Philippine Cuisine

Philippine Cuisine

Philippine cuisine has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic cultural influences, due to the many Latin American and Spanish dishes brought to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. It has also received varying degrees of influence from Chinese, American, and other Asian cuisine.

Filipinos traditionally eat three main meals a day – agahan (breakfast), tanghal?an (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meri?nda (another variant is minand?l or minind?l). Dishes range from a simple meal of fried fish and rice to rich paellas and cocidos. Popular dishes include lech?n (whole roasted pig), longganisa (Philippine sausage), tapa (cured beef), torta (omelette), adobo (chicken and/or pork braised in garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar or cooked until dry), kaldereta (goat in tomato stew), mechado (beef or pork cooked in tomato sauce), pochero (beef in bananas and tomato sauce), afritada (pork or beef simmered in a tomato sauce with vegetables), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), crispy pata (deep-fried pig’s leg), hamonado (pork sweetened in pineapple sauce), sinigang (pork, fish, or shrimp in tamarind stew), pancit (stir-fried noodles), and lumpia (fresh or fried spring rolls).

The American chef and television personality Anthony Bourdain has hailed Filipino pork cuisine and named the Philippines at the top of his “Hierarchy of Pork”.[

History and influences

Malayo-Polynesians during the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines prepared food by boiling, steaming, or roasting. This ranged from the usual livestock such as kalabaw (water buffaloes), baka (cows), chickens and pigs to seafood from different kinds of fish, shrimps, prawns, crustaceans and shellfish. There are a few places in the Philippines where the broad range in their diet extended to monitor lizards, snakes and locusts. Filipinos have been cultivating rice, and corn, since 3200 BC from their arrival of the Austronesian people from Southern China Yunnan Plateau and Taiwan, when they settled in what is now the Philippines. They brought with them rice cultivation and a lot of other various traditions that are used in forms today. [2]. Pre-Hispanic trade with other Asian nations introduced a number of staples into Philippine cuisine, most notably toyo (soy sauce) and patis (fish sauce), as well as the method of stir-frying and making savory soup bases.

Maja, made from coconut milk, sweet milk, and creamed cornThe arrival of Spanish settlers brought with them chili peppers, tomato sauces, corn, potatoes, and the method of sauteeing with garlic and onions, which found their way into Philippine cuisine. Although chili peppers are nowhere as widely used in Filipino cooking compared to much of Southeast Asia, chili leaves are frequently used as a cooking green, again distinct from the cooking of their neighbours. They also used vinegar and spices in foods to preserve them due to lack of refrigeration. Local adaptations of Spanish dishes then became common, such as paella into its Filipino version arroz valenciana, chorizo into its local version of longanisa (from Spanish longaniza), and escabeche and adobo, which are connected to the Spanish dish adobado, as well as Latin America and Mexico, which also have adobo dishes.

During the nineteenth century, Chinese food became a staple of the panciterias or noodle shops around the country, although they were marketed with Spanish names. “Comida China” (Chinese food) includes arroz caldo (rice and chicken gruel) and morisqueta tostada (an obsolete term for sinangag or fried rice) and chopsuey.

Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques and styles of cooking find their way into one of the most active melting pots of Asia. The Philippines does not only possess its traditional cuisine; popular international cuisines as well as restaurant and fastfood chains are also available around the archipelago. Furthermore, the Chinese populace (especially in Manila) is famous for establishing Chinese districts where predominantly Chinese and Chinese-fusion food can be found. These are especially prevalent in urban areas where large influxes of Chinese expatriates are located.


As with most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice. It is most often steamed and served during meals. Leftover rice is often fried with garlic and onions to make sinangag (fried rice), which is usually served at breakfast together with itlog (fried eggs) and tapa (beef) – “tapsilog,” tocino (sweetened cured meat) – “tocilog,” longanisa (sausages) – “losilog,” or fried hotdogs. Rice is often enjoyed with sauces or soup from the main dishes. In some regions, rice is mixed with salt, condensed milk, cocoa, or coffee. Rice flour is used in making sweets, cakes and other pastries. Other staples derived from crops include corn and bread.

