11 Unforgettable Ilocos Food to Delight Your Palate in the Philippines

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Ilocos in the northern part of the Philippines is one of the country’s strongest culinary traditions.

Years of trade between Asia and the Americas, combined with the local biodiversity, make the Ilocos region renowned for its amazing Ilocano cuisine. 

Ilocano foods are both delicious and exotic, with some of the regional specialties now part of the national cuisine. 

While visiting the Philippines, we explored Ilocano’s exquisite cuisine. And while the list of Ilocano dishes and regional specialties is extensive, we share this culinary guide to help you navigate the food. 

Here are 11 unique llocano delicacies not to miss on your travels to northern Philippines.

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Northern Philippines and Its Top Ilocanos Food

Map Ilocos Region Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Map of Ilocos region in the Philippines

Located at the northern tip of the country, Ilocos is bordered by the China Sea and is home to several World Heritage Unesco Sites and national landmarks.

From Laoag, the capital of Ilocos Norte, to the Historic City of Vigan in Ilocos Sur, you will travel through unique heritage Ilocos food that is sure to excite your taste buds. 

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1. Longganisa Sausages – A Vigan Food Speciality

Longganisa Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Plump and juicy Longganisa sausages

Longganisa is an emblematic Ilocos food. These pork sausages are the star at any Ilocano table

The sausages from Vigan are the most famous, and they are distinctly small and plump.

We tried this Ilocano food specialty while visiting Vigan in Ilocos Sur, a well-preserved Spanish town dating back to the 16th century.

These sausages are made from ground pork mixed with garlic, vinegar, and a mix of other local seasonings. 

They are delicious with a spicy bite. And, as sausage lovers, this was one of our favorite Ilocos Sur food delicacies. 

Longganisa sausages is one of the most famous food in Ilocos region. If you visit Ilocos Sur, these tasty little bites should be at the top of your must-try food list.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Vigan is one of the few Spanish towns in Asia, and probably the best preserved, dating back to the 16th century. One of the best places to stay in Vigan City is at Hotel Veneto De Vigan where we stayed. The spacious guest rooms and suites will welcome you with sophisticated Spanish interiors and stunning works of art. We enjoyed the colonial architecture, hospitable staff, and amazing Filipino food. Click to find out more about Hotel Veneto De Vigan.

2. Batac Empanadas – Striking Orange Empanadas

Batac Emapanada Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Don’t leave the Ilocos region without having an empanada, or two!

After falling in love with empanadas in Argentina, we could not wait to discover the traditional empanadas of Batac City. 

Batac is the oldest town in the Province of Ilocos Norte and was founded in 1587 by the Augustinians.

The city is famous for its Batac Empanadas, which are considered some of the best in the country. 

So celebrated, there is even an Empanada Festival that takes place every year on the 23rd of June.

One of the most striking characteristics of the Ilocos’ empanada is the bright orange color. 

The empanadas are deep-fried and stuffed with green papaya, chopped-up longganisa sausages, and hard-boiled eggs. 

The orange-colored dough is made of rice flour, and the color comes from the use of annatto seeds

Annatto is popular in Latin America and is used as a dye, as medicine, and as an ingredient in many foods. It is a natural food coloring and makes for a fun eating experience. 

These empanadas are quite tasty and very different from the ones in Argentina. They are, in their own right, an experience not to be missed.

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you want to make Batac empanadas at home, see our simple Best Ilocos Empanada Recipe: How To Make Filipino Batac Empanadas

Watch Our Video About Batac Ilocos Empanada

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3. Bagnet – Deep Fried Crispy Pork Cracklings

Bagnet ilocano foods by Authentic Food Quest
Crispy Bagnet or pork belly meat

The Ilocano Bagnet which is also known as Chicharon Baboy is deep-fried pork. It is made of pork belly deep-fried in its own fat. 

Once fried, the pork belly is air dried up to drain the fat. This process is repeated over and over until the pork reaches its maximum crispiness. 

This Ilocano food was far from being our favorite. However, since pork and fat are so predominant in Filipino food, it is hard to skip this dish. 

Bagnet is a top favorite among Filipinos and other Ilocos region famous cuisines. If you love eating fried pork, you will be delighted by this regional dish. 

