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Filipino food varies widely by region. It is a fusion of flavors that reflects the country’s multicultural influences with special regional touches.
The food in the Philippines includes Iberian and Spanish influences, American and Japanese imprints and strong Chinese roots.
Popular dishes like adobo, lumpia, kinilaw, lechon, sisig are making their way onto the world’s culinary stage.
Among the 7,000+ islands, regionality plays a huge role in Filipino cooking. Ingredients and flavors differ from island to island, city to city and household to household.
However, there are commonalities running through the cuisine. Traditional Filipino food has salty, sour and bitter notes, without a lot of heat.
Filipino flavors include fermented seafood pastes, fish sauce as well as acidic flavors from calamansi fruit and sugarcane vinegar.
These traditional Filipino dishes are some of the most famous in the county and ones we particularly enjoyed.
With this Filipino food guide, we invite you to indulge in some of the most surprising and delightful fusion foods.
Top 12 Filipino Dishes Not to Miss
1. Adobo – Philippines National Dish
When you eat in the Philippines, be sure to savor the national dish. Variations include pork and chicken adobo.
This traditional Filipino dish is also one of the most popular Filipino dishes worldwide.
The preparation involves marinating chicken or pork in garlic, black pepper, salt, and vinegar for a few hours to infuse the flavors.
It is then slow-cooked to tenderize the meat. And, the vinegar serves as an excellent preservative.
Historians describe adobo not as a dish, but as a cooking technique. Even before the Spaniards conquered the Philippines, the adobo technique was used to preserve the meat in vinegar and salt.
The Spaniards did not know what to call it, so they called it “adobo”, which translates to “raw food immersion in sauce or stock.”
While in the Philippines, you’ll be surprised to feast on many different adobo styles.
There is the dry and garlicky adobo of the Ilocanos. From the Bicol region is a rich and creamy adobo in coconut milk or adobo sa gata.
And the popular adobo in tomatoes or adobo sa kamatis found in other regions.
With so many varieties, it is not surprising adobo is the best food in the Philippines.
2. Sinigang – A Sweet & Sour Filipino Soup
This popular Filipino soup is characterized by its sour taste. Pronounced “see-nee-gang” it is one of the most representative dishes of the Philippines.
The sour soup dish is prepared with tamarind and meats like pork, beef, chicken or seafood including fish and prawns.
Different vegetables like water spinach or kangkong, taro, radish, string beans, okra, green chillies, tomatoes, onions and eggplant are cooked in a clay pot.
Tamarind or kamias, the star ingredient, is added to the pot and used as the souring agent.
It is the tamarind that gives it the distinctive sour flavors.
One best sinigang dish was a huge bowl of sinigang salmon soup. We were introduced to this version by Anton Diaz, top Filipino food blogger when we shared a meal together in Manila.
We enjoyed the unique tastes and complexity of flavors. Any visitors seeking to eat like locals in the Philippines should not miss this tantalizing soup.
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3. Pork Sisig – Sizzling Pork
Deep fried pork ears and jowl are the star ingredients of this Filipino food. Some use deep fried pork belly or even grilled pork belly to give the sisig an enticing smoky taste.
The dish is then mixed with chopped red onions and pork or chicken liver and sautéed in butter before topping with chili peppers and a good serving of sour sauce, mostly calamansi juice.
Sisig, a Kapampangan original food from Pampanga Province, the Philippines Culinary Capital, is famous throughout the country and even internationally.
Lucia Cunanan, a Kapampangan, developed the first commercial recipe in the mid 1970s.
Though experts believe Kapampangans have been making this deep fried chopped meat salad for many centuries.
The word “sisig” in Kapampangan language means “sour” and it is one of the defining characteristics of this dish.
Pork sisig is a delicious combination of savory, sweet and sour flavors. We enjoyed pork sisig several times while exploring food in the Philippines.
The original version from Pampanga is the most famous. Though in some regions, locals add a raw egg or even mayonnaise to give it richer and sweeter flavors.
Pork sisig is one of the popular dishes you can make at home or should try while visiting the Philippines.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Pork Sisig Recipe – How To Make Authentic Crispy Pork Sisig
4. Dinuguan – Savory Pork Blood Stew
This Filipino food might not be for everyone. But for many Filipinos, it is a popular food eaten at simple family gatherings all the way to parties and weddings.
Dinuguan is a type of stew made from pork and pig blood. It is a savory stew where the pork simmers in a rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili’s, and vinegar.
The term dinuguan comes from the word dugo which means blood. While the origins of dinuguan are murky, it is believed to have originated out of necessity.
The idea of using every part of the animal combined with creativity and resourcefulness.
In the Philippines, pork dinuguan is usually accompanied by a type of Filipino rice cake called “puto.” These steamed rice cakes are mild in taste and complement the dinuguan.