Fruits are often used in cooking as well. Coconuts, coconut milk, coconut meat, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and bananas are usually added to meals. Abundant harvests of root crops occur all year round. Potatoes, carrots, taro (gabi), cassava (kamoteng kahoy), purple yam (ube), and sweet potato (kamote) are examples. Kamote and a certain type of plantain called saba can be chopped, dusted with brown sugar, fried and skewered, yielding kamote-cue and banana-cue which are popular caramelized snacks.

Meat staples include chicken, pork, beef, and fish. Seafood is popular as a result of the bodies of water surrounding the archipelago. Popular catches include tilapia, catfish (hito), milkfish (bangus), grouper (lapu-lapu), shrimp (hipon), prawns (sugpo), mackerel (galunggong), swordfish, oysters (talaba), mussels (tahong), clams (tulya), large and small crabs (alimango and alimasag respectively), game fish, gindara or sablefish, tuna, cod, blue marlin, and squid/cuttlefish (both called pusit). Equally popular catches include seaweeds, abalone and eel.

The most common way of serving fish is having it salted, pan fried or deep fried, and eaten as a simple meal with rice and vegetables. It may also be cooked in a sour broth of tomatoes or tamarind, prepared with vegetables to make sinigang, simmered in vinegar and peppers to make paksiw, or roasted over hot charcoal or wood. Other preparations include escabeche (sweet and sour) or relleno (deboned and stuffed). Fish can be preserved by being smoked (tinapa) or sundried (tuyo).

Food is sometimes served with various dipping sauces. Fried food is often dipped in vinegar, soy sauce, juice squeezed from kalamansi (Philippine lime), or a combination of all. Patis (fish sauce) may be mixed with kalamansi as dipping sauce for most seafood. Fish sauce, fish paste (bagoong), shrimp paste (alamang) and crushed ginger root (luya) are condiments that are often added to dishes during the cooking process or when served.

Cooking methods

The Tagalog words for popular cooking methods and terms are listed below:

“Adobo/Inadobo” ? cooked in soy sauce, vinegar and garlic. It could also refer to just roasting on a wok, with light oil, garlic and salt, as in “adobong mani” (peanut adobo. The latter is done more for snacks, while the former is more associated with viands.
“Babad/Binabad/Ibinabad” ? to marinate.
“Banli/Binanlian/Pabanli” ? blanched.
“Bagoong/Binagoongan/ – sa Bagoong” ? cooked with fermented fish paste bagoong.
“Binuro” ? fermented.
“Busal/Pabusal” – toasted with garlic and a small quantity of cooking oil, as in “adobong mani.”
“Daing/Dinaing/Padaing” ? marinated with garlic, vinegar, and black peppers. Sometimes dried, and usually fried before eating.
“Guinataan/ – sa Gata” ? cooked with coconut milk.
“Guisa/Guisado/Ginisa” or “Gisado” ? saut?ed with garlic, onions and tomatoes.
“Halabos/Hinalabos” – mostly for shellfish. Steamed in their own juices, but also at times, with 7-UP.
“Hilaw/Sariwa” – unripe (for fruits and vegetables), raw (for meats). Also used for uncooked food in general (as in lumpiang sariwa).
“Hinurno” – baked in an oven or roasted.
“Ihaw/Inihaw” ? grilled over tai
“Kinilaw” or “Kilawin” ? marinated in vinegar or kalamansi juice along with garlic, onions, ginger, tomato, peppers
“Laga/Nilaga/Palaga” ? boiled, sometimes with onions and black peppercorns.
“Lasing/Nilasing” ? cooked with an alcoholic beverage.
“Lechon/Nilechon” ? roasted over a spit.
“Minatamis” ? cooked with sugar, or with other sweeteners such as panucha (panela).
“Pakbet/Pinakbet” ? to cook with vegetables (usually with string beans, calabaza, , among others) and bagoong.
“Paksiw/Pinaksiw” ? cooked in vinegar.
“Pangat/Pinangat” ? boiled in salted water with tomatoes.
“Pinikpikan” ? peculiar preparation where the chicken is beaten alive before being slaughtered.
“Palaman/Pinalaman” ? “filled” as in siopao, though “palaman” also refers to the filling in a “sandwich”.
“Piniato” – peanut brittle
“Prito/Pinirito” ? fried or deep fried. From the Spanish frito.
“Pasingaw” – steamed, usually with a banana leaf.
“Relleno/Relyeno” – stuffed.
“Tapa/Tinapa” – dried and smoked. Tapa refers to meat treated in this manner, mostly marinated and then dried and fried afterwards. Tinapa meanwhile, almost exclusively is associated with smoked fish.
“Sarza/Sarciado” – cooked with a thick sauce.
“Sinangag” – fried rice.
“Sigang/Sinigang” ? boiled, usually with a tamarind base. Variant bases are: guava, raw mangoes, calamansi or calamondin, and almost any other sour fruit abundant in the locality.
“Tosta/Tinosta/Tostado” – toasted, as in polvoron.
“Torta/Tinorta” – to cook with eggs in the manner of an omelette.
“Totso/Totcho” – cooked with fermented black beans. The name of both a cooking method and dish.