Like the locals, wash Chicharon Baboy or bagnet down with San Miguel, the popular Filipino beer.

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4. Pinakbet – Popular Mixed Vegetable Ilocos Food

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Pinakbet with shrimp and pork

Pinakbet is one of the most popular Ilocano dishes. It is a vegetable dish that can be found all over the country.

 It is an indigenous dish named after the Ilokano word for “shriveled” or “shrunk.”

This Illocano dish is essentially a stew made with various vegetables like tomatoes, eggplant, string beans, okra, and bitter gourd.

Bitter Gourd Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Bitter gourd is popular in the Philippines as well as in other Southeast Asian countries

The preparation of this dish varies by region, and the authentic Ilocano version uses small round eggplants and baby bitter gourd known as ampalaya.

The vegetables are then cooked down until they have “shriveled” in bagoong monamon, a fermented fish sauce made from salted anchovies.

This sauce known as bagoong isda, a much-loved fermented fish sauce and it is an essential component of Filipino cuisine. 

Interestingly, for a vegetable dish, pinakbet is not vegetarian; the mixed vegetables are usually steamed in fish or shrimp sauce, while other versions of Pinakbet include pork. 

This much-loved Ilocos vegetable stew is a popular dish and one of the Ilocano delicacies not to be missed. 

AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: If you want to bring the flavors of Ilocos into your home kitchen, try our simple Pinakbet recipe. This simple recipe combining vegetables and pork is easy to whip up for lunch or dinner.

5. Okoy – Best Vigan Food “Shrimp Fritters

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Delicious crispy Okoy

These delicious treats are crispy shrimp fritters cooked in their shell in a glutinous rice batter and shaped into a round form. 

Okoy fritters are then garnished with fresh shallots and a mix of garlic and chili peppers.

The delicious flavors come to life when dipped in an Ilocos-style vinegar called Sukang Iloko.  This mild and distinctive vinegar is used in Filipino and Illocano cuisine. 

It is often used to make sweet and sour sauces and is found in almost all Filipino kitchens.

We enjoyed these delicious fritters as snacks, and they are easy to munch on while waiting for dinner.

RELATED: 10 Interesting Facts You Need To Know About Food in The Philippines

6. Poqui-Poqui – Ilocano Grilled Eggplant Dish

Poqui Best Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Healthy serving of poqui-poqui, a vegetarian Ilocano food

This popular Ilocano dish will please any vegetarian. In a country where pork is a daily staple, it is hard to find any dish that is not served with meat or fish. However, you will find eggs battered in poqui-poqui.

Poqui-poqui is made with grilled eggplants sauteed with onions, garlic, and tomatoes. Eggs are added and stirred with the other ingredients. 

All the ingredients are cooked together, making this Ilocos food slightly soupy.

We enjoyed poqui-poqui and found it lighter than other Ilocanos foods. It can be eaten as an appetizer, a main dish, or a side dish.

The unusual name poqui-poqui is said to have originated from Hawaii, where Filipinos migrated in the 1980s. 

There, the word “poki” means “mash” or “slice,” which aptly describes the texture of this Ilocano food. You can also find this dish written as “poki-poki” or “puki-puki.” 

7. Garlic and the Sinait Garlic Festival – One of Ilocos Sur Food Delicacies

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Road side stand selling Garlic in the Ilocos region

Garlic, known locally as “bawang,” is a root crop that is native to the Ilocos region of the Philippines. 

This essential food condiment is found in every Filipino kitchen and is used to add flavor to almost every dish. 

What makes this particular garlic unique is that it is more pungent and aromatic compared to garlic from other countries.

Every year, from May 1st – May 3rd, thousands of locals and foreigners flock to Sinait town in Ilocos Sur, which is referred to as the Garlic Capital of the North.

Unfortunately, we didn’t attend the festival as we were in the Philippines in October. That said,  this local festival is a must-visit for any and all food lovers. 

Festivities include local dancing competitions in garlic-inspired costumes and the selection of the Miss Garlic Festival Queen. There is also a contest for the longest and most creative twined garlic.

8.  Ilocos Norte Foods – Dragon Fruit Capital of the Philippines

Dragon Fruit Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Red Dragon Fruit for breakfast

While driving through the Ilocos region, we were struck by multiple stands selling dragon fruits, seemingly everywhere!