Claire grew up in France and we lived there together for several years. One of our favorite dishes are blood sausages, which are typically eaten around the holiday season.
While dishes made with pork blood are not foreign to us, we eagerly savored this traditional Filipino dish.
We found the dinuguan delicious and very tasty. Perfectly seasoned with a wonderful balance of flavors with the puto rice cakes.
It’s no surprise the dish is a favorite in the country and it should be on every visitor’s list of Filipino foods to try.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Cooking with Nora, arguably, the best Filipino cookbooks published in 1965, is a great resource for dinuguan and other traditional foods. Generations of Filipino home cooks were taught by Nora Daza through her cookbook and TV shows. And, she continues to be a reference for classic Filipino food.
5. Lechon – Suckling Pig
High on visitors lists to eat while in the Philippines is the famous “lechon.” For those not familiar, lechon is literally roasted pig. In the Philippines, the whole pig is cooked over a pit filled with charcoal.
We heard so much about “lechon” that when we first arrived in the Philippines, we went immediately to Cebu City. This is where locals say the best lechon in the Philippines is found.
In Cebu, we ate at several lechon restaurants seeking to uncover the tastes of this prized pig. We even had the opportunity to visit the best lechon, Rico’s Lechon and see the cooking of the whole pigs.
Prepared usually for festive occasions, the pigs are cooked in advance with seasonings placed on the inside.
The whole pig is cooked rotisserie style for 1.5 to 2 hours depending on its size.
Lechon from Cebu is truly spectacular and was described by the late Anthony Bourdain, as “the best pig ever.”
We enjoyed lechon and it was one of our favorite Filipino foods.
What makes lechon in the Philippines stand out is tender pig and the perfectly cooked crispy skin.
6. Kare Kare – Meat Stew in Peanut Sauce
With its thick and creamy peanut sauce, there is no mistaking the savory goodness of kare-kare.
It is another famous Filipino dish traditionally made of oxtail. However, regional variations can include beef, pork, goat, and chicken.
String beans, banana heart, eggplants, and other vegetables complete the dish.
Like adobo, kare-kare is a centuries-old Filipino stew originating from the kitchens of the Kapampangans in Central Luzon.
Some would say it was the Moro elites who developed this Filipino stew, when they settled in Manila in the 15th century.
A festive dish, kare-kare is never complete without the famous dipping sauce of sautéed shrimp paste or bagoong alamang.
A comfort food and one of the country’s most beloved dishes, kare-kare is one of the Filipino dishes to be savored.
7. Pinakbet – Shriveled Mixed Vegetables in Shrimp Sauce
Pinakbet is a Filipino dish originating from the Ilocos region. The name of the dish is an Ilocano word derived from the term ‘pinakebbet’ or ‘to shrink or shrivel’.
The Ilocanos are proud farmers, utilizing the bounties of the land in concocting a dish that is both savory and heartwarming.
This traditional dish consists of mixed vegetables, such as string beans, eggplants, okra, bitter melon, and winged beans.
The pungent fish paste seasoning is what gives pinakbet its unique flavors. This sauce known as bagoong isda is an essential component of Filipino cuisine.
The visually attractive medley of colorful vegetables can be eaten by themselves or accompanied with a little rice.
We enjoyed this vegetable dish in several regions in the Philippines.
While the classic Ilocos version is the most popular, you will find variations in the vegetables and ingredients used.
Seek out the original pinakbet and savor the flavors of this must-eat dish in the Philippines.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Pinakbet Ilocano Recipe – How To Make Easy To Cook Filipino Pakbet
8. Chicken Inasal – Chicken Barbecue
Chicken Inasal commonly known as just inasal, is the Philippines’ famous barbecue or grilled chicken.
It is from the Visayas Region and celebrated in Bacolod City, where it is affectionately referred to as Chicken or Manokan Country.
Bacolodnons are proud of their contribution to the growth of Filipino cuisine. Their take on the classic pork barbecue using chicken has put Bacolod and Negros Occidental on the world map.
The term “inasal” means to “roast” or “chargrilled” and the secret of its flavorful tastes lies in the marinade and roasting process.
The recipe includes calamansi, vinegar, lemongrass and other spices. And, the chicken gets its vibrant colors from the use of annatto seeds.
Chicken inasal is barbecued after marinating for at least 24-hours yielding tender meat and deeply rich flavors.
A favorite amongst visitors to the Philippines, chicken inasal is often served with plain or garlic rice.
This signature Visayan dish is one of the best foods in the Philippines.
9. Pancit – Chinese Influence in Filipino Noodles
Every region in the Philippines has its take on the quintessential Filipino noodle dish called pancit.
The word “pancit” refers to noodles and noodle dishes. The word is said to have originated from the Chinese word pien sit, which means “conveniently cooked fast”
Noodles were first introduced to the Philippines by Chinese traders and from Chinatown in Manila, they spread all over the country.
