Foods That You Must Try In The Philippines
Filipino cuisine has recently been tagged as the ‘next big thing’ to look out for in the culinary world. With the country’s variety of influences throughout its rich history, its traditional cooking techniques, and the Filipinos’ knack for combining flavours and making the most of any and all ingredients at their disposal, what results is unpretentious, no-frills food that’s simply delicious.
Philippine adobo (from Spanish adobar: “marinade,” “sauce” or “seasoning”) is a popular Filipino dish and cooking process in Filipino cuisine that involves meat, seafood, or vegetables marinated in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and black peppercorns, which is browned in oil, and simmered in the marinade. It has occasionally been considered as the unofficial national dish in the Philippines.
Kare-kare is a Philippine stew complimented with a thick savory peanut sauce. It is made from a variation base of stewed oxtail, pork hocks, calves feet, pig feet, beef stew meat, and occasionally offal or tripe. Kare-kare can also be made with seafood (prawns, squid, and mussels) or vegetables (sometimes exclusively vegetables, becoming Kare-kareng gulay). Vegetables, which include eggplant, Chinese cabbage, or other greens, daikon, green beans, okra, and asparagus beans are added—usually equaling or exceeding the amount of meat. The stew is flavored with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, onions, and garlic. It is colored with annatto and can be thickened with toasted or plain ground rice.
Other flavorings may be added, but the dish is usually quite plain in tastiness, compared to other Filipino dishes. Other seasonings are added at the table. Variants may include goat meat or (rarely) chicken. It is often eaten with bagoong (shrimp paste), sometimes spiced with chili, bagoong guisado (spiced and sautéed shrimp paste), and sprinkled with calamansi juice.
One of the top contenders among the best Filipino dishes (alongside adobo) is perhaps the famous lechon. After all, it is hard to top a tasty, fully-roasted pig with perfectly crisp skin and juicy meat. Find the best of this sinful treat on the island of Cebu, but this is almost always served at any grand Pinoy gathering or fiesta.
Sinigang is a Filipino soup or stew characterized by its sour and savoury taste most often associated with tamarind (Filipino: sampalok). It is one of the more popular dishes in Filipino cuisine. While present nationwide, sinigang is seen to be culturally Tagalog in origin, thus the similar sour stews and soups found in the Visayas and Mindanao (like linarang) are regarded as different dishes and differ in the ingredients used. Fish sauce is a common condiment for the stew.
Balut is popular street food, which originated in the Philippines and is also frequently found in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.
The ideal age of the duck embryo is 17 days when the chick is not old enough to fully show its beak, feathers, claws and the bones are undeveloped. Sounds disgusting? Well in the Philippines, balut is a popular childhood treat. Locals swear by it and will tell you what a nourishing and wholesome snack it is. It’s just 188 calories for each balut and it contains lots of niacin, riboflavin, thiamine, protein, calcium, iron and phosphorus.
It is a Filipino dish consisting of deep-fried pig trotters or knuckles served with a soy-vinegar dip. It can be served as party fare or an everyday dish. Many restaurants serve boneless pata as a specialty. The dish is quite similar to the German Schweinshaxe.
Served sizzling on a hot stone plate, sisig is a favorite pulutan (beer chow) among Filipinos. The meat is primarily chopped up parts of the pigs’ face — in the Philippines, no cut of the animal goes to waste. Some recipes use either mayonnaise or raw egg (to be mixed in while hot) to give it a creamier texture but the classic way is to incorporate pig’s brain into the dish.
One of the more popular Filipino dishes among foreigners with Pinoy friends (due to its customary presence in Filipino birthday parties) is pancit (noodles), of which pancit guisado is perhaps the most well-known variant. This noodle dish is served as a symbol for long life, hence an essential at birthday feasts. The sautéed noodles are complemented by sliced vegetables and meat (all cooked in broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce) and kalamansi is squeezed over upon serving.
The perfect company for a cool, rainy day in the Philippines is a nice hot bowl of bulalo. This tasty soup is made by slow-cooking beef shanks and bone marrow (still in the bone) in some water with fish sauce, onions, and peppercorn, and later adding in some vegetables. Especially known for this dish is the province of Batangas in the country’s Southern Luzon region.
Vibrantly orange and jam-packed with different textures and flavours, palabok is another well-loved way of cooking pancit. It is mixed in with a shrimp sauce, which gets its recognizable colour from annatto powder. It is finished off with a variety of toppings such as slices of hard-boiled eggs, crushed chicharon (pork rinds), tinapa (smoked fish) flakes, and spring onions.
Filipino breakfast dishes (‘silog’)
A hearty Filipino breakfast typically consists of meat, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (egg). Each dish name varies slightly depending on the meat that goes with the rice and egg. So for example, a plate of tapa (cured beef), sinangag, and itlog, is called tapsilog. A plate including tocino (sweet cured pork) instead of tapa is called tocilog. While one that uses longganisa (sausages) is known as longsilog. These generous breakfast servings are a great way to kickstart a day.
Bistek Tagalog or the Filipino beef steak is a delicious blend of salty, sour, and sweet flavours. Thinly sliced beef is marinated in a mixture of mainly soy sauce and kalamansi, fried, and then topped with caramelised onions. The onions are just sweet enough to cut into and balance the strong salty and acidic tastes infused into the meat.
Kaldereta is a Filipino beef stew made extra rich and tasty by tomato sauce and liver paste. Goat meat can also be used in place of beef and mixed in is merrymaking of vegetables, which typically include carrots, bell peppers, and potatoes.
Another Filipino stew, albeit a more eccentric one, is the dark-tinted dinuguan. It’s made by cooking pork and innards in pig’s blood and vinegar. It’s often eaten with puto, a slightly sweet steamed rice cake, which complements its savoury taste.
Gata or coconut milk is basically culinary gold. Anything cooked in gata is bound to turn out fantastic. For anyone needing a break from the typical meat-heavy Filipino dishes, simply cook your favourite vegetables in some coconut milk. It works exceptionally well with squash and string beans, and some chilli can be added for an interesting kick.
Kilawin, also called kinilaw, is the Filipino ceviche. Seafood is often used, such as tuna and tanigue, which is then cured in vinegar and kalamansi. Onions are usually added in, as well as some chilli for a more complex blend of flavours. Kilawin is normally served as an appetizer or as pulutan (beer chow) when drinking.
Frequently eaten at breakfast and merienda, arroz caldo is a rice porridge, taking its flavours from ginger, garlic, onions, and a tasty broth. Cuts of chicken and hard-boiled eggs are also added in and individual servings are finished off with fried garlic bits, chopped green onions, and a drizzle of kalamansi.