The dragon fruit, known as “saniata” to locals, is produced by Ilocanos all year round.

We learned that dragon fruit was started by a local entrepreneur named Edita Dacuycuy, who started growing them in her backyard several years ago. 

She spread her passion to other farmers and has been instrumental in promoting the fruits in the area.

Today, she manages Refmad Farms with her daughter in Burgos town, where tourists and locals can learn about dragon fruits and pick them directly from the trees.

Dragon Fruit is beautiful to look at and packed with several health benefits. The fiber in the fruit helps with digestion and regulates blood sugar spikes, and lowers bad cholesterol. 

They are also full of antioxidants and rich in vitamins B1, B2, and C, which help repair tissues and keep the skin healthy.

If you are curious about dragon fruit, you can try Dragon Fruit powder from Amazon and use it in baking or smoothies.

Ilocos Norte hosts a Dragon Fruit Festival every July. If you are in the area at this time, don’t miss exploring the fresh fruits. 

9. Ilocos Chicacorn –  Popular Local Filipino Snack

Chichacorn Ilocos food by Authentic Food Quest
Chichacorn snack also known as Cornick

Chichacorn are a favorite snack from the Ilocos Norte region. They are corn kernels that are cooked until crunchy. 

The corn variety used are white ones from plants that are common in the Philippines and not the sweet yellow corn that may be more familiar.

What makes the Ilocos Chichacorn different from the other types of crunchy corn kernels is that the kernels are puffed, making them a little easier to chew. 

We enjoyed these snacks while traveling around the Ilocos region. We discovered several flavors including; garlic, cheese, sweet and spicy, adobo, and barbecue.

Our favorite was the garlic flavor. If you’d like to try this popular Ilocos snack, click here for garlic flavored chichacorn from Amazon.

10. Dudol – An Ilocano Food with Asian Roots

Dudol Ilocos Food ilocano food by Authentic Food Quest
Dudol during Guling festival – Photo credit: Alaric A. Yanos on Wikimedia cc by 3.0

Dudol is a traditional dessert you will find in Ilocos, although it is also popular in Malaysia, Indonesia, and Southern India. 

It is said to have come through the Malay and Indian settlements in the coastal towns of the Ilocos region before the arrival of the Spaniards.

Dudol is made of rice flour, coconut milk, sugarcane juice, and anise. The secret to making a good Dudol is to patiently and continuously stir the ingredients under a slow fire.

Sticky, thick, and sweet, it is the perfect snack to calm your hunger or re-energize after physical activity.

Dudol is the featured local treat at the Guling-Guling Festival in Paoay. 

Paoay is a coastal town home to one of the famous Unesco World Heritage sites in Ilocos Norte. 

During the Guling-Guling Festival, the city celebrates its heritage and Asian roots, and Dudol makes for the perfect symbol of the Ilocos food heritage.

11. Tupig – Filipino Rice Cakes

Tupig Ilocos Food by Authentic Food Quest
Delicious Filipino sticky rice cake wrapped in banana leaves

Tupig is a common dish served in the northwestern regions of the Philippines.

It is a rice cake made primarily from fermented glutinous rice, sugar, coconut milk, and strips of coconut. 

This popular street food is wrapped in banana leaves and baked on charcoal. 

You’ll find this tasty dish across several northern Philippines regions, including Ilocos, Tarlac, and Pangasinan, particularly during the Christmas season. 

The sweet, coconut flavors are nothing short of delightful. It is often served alongside a hot cup of salabat or ginger root tea and the combination is a treat for the taste buds.

 Be sure to savor these Filipino rice cakes, a much-loved food in Ilocos. 

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In Summary

The Ilocos region, famous for its cultural and historical sites, is absolutely worth exploring on your trip to the Philippines. 

If nothing else, a journey through Ilocos is worth it for the famous Illocano cuisine alone.

On your journey sampling Ilocos delicacies, discover the unique produce of the region, from garlic to dragon fruits. 

Sample surprising empanadas, pork belly meat, and sweet glutinous rice – everything you need to invigorate your palate.

Have you had Ilocos food before? In the comments below, please let us know which popular Ilocano dish tempts you the most.