Pancit, also spelled Pansit can be found in every part of the Philippine archipelago.
The basic ingredients include noodles like rice noodles, egg noodles, mung bean noodles like bihon, canton, miki, etc.
The vegetables are dependent on what’s available locally and may include carrots, cabbage, baguio beans, and more. And, the meat is seasoned with soy sauce, a substitute for salt and pepper.
Pancit noodles are traditionally eaten on celebratory events like birthdays, Christmas and New Year. The noodles are said to represent “long life and good health.”
There are many regional variations of pancit. Some of the most popular ones include Pancit Canton and Pancit Bihon.
The pancit canton bears close resemblance to Chinese Chow Mein, featuring large wheat flour noodles.
Stir-fried pork, chicken, shrimp, and fish balls complement the green peas, cabbage, carrots, and egg noodles for an enticing dish.
Pancit Bihon is prepared in a very similar fashion using rice noodles instead.
The guisado style mostly refers to the use of bijon, a type of thin and translucent noodles made from rice flour. The noodles are sauteed with meat, vegetables and soy sauce.
And, you’ll also find seafood versions like Pancit Malabon and Pancit Palabok.
There are also sweet noodles topped with a rich and thick sour and sweet sauce.
Today, pancit is a fully Filipino dish and part of the cultural identity. Another popular dish in the Philippines, not to be missed.
10. Kinilaw – Filipino Ceviche
Seafood plays an important role in Filipino dishes and kinilaw, a raw seafood appetizer speaks to the diversity of flavors.
A ubiquitous dish prepared in all corners of the country, kinilaw can be described as the Filipino version of ceviche.
The process of marinating fish dates back thousands of years. Kinilaw or “sour cooking” is described as the oldest cooking method in the Philippines.
This Filipino food includes cubes of fresh raw fish bathed in vinegar, along with calamansi, shallots, ginger, chili peppers, and spring onions.
While Milkfish and Tuna are most popularly used, today you’ll find versions with meat, shellfish and vegetables.
Rooted in locality, kinilaw has different expressions.
The Ilocos provinces also have their version of kinilaw made from thinly sliced beef, carabeef, or goat meat, marinated in vinegar, chilies, salt, and shallots.
Milkfish kinilaw is quite different because it uses green mango as a souring agent. Some add bell peppers to enhance the dish’s color.
And, there is even a “jumping salad” with shrimp. This is a type of kinilaw made with freshly caught live shrimp served only with calamansi juice and crushed chilies.
No matter how you have kinilaw, you will savor signature Filipino tastes of tartness, spiciness, bitterness along with soft and crunchy layers.
There are as many kinilaws as there are Philippine islands. And, undoubtedly, kinilaw is one of the emblematic foods of the Philippines to be eaten over and over again.
11. Lumpia – Filipino Spring Rolls
Lumpia are Filipino versions of spring rolls. They are derived from Chinese spring rolls and are believed to have spread throughout Southeast Asia with Chinese immigrants.
There is no one universal version of these Filipino style spring rolls. They are generally fresh or fried spring rolls filled with meat and vegetables and served with a savory peanut sauce.
The Filipino lumpia are commonplace and found on all tables during family gatherings and celebratory events.
They are typically eaten as an appetizer with savory ones being the most popular. One type we particularly enjoyed were those stuffed with ground pork, garlic shrimp, carrots, and onions.
There are also ground beef and braised pork belly for meat-lovers and bean sprouts, purple yam, and lettuce leaves for the vegetarians.
Sweet versions of lumpia also exist. For snacks or desserts you can find turon which is banana lumpia with caramel.
You have slices of ripe bananas wrapped in rice paper and rolled in brown sugar before being deep fried.
These golden brown spring rolls filled with everything imaginable are a Pinoy food favorite worth savoring.
12. Longganisa – Filipino Sausages from Ilocos
No Filipino breakfast is ever complete without the longganisa, the country’s version of pork sausage.
The word is borrowed from the Spanish longaniza pork sausages reflecting the Spanish influence in Filipino cuisine.
There are many variations of these pork sausages in the Philippines with many spiced with local ingredients.
For instance, Vigan longganisa sausages from the city of Vigan in Ilocos are the most famous.
These are plump, spicy and garlicky pork sausages and emblematic Pinoy food from the region.
Our favorite style of pork sausages, we couldn’t get enough of them when we visited Vigan City.
If you would like to try these delectable sausages, you can order longganisa pork sausages on Amazon.
The other popular style of these sausages are the sweet longganisa or longganisa hamonado. The sweet flavors come from a little brown sugar added to the ingredients.
Longganisa sausages are best enjoyed for breakfast when eaten along with garlic fried rice, eggs and coffee.
