The cuisine of the Philippines, rightly, or wrongly gets a bad rap, and to say it is hardly taking over the world is an understatement. Whether this is fair or not is enough of a question, but when your neighbours are the culinary powerhouses of Vietnam, China, Malaysia, and Korea, and your former colonial overlands were Spain (lets ignore the American influence for now), you have to assume there’s more to the cuisine of the Philippines than meets the eye.
Therefore here’s my top seven foods you must sample when in the Philippines:
7) Halo Halo
Not a badly spelt way to say hello, but a cheeky little desert loved by the masses. The most famous desert in the Philippines “halo halo” actually means “mixed” in Tagalog. This gem includes all manner of fruit, and well, some weird stuff. Kidney beans, sweet potato, coconut gel, ice-cream, guava paste, to name just a few.
All mixed together into a big colourful mess! Did I hear anyone say yummy?
6) Lechon – Suckling pig
While you can have a spit-roast anywhere, in the Philippines spit-roasting a suckling pig is big business. If there’s a holiday, party, birthday or festival you will see porky pig getting the treatment. There are also numerous restaurants offering lechon.
Cebu famously has the best lechon, and this is genuinely a Filipino culinary treat.
5) Sisig – usually pork
Sisig is another absolute staple when you visit the Philippines and is made from “bits of a pig”, head, guts, all the bits that no one really wants, they then add peppers, and serve it on a hot plate with a fresh egg and mix it up in front of you. Surprisingly good to be fair.
An absolute staple in most bars and great with drinks!
4) Tamilok – AKA woodworm
Not actually woodworm, but a mollusk, not that that makes it any better. The woodworm is eaten raw ceviche style, and got its name from 2 American GI’s who spotted this culinary abortion and one shouted “Tommy look” – Tamilok. It is hideous.
There’s even a tamilok challenge. The Challenge is not to puke.
3) Balut! (yes the famous one)
It is impossible to even allude to food in the Philippines without at some point having to talk about balut. Balut is a developing duck embryo that is ideally about 17 days old. It’s heated up, you crack the top of the shell, add salt and vinegar, drink the juice and then eat the embryo.
Very nice, but kinda weird tasting beak and feathers……
2) Chicken Adobo
An absolute institution, and one that should probely be higher up on my list, but hey its my list. Adobo means “marinade” in Spanish and this is exactly what they do, with it being marinaded in spices, vinegar, and soy sauce. You can also get pork, tuna and a number of other Adobo varieties.
This is THE Filipino dish, you will be eating it a lot.
1) Kinilaw – Filippino ceviche
This comes in at number one simply because it is my personal love affair when I am in the country. Kinilaw, which literally means “eaten fresh” is raw fish cured and “cooked” with vinegar and the local lime known as Calamansi. There are many different typees of Kinilaw depending where in the country you are and what fish is available.
This dish is served spicy, and… its easier on the way in than it is on the way out!
Want to read more about my travel through Street Food? Check out my blog.
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