Savor The Adventure!

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Disclosure: This Ilocos World Heritage Tour was organized by the Tourism Promotions Board of The Philippines. All views and opinions expressed are our own. Full bellies and happy taste buds too.

73 Comments on “11 Unforgettable Ilocos Food to Delight Your Palate in the Philippines”

  1. Hi, I’m an Ilokano and I’m just wondering how “garlic” made it into the list of “Ilocos Food” since it’s an ingredient used in cuisines the world over. I would have appreciated it more if you included “foods” more specific to the region. For example, we have the “dinakdakan” which is grilled pork jowls, ears, and liver slathered in a mixture of Ilocos vinegar, shallots, chilis, and pork brain (NOT MAYONNAISE!). We also have “Ata-Ata,” a local version of beef carpaccio or steak tartare made with thin slices of fresh carabao beef, smothered with carabeef bile (Yup! that green icky fluid), shallots, and chilis. It’s the RAW version of another Ilocano favorite – the “Pinapaitan,” except the latter has a broth. We also have “Sinanglaw,” a “bastardized” version of the “pinapaitan” featuring beef innards.

    Moreover, we love our food FRESH. I remember as a kid, we used to go to the seaside in the afternoon to watch and join fisherfolk bring their catch. we’d have sardines, shrimp, albacore tuna, flying fish, and anchovies. we’d eat these right there and then. simply wash them, remove the head and innards, dip in spicy vinegar, and that’s our dinner by the sea.

    Also, “Pinakbet” is an original Iloko dish no matter how many “iterations” other regions offer. AND we don’t put pork in pinakbet. Please be mindful that “Ilocanos” are frugal and adding pork in our daily dish is more of an indulgence. So, you can expect locally-caught fish to go into the pinakbet, combined with whatever veggies we could gather from the backyard. That’s the Ilocano way of cooking. we don’t source our ingredients from markets. we make do with what we have available.

  2. I’ve been all over the Philippines and have eaten at hundreds of establishments. The best, safest and most tasty foods come out of someone’s Lola’s kitchen. After 20 plus years of experimentation I could easily say that most restaurants employ young folks that can’t cook. So here’s a tip. Always ask a few locals, not just one. Who makes the best dish of whichever is to your liking. This method has led me to some of the tastiest dishes in the Philippines. Everyone’s dish is not the same, but you can be assured if you follow them to the cooks they think are best, you’ll win every time.

  3. Great article. I love how these 10 Ilocano favorites were presented both in pictures and in words. There is, however, just one thing I would like to comment on. The photo for the “pinakbet” is NOT the Ilocano version. It is the Tagalog and Bisaya (Visaya) version and the way other regions prepare the dish (there are many versions of this dish; it depends on which region it is cooked).

    The one in the photo is what we Ilocanos simply call “ginisang gulay” (sauteed veggies). In this case, we can just call it “ginisang sitaw, kalabasa at okra” (suateed string beans, squash/pumpkin and okra). In most cases, fish sauce (patis) or shrimp paste (bagoong alamang) is used to achieve that salty taste for their version of pinakbet. For Ilocano pinakbet, however, we use bagoong na isda (fish paste/anchovies paste).

    Trivia (I hope, for many :-)) : “Pinakbet” comes from the Ilocano word “pinakebbet” which is roughly translated to “shrunken” or “wrinkled”. In cooking pinakbet, lots of tomatoes should be used. The acidity of the tomatoes is supposed to “shrink” the vegetables (bitter gourd (or “ampalaya”/”parya”), okra, eggplant, etc. Ilocano pinakbet is not sauteed. Pork or fried fish may also be added for extra flavor.

    Also, if we strictly follow the ingredients of the Ilocano pinakbet, it is enough to have the basics: bitter gourd, eggplant, tomatoes, okra, onion or shallots, AND SWEET POTATO. Yes, we add sweet potato and NOT pumpkin nor squash! If malunggay/malunggay (moringa) fruit is in season, we also add this to the dish. Other Ilocano versions inlcude sitaw (string beans), bataw (hyacinth bean), patani (lima beans) and sigarilyas (winged bean).

    I hope this is informative. Thanks.

