cassava root, sweet potatoes, and yams are grown.
Sambal, a spicy sauce made with belacan, tamarind, aromatic spices and chillies, is a popular base of many dishes in the region.
Another popular dish from this region is tiyula itum, a dark broth of beef or chicken lightly flavored with ginger, chili, turmeric, and toasted coconut flesh (which gives it its dark color).
Lamaw (Buko salad), is a mixture of young coconut, its juice, milk or orange juice, with ice.