A typical meal

Filipino cuisine is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet, sour and salty flavors, and in general most dishes are not heavily spiced. While other Asian cuisines (e.g., Cantonese) may be known for a more subtle delivery and presentation, Filipino palates prefer a sudden influx of flavor. Filipino cuisine is often delivered in a single presentation, giving the participant a simultaneous visual feast, an aromatic bouquet, and a gustatory delight.

Counterpoint is also a feature in Philippine cuisine. This normally comes in a pairing of something sweet with something salty, and results in surprisingly pleasing combinations. Examples include: champorado (a sweet cocoa rice porridge), being paired with tuyo (salted, sun-dried fish); dinuguan (a savory stew made of pig’s blood and innards), paired with puto (sweet, steamed rice cakes); unripe fruits such as mangoes (which are only slightly sweet but very sour), are eaten dipped in salt; the use of cheese (which is salty) in sweetcakes (such as bibingka and puto), as well as an ice cream flavoring.

Snacking is normal, a Filipino may eat five ‘meals’ in a day. Dinner, while still the main meal, is smaller than other countries. Usually, either breakfast or lunch is the largest meal.

Sinigang na baboy (Pork tamarind soup)Main dishes include sinigang (pork, fish, or shrimp in tamarind soup and vegetables), bulalo (beef soup – commonly with marrow still in the beef bone – with vegetables), kare-kare (oxtail and vegetables cooked in peanut sauce), crispy pata (deep fried hog hoofs with hock sometimes included), mechado (pork cooked in tomato sauce), pochero (beef or pork cooked in tomato sauce with bananas and vegetables), kaldereta (beef or goat cooked in tomato sauce), fried or grilled chicken/porkchops/fish/squid/cuttlefish. Dinner may be accompanied by stir-fried vegetables, atchara (shredded and pickled papaya), bagoong (fish paste) or alamang (shrimp paste). Desserts are usually made only for special occasions. The most popular desserts include leche flan, buko pandan (slivers of young coconut with cream and pandan flavor) or gulaman (jello).

Some dishes rely on vinegar for flavoring. Adobo is popular not solely for its simplicity and ease of preparation, but also for its ability to be stored for days without spoiling, and even improve its flavor with a day or two of storage. Tinapa is a smoke-cured fish while tuyo, daing, and dangit are corned, sun-dried fish popular because they can last for weeks without spoiling, even without refrigeration.

Due to western influence, food is often eaten using utensils, e.g., forks, knives, spoons. The traditional way of eating is with the hands, especially dry dishes such as inihaw or prito. The diner will take a bite of the main dish, then eat rice pressed together with his fingers. This practice, known as kamayan, is rarely seen in urbanized areas. However, Filipinos tend to feel the spirit of kamayan when eating amidst nature during out of town trips, beach vacations, and town fiestas.[3]


A traditional Filipino breakfast might include pan de sal (bread), kesong puti (white cheese), champorado (chocolate rice porridge), sinangag (fried garlic rice), meat, such as tapa, longanisa, tocino, karne norte (Filipino-style corned beef, which is considerably moist compared with the Western variety), or fish such as daing na bangus (salted and dried milkfish); or itlog na pula (salted duck eggs). Coffee is also commonly served, particularly kapeng barako, a variety of coffee produced in the mountains of Batangas noted for having a strong flavor.