  4. Interesting and mouth-watering post! All the food looked absolutely delicious, but I LOVE shrimp, so the Pinakbet with shrimps and pork. Will definitely have to make sure I find these dishes if I ever go there. Thanks for sharing these delicious-looking foods!

  5. I really enjoyed visiting the Philippines, but the food failed to impress me. With all the fresh fish and seafood in the sea, I was disappointed that everything was fried or so sweet it made my teeth hurt. This is exactly the kind of place I want fresh, light things to eat.

  6. The longganisa and empanadas are my favorite among those you featured (must be garlic-y!) I hope you also got to try other amazing Ilocano dishes like dinakdakan and dinengdeng!!!

    • Yay, another Filipino food fan!! We also loved both the empanadas and the garlicky longganisa sausages..yum! We did try the dinengeng and enjoyed it as well. So many unique and delicious flavors in Filipino food 🙂

  7. I have never heard of this part of the Philippines, but it sounds like it is worth a visit only because of its food alone. The empanadas and the dragon fruit look so tasty.

    • Yes, the food in the north of the Philippines is amazing. We didn’t know about the region before we visited. Certainly a great place worth checking if your travels take you to the Philippines. And yes, the empanadas and dragon fruits are amazing!!

  8. The bagnet and longanisa are my favorite Ilocos foods. But the taste can vary depends on who makes it. In general, it has a particular taste, but some have a sweeter version, some have a more garlic-y version. I like the more garlic-y

  9. Wow incredible tour by you. I never knew of garlic capital in Philippines and there is a dragon fruit capital too?!!! Excellent food scene, one of the main reasons why I want to get there.

    • Thank you. That’s one of the wonders of traveling through food, you get to discover so many unique aspects of a region. It was new for us learning the region was the capital to garlic and dragon fruits. Cheers!!

  10. I’d love to return to the Philippines and visit other places, including Ilocos. Yummy post, by the way, the shrimp fritters looks delicious, very tempting! 🙂

    • Since you’ve already been to the Philippines, you already know the food is amazing! The food in the Ilocos region is worth exploring on your next trip 🙂 And yes, the shrimp fritters are delicious 🙂

  11. The Philippines are high on my list for beautiful places to visit, but I never thought about how much I might enjoy the food. Based on your list here, I have no doubts that I will enjoy the sights and the eats! I love Dragon Fruit too, so I’ll have to make sure to visit Ilocos!

    • That’s wonderful to read about your desire to visit the Philippines. Most people don’t think about the food and so glad that this article is starting to whet your appetite on what you can expect. You’ll have a great time when you go and with this article and even more on the website, you’ll eat like a local 🙂

  12. The Philippines seems like a pretty hard country to be a vegetarian in! I could eat dragon fruit for at least one meal a day though. Those empanadas also look awesome…I might even be willing to cheat and eat pork to try one.

  13. I’m so hungry after reading this post! You had me at logganisa, hahahaha. I love the food in Asian countries so much but the batac empanadas look and sound different than anything I’ve ever tried. Bagnat would be a favorite of mine, I think I’m going to have to plan a trip to the Philippines:)

    • Awesome!! So glad this article got you thinking about a trip to the Philippines just for the food! The food is worth discovering. Are there any local Filipino restaurants in your area? That might be a good place to start 🙂

  14. I love the idea of Vigan pork sausage. Maybe it’s the dad in me but that just seems funny (or like a dad joke). Seriously though, the orange empanadas look amazing and the food here seems truly unique.

  15. All the food looked absolutely delicious, but I LOVE shrimp, so the Pinakbet with shrimps and pork and Okoy looks scrumptious! Will definitely have to make sure I find these dishes if I ever find myself in the area.

  16. I had heard of dragon fruit before, but never knew what it looked like. It’s so vibrant! I haven’t eaten yet today, so this is making me drool. I definitely need to try some cuisine from the Philippines, it looks so flavorful and delicious!

    • Oh, you must try dragon fruits. They are so tasty and delicious and are now one of our favorite fruits. The food from the Philippines is quite varied and distinct, certainly worth getting to know. Thanks, Kate for stopping by.

  17. What a mix of food! I would like to try the blood sausages, I had something similar in Italy a long time ago and they were very nice. I just tried dragon fruit this year and really liked it! I had a laugh when I saw the Boy Bawang packet, as this was a product I used to sell when I worked on a cruise ship and was firm favourtie of the Filipino crew!