Combined together this is referred to as ‘Longsilog’ and is available at any restaurant or eatery.
Longganisa sausages are one of the foods of the Philippines worth trying. Whether it is the garlicky
Vigan longganisa or sweet hamonado style, you are sure to find a variation you’ll fall in love with.
Unusual Filipino Street Food
13. Isaw – Grilled Chicken Intestines
A top seller amongst Philippine street foods, grilled chicken intestines, locally called as Isaw are not to be missed.
Isaw are grilled chicken intestines, resembling intestinal worms. They are easily recognizable by their undulated shape on the stick.
The intestines are thoroughly washed then boiled in a vinegary-spicy mixture and skewered on bamboo sticks.
As a street food, vendors typically grill them in front of customers and are served with a spicy vinegar dip. Popular among students, they are also eaten as a snack food or pulutan with alcohol.
No one knows who made the first isaw. However, reports indicate that isaw emerged sometime in the 1970s as a fun street food.
Beyond chicken intestines which is the most popular, you also have isaw made from pig intestines.
Similarly, they are grilled on a stick and dipped in vinegar or spicy sauces.
As a traditional Filipino street food, trying isaw should not be missed. Try them from a popular street food vendor and go beyond the visual appearance.
We found the spicy and vinegar based dipping sauce to be critical in elevating the experience.
14. Balut – A Controversial Street Food
Balut is another famous street food and Filipino delicacy. It has its origins in China and is also popular in Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries.
This popular street food is a developed or fertilized duck egg boiled and eaten in a shell. The balut embryo typically develops from 14 to 21 days before being boiled.
The number of days is a matter of preference. Pinoys who rave about balut will tell you how many days you should eat the balut for the best taste.
Balut is typically sold by vendors who come out after sunset. In Manila, where we first tried balut, we got it from a vendor without knowing how old the duck embryo was.
Personally, we didn’t like it. We found it very chewy and hard with no taste. We were told afterward that it was certainly an old egg.
Generally, balut is recommended with a lot of beer to help to wash it down. Balut is also considered an aphrodisiac and is extremely popular amongst Filipino men.
Despite being popularized as a bizarre food, balut is considered a national street food of the Philippines.
Trying balut in the Philippines is an experience not to be missed.
Watch Our Balut Video For Our Impression of This Filipino Street Food
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Filipino Desserts To Treat Yourself
15. Halo-Halo – The Filipino Dessert You Must Have
Halo-Halo is a famous and traditional Filipino dessert. A traditional iced dessert, it is considered the unofficial national dessert of the Philippines.
The name means “mix mix” and it is a shaved ice layered dessert with a variety of ingredients.
Colorful, by virtue of the ingredients, Halo-Halo includes boiled sweet beans, coconut, tubers, fruits and much more.
It is topped with evaporated milk, plantains, ube ice cream and strands of coconut. It is quite filling and the flavors change based on the fruits and ice cream flavors.
Our best experience with Halo-Halo was at MilkyWay Cafe in Makati, Manila, a restaurant known for traditional Filipino food.
Milky Way Cafe began as an ice-cream parlor and at the time of our visit had over 22 different kinds of Halo-Halo.
We loved their unique ingredients and especially the home-made ube (purple yam) ice-cream.
The Halo-Halo at MilkyWay was one of the best we had in the Philippines. The unique ingredients and especially the home-made ube (purple yam) ice-cream was divine.
Not too sweet and well balanced between the ingredients and creamy ice cream, it is a must eat in the Philippines.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you are looking to try a layered shaved ice dessert, try this simple recipe for Che Ba Mau from Vietnam.
Filipino food is as colorful and rich as the nation’s history. The cuisine reflects centuries-old traditions molded by a variety of influences.
With Filipino dishes being exported and growing in popularity worldwide, you are likely to find restaurants
The food in the Philippines covers a diverse range of flavors and taste profiles. The list of dishes featured here is not exhaustive but it is a great place to begin exploring Filipino food.
Pinoy food is finding its way on menus and in restaurants around the world. The ingredients and the unique combination of flavors are worth seeking out.
Whether or not you are traveling to the Philippines, look for Filipino food in your area. Popular dishes like lechon or Halo-Halo are widely available and a great place to start your exploration.
Which among these famous Filipino dishes have you tried? Please let us know in the comments below.
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Rosemary is the editor-in-chief and strategist at Authentic Food Quest.
Traveling slow since 2015 with her partner, Claire, she has explored the cuisine in 45 countries and more than 240+ culinary cities.
Her writing about local food specialties has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post.
As a food and travel writer, Rosemary has co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
Rosemary is an avid runner when she’s not eating and exploring new destinations. She has run ten marathons and counting.
Before Authentic Food Quest, Rosemary held senior-level strategy positions in advertising.
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