Combination dishes may include kankamtuy, a combination of kanin (rice), kamatis (tomatoes) and tuyo (dried fish), or silog –meat most often served with sinang?g (fried rice) and itlog (egg) to be consumed. The three most commonly seen silogs are tapsilog (having tapa as the meat portion), tocilog (having tocino as the meat portion), and longsilog (having longanisa as the meat portion). Other silogs exist including hotsilog (with a hot dog), bangsilog (with bangus/milkfish), dangsilog (with danggit/rabbitfish), spamsilog (with spam), adosilog (with adobo), chosilog (with chorizo), chiksilog (with chicken), cornsilog (with canned corned beef), and litsilog (with lechon/litson). Pakaplog is a slang term referring to a breakfast consisting of pan de sal, kape (coffee), and itlog (egg).[4].


Puto in banana leaf linersMerienda is an afternoon snack, similar to the concept of afternoon tea. If the meal is taken close to dinner, it is called merienda cena, and may be served instead of dinner.

Filipinos have a number of options to take with their traditional kape (coffee): bread (pan de sal, ensaymada (buttery sweet rolls with cheese), and empanada (savory pastries stuffed with meat)). Cakes made with sticky rice (kakanin) like kutsinta, sapin-sapin, palitaw, biko, suman, bibingka, and pitsi-pitsi are served, or sweets such as hopia (pastries similar to mooncakes filled with sweet bean paste) and bibingka (rich desserts made with sticky rice). Savory dishes might include pancit canton (stir-fried noodles), palabok (rice noodles with a shrimp-based sauce), tokwa’t baboy (fried tofu with boiled pork ears in a garlic-flavored soy sauce and vinegar sauce), puto (steamed rice flour cakes), and dinuguan (a spicy stew made with pork blood).

Dim sum and dumplings brought over by the Fujianese people have been given a Filipino touch and are often eaten for merienda. Also famous are the different street foods that are sold, most of which are skewered on bamboo sticks, such as squid balls, fish balls and others.


Pulutan (from the word “pulutin” which literally means “something that is picked up”) is a term roughly analogous to the English term “finger food”. It originally was a snack accompanied with liquor or beer but has found its way into Philippine cuisine as appetizers or, in some cases, main dishes, as in the case of sisig.

Deep fried dishes include chicharon that are pork rinds that have been salted, dried, then fried; chicharong bituka or chibab (pig intestines that have been deep fried to a crisp); chicharong bulaklak or chilak similar to chicharong bituka has a bulaklak or flower appearance of the dish made from mesenteries of pig intestines; chicken skin or chink that has been deep fried until crispy.

Some grilled foods include Barbecue Isaw, chicken or pig intestines marinated and skewered; barbecue tenga pig ears are marinated and skewered; pork barbecue which is a satay marinated in a special blend; Betamax that is salted solidified pork blood which is skewered; Adidas which is grilled or saut?ed chicken feet. And there is Sisig a popular pulutan made from the pig’s cheek skin, ears and liver that is initially boiled, then grilled over charcoal and afterwards minced and cooked with chopped onions, chilies, and spices.

Smaller snacks such as mani (peanuts) are often sold boiled in the shell, salted, spiced or flavored with garlic by street vendors in the Philippines. Another snack is Kropeck which is fish crackers.

The fried Tokwa’t Baboy is tofu fried with boiled pork then dipped in a garlic-flavored soy sauce or vinegar dip that is also served as a side dish to pancit luglog or pancit palabok.


Sapin-sapin, a Filipino rice-based delicacy, sprinkled with latik — latik is the reduction of coconut milk until all of the liquid has evaporatedFor festive occasions, Filipino women band together and prepare more sophisticated dishes. Tables are often laden with expensive and labor-intensive treats requiring hours of preparation. Lech?n, a whole roasted suckling pig, takes center stage. Other dishes include hamonado (honey-cured beef, pork or chicken), relleno (stuffed chicken or milkfish), mechado, afritada, kaldereta, pochero, paella, arroz valenciana, morcon, and pancit canton. The table may also be have various sweets and pastries such as leche flan, ube, sapin-sapin, sorbetes (ice cream), and gulaman (jello).

Christmas Eve, known as Noche Buena, is the most important feast. During this evening, the star of the table is the Christmas ham and Edam cheese (Queso de Bola). Supermarkets are laden with these treats during the Christmas season and are popular giveaways by Filipino companies in addition to red wine, brandy, groceries or pastries[citation needed].