    • That’s awesome to hear that you are very familiar with the Boy Bawang snacks. Yes, incredibly popular in the Philippines. The blood sausages are cooked with just the right amount of spice which makes for an incredible meal. So glad you discovered dragon fruits, they are one of our favorite fruits. Thanks, Lucy.

  18. It’s funny, I first thought that vigan was a typo and they are also offering vegan food – until I read that it’s a pork sausage – doesn’t sound vegan ? Since I’m eating basically everything, all foods sound delicious to me, but especially the shrimp and pork. I know dragon fruit from Viet Nam, but only the white one – and I absolutely love it.
    I think after this post I need to fix me a sandwich….?

  19. We are SO excited to travel to the Philippines and this traditional food guide will be awesome to have during our trip! The traditional empanadas of Batac City sound absolutely amazing and so interesting that they have that orange color – I guess we’ll have to be prepared for that. Sticky, thick and sweet are three of my favorite dessert descriptives so Dudol sounds absolutely amazing! My mouth is watering just thinking of our future adventures in the Philippines!

    • That’s awesome to read Val. Please do make sure to read the other articles on the website about the other local foods in the country. When do you travel? Please feel free to reach out with any questions. Have a delicious trip.

  20. It looks like you go to try some of the best there is in the Philippines. We spent an entire month in the Philippines and I loved the breakfast pork sausages. I did, however, miss fresh fruit smoothies which seem to more available in other countries. No matter what the Philippines is a gorgeous place!

    • You are so right Hannah, the Philippines has so much to offer in terms of beauty and food. It’s too bad you missed the fresh fruit smoothies, but glad to read you enjoyed the special local sausages. Lot’s of delicious options in the country!! Thanks for stopping by.

  21. I love Asian cuisine but I’ve never tried Philipino dishes before but Those Empanades look very appealing but saying that so does everything else you have listed here. At least when I go to the Philippines i know what to look out for now 😀

    • Filipino cuisine is quite varied and diverse and you’ll find local specialties across the country. Indeed the empanadas are a sure bet – always available and always good. Do keep the list for your trip to the Philippines. Cheers, Amit.

  22. Interesting foods on this list. Out of all these I really would love to try the Okoy. I love a good old Shrimp Fritters when I can find them (very hard to find in the London area) 😀

  23. This was a fun read since several of the dishes in here are similar to some we eat in Puerto Rico and Latin America (because of the Spain connection). We have longanisa (I have not eaten it in a long time), empanadas and pork cracklings (chicharron). Therefore, it would be nice to try the Iloco version of these dishes. Plus, I would like to try the rest too!

    • Glad you enjoyed the article, Ruth. It’s true Spain carried their influence all around the world. Did not know Puerto Rico had longganisa sausages, those would be good to try. The ilocono versions are quite particular and really tasty. Thanks for stopping by.

  24. I LOVE empanadas! Coincidentally, there’s a restaurant called ‘Love Empanadas’ where I live…and I love it, lol! I would definitely try to shrimp fritters as well. Haven’t ever tried dragon fruit but would be interested in that. Tasty post!

    • Love the name of the restaurants (pun intended). We are empanada fans as well. What kind of empanadas do they serve? The shrimp fritters are simple and delicious. A nice snack to pick you up during the day. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers.

  25. It is ridiculous how good the food looks. I’m Puerto Rican, so when I saw the Bagnets I think my stomach growled. No, but seriously, there are so many things I would like to try. The Chicaron and the Longganisa being on my top three with the Bagnets. I also would like to try dragon fruit, which we can get here, but most of the time is super expensive.

  26. Your food photographs are beautiful.
    Bitter gourd is also used as a vegetable in India, here we get it in summer months. It is considered good for health.

  27. Wow, this is a region I would love to explore, you’re fueling my enthusiasm! The Okoy shrimpfritters look amazing, and I love that they have a garlic festival, I adore garlic. Sign me up for next year!

    • Awesome to hear Rachel. The Philippines is a wonderful country to visit and the food in the north is steeped in rich history. As a garlic lover, you’d love the festival. Hope you can get there next year 🙂 Cheers!


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