Looking for Filipino dishes to try for the first time? Or are you trying to convince your non-Filipino friends to try Filipino cuisines? These are the 13 must try dishes that are all-time favourites!
Filipino cuisine is a fusion of cultures and influences that sets the tone in every occasion. I will have to give you a heads up that Filipino parties are not always that simple. It’s a combination of table filled with scrumptious dishes and endless merrymaking. Don’t be shocked when you’re constantly told to eat more as you finish your first plate and be asked to come to the table and get some more. That’s just how Filipino hospitality is. The host will even ask you to take home some of leftovers.
So what do we know about Filipino cuisines? The Philippine archipelago with more than 7,000 islands is rich with ethnolinguistic groups and tribes influences including Ilocano, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Tagalog, Bicolano, Visayan (Cebuano, Hiligaynon and Waray) and more. Additionally, the waves of influence from Spanish, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and American style of cooking make Filipino food a melting pot of delicious tangy, salty, sweet and spicy flavours! With the abundance of seafood, tropical fruits, traditional cooking techniques and rich history, Filipino cuisine is a mish-mash of local, regional and ethnic influences that will surely satisfy your palate and a culinary experience like no other.
So, if you’re unfamiliar about Filipino cuisines but an adventurous food fanatic, you should try these delicious dishes! Let me remind you that these dishes come with boiled white rice which is a staple food for Filipinos. Are you ready for this?
Pinakbet or Pak-bet originated from the northern regions of the Philippines. This dish is a colourful medley of bitter melon, tomatoes, okra, string beans, squash and more. This classic vegetable stew is accentuated with bagoong or fermented fish with a side of grilled meat or fried fish. Again, don’t forget the rice! Click here for the recipe.
Ever tried beef shank with it’s bone marrow still inside? Bulalo is native to Philippines’ southern parts. This mouth watering soup includes leafy vegetables such as cabbage or pechay (similar to bok-choi), corn on the cob, onions, garlic and potatoes. Some add taro or carrots as well. It is commonly eaten on rice with soy sauce with calamansi (citrus fruit native to the Philippines). Click here for the recipe.
I don’t think when you mention a dish made from grilled parts of a pig head and chicken sounds appetizing. However, this dish called sisig is seasoned with calamansi, onions and chili peppers will definitely change your mind. This cuisine originated from Pampanga in the island of Luzon. The ingredients are boiled, broiled and grilled, which is tedious but brings out the flavours. Sisig is often served in a sizzling plate and topped with fresh egg, ox brains, pork cracklings and mayonnaise. So, bring out the beer, shall we? Click here for the recipe.
Noodles with shrimp gravy, anyone? Pancit palabok is a rice noodle dish with thick, yellow-orange sauce dressed up with shrimps, flakes of smoked fish, pork cracklings and layer upon layer of seafood flavour. This noodle dish is a variety that has a lot of Chinese influence that Filipinos commonly serve it birthday parties and special occasions as it represents long life and good health. It was also believed that when preparing this dish, the noodles should not be cut as it can bring about bad luck. Click here for the recipe.
Sinigang is a savoury and sour stew combined with chili, vegetables such as bok-choi, chili leaves, onions and tomatoes with meat, fish or seafood of your choice.. If you wonder what makes this dish acidic, cooks often use tamarind. This dish provides you the comfort you need on a rainy day. Some also use unripe mangoes, calamansi, guava to give it that sour flavour. Get your 3 cups of rice ready because this is a dish you can’t resist! Click here for the recipe.
Lechon (le-chon) is a Spanish word referring to a roasted baby piglet. It is also a popular food in Spain, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. With its Spanish influence, Filipinos have acquired this tradition and every occasion showcases lechon as their main dish. Lechon for Filipinos, is a symbol of merrymaking and lavishness. Lechon is prepared with stuffed herbs that includes scallions, bay leaves, black peppercorn, garlic, salt and lemongrass. Lechon is typically cooked over woodfire or charcoal until the skin becomes crispier for several hours. A version called lechong kawali is cooked with hot cooking oil in a frying pan. Click here for the recipe.
This noodle dish uses vermicelli (bihon) that is stir fried with various vegetables such as onion, garlic, cabbage, carrot, celery, beans and mixed with meat, shrimp with soya sauce. Just like the palabok, it symbolizes long life and good health and has since been a Filipino favourite in every function and occasion. Click here for the recipe.
Tinola is traditionally cooked soup with chicken, wedges of papaya or sayote, leaves of chili in broth flavoured with ginger, onions and fish sauce. The simplicity of this dish makes it so popular and a soup favourite. It was also existent during the Spanish period and was highlighted in Jose Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere. This soup is so indulging and flavourful. Get your extra rice ready! Click here for the recipe.
Caldereta derived its name to the Spanish word caldera meaning cauldron. This delicious stew is a cooked with goat meat. Some variations use beef, chicken or pork. It has a lot of similarities to dishes such as afritada and mechado which uses tomatoes, potatoes, carrots bell peppers and liver paste. Some cooks add pineapply to accentuate the dish. This stew is usually served with rice and a crowd favourite. Click here for the recipe.
Another popular Philippine stew is kare-kare. This yummy stew is eaten with shrimp paste, spiced with chili and sprinkled with calamansi juice. Kare-kare is made from oxtail, pork hocks, calves feet, beef stew meat and tripe. The meat is often tenderized and mixed with vegetables such as eggplant, Chinese cabbage and green beans. Best part? This stew is complemented with a thick savoury, peanut sauce. Again, this stew is served with rice and is often cooked when there is a special occasion. Click here for the recipe.
Tapsilog (tap-si-log) is a breakfast trio of “tapa, sinangag at itlog” which means beef steak, garlic fried rice and egg. This all-time breakfast favourite is enjoyed with fresh tomatoes, cucumber slices and spicy dipping sauce. A generous portion of rice is needed for this sumptuous meal!Click here for the recipe.
Arroz caldo or aroskaldo (a-roz kal-do) is a porridge made from glutinous rice and chicken infused with ginger and roasted garlic garnished with scallions, chicharon (pork rinds), boiled egg andblack pepper. It is regarded as a comfort food in the Philippines and is a popular breakfast meal. Arroz caldo is a Spanish name originated from congee which was introduce by Chinese migrants. The recipe has evolved over the centuries to use Filipino ingredients that suit the local tastes. Ready for your second bowl? Click here for the recipe.
This fan favourite is indigenous to the Philippines. Because of the country’s tropical climate, Filipinos cooked or prepared their food using vinegar to keep it fresh. This popular cuisine involves meat, seafood, vegetables and marinated in soya sauce, vinegar, garlis, bay leaves and black peppercorns browned in oil and simmered in the marinade. It is Philippines’ unofficial national dish. More rice please? Click here for the recipe.
Disclaimer: Photo credits to owner.