Regional specialties

The Philippine islands are home to various ethnic groups resulting in varied regional cuisine.

Pinakbet with shrimp Ilocanos from the rugged Ilocos region boast of a diet heavy in boiled or steamed vegetables and freshwater fish, but they are particularly fond of dishes flavored with bagoong, fermented fish that is often used instead of salt. Ilocanos often season boiled vegetables with bagoong monamon (fermented anchovy paste) to produce pinakbet. Local specialties include the soft white larvae of ants and “jumping salad” of tiny live shrimp.

The Igorots prefer roasted meats, particularly carabao’s meat, goat’s meat, and venison.

Due to its mild, sub-tropical climate, Baguio, along with the outlying mountainous regions, is renowned for its produce. Temperate-zone fruits and vegetables (strawberry being a notable example), which would otherwise wilt in lower regions, are grown here. It is also known for a snack called sundot-kulangot which literally means “poke the booger.” It’s actually a sticky kind of sweet made from milled glutinous rice flourmixed with molasses, and served inside pitugo shells, and with a stick to “poke” its sticky substance with.

The town of Calasiao in Pangasinan is know for its puto, a type of steamed rice cake.

Pampanga is the culinary center of the Philippines. Among the treats produced in Pampanga are longganisa (original sweet and spicy sausages), kalderetang kambing (savory goat stew), and tocino (sweetened-cured pork). Kapampangan cuisine makes use of every regional produce available to the native cook, combining pork cheeks and offal to make sisig. Kare-kare is also known to have been originated from Pampanga.

Bicol is known for its very spicy Bicol Express. The region is also the well-known home of the Natong or Laing and Pinangat (pork or fish stew stuffed in layers of taro leaves).

Bulacan is popular for chicharon (pork rinds) and steamed rice and tuber cakes like puto. It is the center of Panghimagas or desserts, like brown rice cake or kutsinta, sapin-sapin, suman, cassava cake, halaya ube and the king of sweets, in San Miguel, Bulacan, the famous carabao’s milk candy pastillas de leche, with its ‘pabalat’ wrapper.[5]

Cainta in Rizal province, east of Manila, is known for its Filipino rice cakes and puddings. These are usually topped with “Latik”, a mixture of coconut milk and brown sugar, reduced to a dry crumbly texture. A more modern, and time saving alternative to latik are coconut flakes toasted in a frying pan.

Antipolo, straddled mid-level in the mountainous regions of the Philippine Sierra Madre, is a town known for its suman and cashew products.

Laguna is known for buko pie (coconut pie) and panutsa (molasses clustered peanuts).

Batangas is home to Taal Lake, a body of water that surrounds Taal Volcano. The lake is home to 75 species of freshwater fish. Among these, the maliputo and tawilis are two of the world’s rarest. These fish are delicious native delicacies. Batangas is also known for its special coffee, kapeng barako.

Iloilo is popular for La Paz batchoy, pancit molo, dinuguan, puto, and biscocho and piyaya.[citation needed]

Cebu is popular for its lechon. Lechon prepared “Cebu style”, also known as “Inasal” in Visayan, is characterized by a crispy outer skin and a moist juicy meat with unique taste from a blend of spices. [6] Cebu is also known for sweets like dried mangoes, mango and caramel tarts.

Further south in Mindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi dishes are filled with the scents of Southeast Asia: turmeric, coriander, lemon grass, cumin, and chilies — many of these ingredients are not used in much of Filipino cooking (except in the Bicol Region where there is a fairly liberal use of chilies). Being free from Hispanization, the cuisine of the indigenous Moro and Lumad peoples of Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago differs greatly from much of the cooking found throughout the Philippines, having more in common with the rich and spicy Malay cuisines of Malaysia, Brunei and to an extent Sumatra, Indonesia, with well-known dishes from the region being Satti and Ginataang manok (chicken cooked in coconut milk). Since this region is predominantly Muslim, pork is rarely if ever consumed. Popular crops such as cassava root, sweet potatoes (kamote), and yams are grown. The two popular sauces used in this region are Sambal, Satay, known locally as Satti, and also the de facto delicacy for people in Zamboanga, regardless of background. Another popular dish from this region is Tiyula Itum, a dark broth of beef or chicken lightly flavored with ginger, chili, turmeric and toasted coconut flesh (which gives it s dark color).

