Tracing the root of the Philippine cuisine would be able to help us understand the diversity of the Filipino food. If it’s your first-time to go to the Philippines, identifying what culture of food has influenced the most of the Filipino cuisine would be a tad hard.
If you were to ask a Filipino, one of the cuisines they could probably say that their food is greatly influenced by a Spanish and Chinese cuisine. It’s true. But what really is it?
The History of Filipino Cuisine
Philippines’ food history started from Austronesian origins where its food is shared with Malaysian and Indonesian cuisines. Later on, people from Southern China and Taiwan settled in the Philippines in 3200 BCE.
Then, Indian influence was brought during the times of British occupation of Manila. British sent some Indians to the Philippines, then the latter abandoned the British and chose to stay in the Philippines.
Lastly, the colonization of Spain for more than 300 years and of the USA for 48 years is the contributing factor why you would often see tomato sauce and our love for fast food has become so apparent. This history made Philippines cuisine offer a lot of varieties of flavors to the whole world.
Culture of the Filipino Food
Preparing Filipino food is not as complex compared to other cuisines but it still has its way to curious foreigners. There are a couple of terms that sets Filipino culture apart from others:
- Pulutan – In America, it’s called “finger food” while drinking a cold beer. Chicharon, sisig, roasted peanuts, are the common Filipino pulutan. Sometimes, pulutan is also served as an appetizer for Filipino restaurants. The chicharon of Sentro 1771 put mushrooms to this dish to add an interesting twist.
- Kamayan – Kamay in English is hands. So kamayan literally means using your fingers to eat. This is usually done during outings or team building adapted from military training called “boodle fight.” It doesn’t mean that kamayan is practiced at all restaurants. For Filipino restaurants, often seen laid out at the table are spoon and fork. However, if you want to experience kamayan at a restaurant, the best place to go is Seafood’s Island. Check stores near you.
- Sutukil – The term sutukil is mostly common in the Visayan region that stands for SUgba (grill), TUwa (stew), and KILaw (seafood bathe in vinegar).
- Fiesta – There is no right English translation for fiesta but this tradition was adapted from Spain. It is not like a Thanksgiving day where the country celebrates it all at once. However, there are particular dates where a municipality/barangay should celebrate it. A bulk of food is prepared and strangers (friend of a friend of a friend scenario) is welcomed to eat at anyone’s house. Usually the date of celebration is associated with the patron saint of the municipality. However, this tradition is only observed to provinces and not in Metro Manila.
- Provinces Specialty – Now that we have talked about what happens during fiesta in the provinces, let us share the “ulam” or better known as the food that you should eat with rice. Try it when you visit a specific province.
On the gallery:
- Poqui-poqui, dinuydoy, and beef kansi of Grilla restaurant
- Laing of Mesa restaurant
- Bulalo of Uncle Cheffy’s Tagaytay restuarant
- Sisig of Bagneto
Philippines Food List
After sharing the specialty dishes of provinces, here is the list of the normal food Filipinos eat in everyday life.
Agahan or Breakfast
- Silog – any food with a suffix of -silog is composed of fried rice and egg. Hotsilog is hotdog; bacsilog is for bacon; longsilog is for longganisa; tapsilog is for tapa, and so on. Tapsilog is the most recommended among the silog varieties. Tapa is thin slices of cured beef best served with vinegar on the side.
- Champorado and tuyo – is a breakfast meal combination composed of chocolate porridge and salted dried fish. It’s a sweet and salty combination.
- Pandesal and kesong puti -A Filipino bread stuffed with a cheese made of carabao’s milk.
- Arroz caldo – is a Filipino rice usually chicken-flavored. It has ginger and garnished with toasted garlic, scallions, and black pepper.
Ulam or Everyday Food
- Lumpiang ubod – is a Filipino appetizer consists of ubod with various meat and vegetables in a thin egg crêpe.
- Adobo – is a dish composed of pork slices cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic.
- Crispy pata – is a boiled whole pork leg with flavorings then deep-fried until golden and crisp.
- Kare Kare – is a Filipino stew with a rich and thick peanut sauce. It is the Filipino style of curry back in the day but Filipinos are also fond of eating curry as their daily meals.
- Sinigang – is a sour soup that uses pork as the main ingredient. However, fish and shrimp can also be used as the protein.
- Dinuguan at puto – is a stew made of pig’s blood with bite-sized pork. It is flavored with vinegar, garlic, onions, and chili peppers. Puto are Filipino steamed rice cakes, traditionally made from slightly fermented rice dough.
- Kinilaw – is a raw seafood dish. It can be referred to as Philippine ceviche due to its similarity of the said dish.
- Inihaw na Liempo – is known as Grilled Pork Belly in Filipino.
On the gallery:
- Adobo of Commune, Makati
- Crispy Pata of After All, Makati
- Kare-kare and liempo of Cloud 9 Restaurant, Antipolo
- Sinigang of Dekada, Makati
- Dinuguan at Puto of Guevarra’s Restaurant, San Juan
- Pancit Palabok – is a Filipino noodle dish flavored with shrimp gravy. It is usually topped with shrimp, smoked fish flakes or pork cracklings, and eggs.
- Pinakbet – is made of mixed vegetables steamed in fish or shrimp sauce.
Merienda or Snacks
- Bibingka – is a baked rice cake made from milled rice.
- Suman – is a rice cake made from glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk. It is often wrapped in banana leaves, coconut leaves, or buli or buri palm leaves for steaming.
- Biko – is a sweet rice cake also made of coconut milk. It is flavored with brown sugar and is usually topped with latik.
Minatamis or Desserts
- Halohalo – is a shaved ice dessert layered with beans, gelatin, sugar palm, banana, jackfruit, and more. It is topped with leche flan and ube or vanilla ice cream. The dessert is flavored with evaporated milk.
Restaurants in the Philippines
In case you’re wondering whether the Philippines have other food cuisine you can enjoy, the food industry in the Philippines continues to grow. The food establishments registration increased to 86,812 in the year 2018. The restaurants are continuously introducing new food to offer to attract customers for the locals and for the visiting tourists. (Reference: Food Industry in the Philippines.)
If you want to visit a restaurant with specific cuisine, here are some of the list to check out.
- American restaurant
- Australian restaurant
- Canadian restaurant
- Chinese restaurant
- Filipino-fusion restaurant
- Filipino restaurant
- Italian restaurant
- Japanese restaurant
- Korean restaurant
- Spanish restaurant
- Tex-mex restaurant
(Due to coronavirus pandemic, some restaurants that are reviewed may have changed its operational hours or has closed due to economic crisis. Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only.)
If you don’t have any specific cuisine in mind, you may check out a few of the restaurant reviews below by checking out the cities of Metro Manila.