Popular Filipino dishes
Desserts and snacks

Halo-haloFilipinos cook a wide variety of sweet desserts and snacks. One famous dessert is bibingka, a hot rice cake optionally topped with a pat of butter, slices of kesong puti (white cheese), itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs), and sometimes grated coconut. There is also glutinous rice sweets called biko made with sugar, butter, and coconut milk. Another brown rice cake is kutsinta. Puto is another well known example of sweet steamed rice cakes prepared in many different sizes and colors. Sapin-sapin are three-layered, tri-colored sweets made with rice flour, purple yam, and coconut milk with its gelatinous appearance.

Halo-halo can be described as a cold dessert made with shaved ice, milk and sugar with typical ingredients including coconut, halaya (mashed purple yam), caramel custard, plantains, jackfruit, red beans, tapioca and pinipig. Sorbetes is similar to ice cream but made primarily with coconut milk instead of dairy.

A slice of sapin-sapin sold at a market in CaliforniaLumpia are spring rolls that can be either fresh or fried. Fresh lumpia (lumpiang sariwa) is usually made for fiestas or special occasions as it is very labour-intensive to prepare, while fried lumpia (lumpiang shanghai) is usually filled with ground pork and a combination of vegetables, and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.[7]. Other variations are filled with minced pork and shrimp and accompanied by a vinegar-based dipping sauce. Lumpia has been commercialized in frozen food form and though various restaurants. Similarly, turon could be described as a fruit version using sweetened bananas (plantains) and sometimes jackfruit fried in an eggroll or phyllo wrapper and sprinkled with sugar.

Pitsi-pitsiThere are other Filipino desserts and snacks. As a dessert, leche flan is a type of caramel custard made with eggs and milk similar to the French creme caramel and Spanish flan; mamon is a dense buttery sweet sponge cake; palitaw are rice patties covered with sesame seeds, sugar, and coconut; pitsi-pitsi which are cassava patties coated with cheese or coconut; and tibok-tibok is based on a carabao milk as a de leche (similar to maja blanca). As a snack, binatog is created with corn kernels with shredded coconut. Packaged snacks wrapped in banana or palm leaves then steamed, suman are made from a sticky rice.

Street food

Filipinos have their own repertoire of street food. Some of these are skewered on bamboo sticks like a kebab, which recipes mimic this presentation closely. One such example is banana-cue that consists of a whole plantain skewered on a stick, rolled in brown sugar, and fried. Kamote-cue is a peeled sweet potato skewered on a stick, covered in brown sugar and then fried. Fishballs or squidballs are skewered on bamboo sticks then dipped in a sweet or savory sauce to be commonly sold frozen in markets and peddled by street vendors.

Turon, a kind of fried lumpia filled with plantain and jackfruit can also be found sold in streets.

As a warm soupish like snack, taho is made up of soft beancurd which is the taho itself, dark caramel syrup called “arnibal”, and tapioca pearls with cold (dark syrup). The pearls used come in various sizes and proportion and stand out. It been served by many street vendors who often yell out “taho” in the neighborhood like Americans who yell out hotdogs and peanuts in sporting events. Innovations on it include additional flavouring such as chocolate or strawberry, and even cold versions. Taho is derived from the original Chinese snack food known as douhua.

There is also iskrambol (from the English “to scramble”), a cooler ice-based snack, and which is a kind of sorbet, flavoured with a combination of artificial flavourings and usually topped with chocolate syrup. It is eaten by “scrambling” the contents or mixing them, then drinking with a large straw.

Egg street foods include kwek-kwek that are soft boiled quail eggs dipped in batter that is usually dyed orange then deep fried. In contrast, tokneneng is larger but similar to kwek-kwek in that it is made with chicken eggs. Filipino egg snacks include balut that is essentially boiled pre-hatched poultry eggs, usually duck or chicken. These fertilized eggs are allowed to develop until the embryo reaches a pre-determined size and are then boiled. There is also another egg dish called penoy that is fertilized duck eggs. Like taho, balut is advertised vocally. Consuming balut by some involves sucking out the juices.

Okoy also spelled as Ukoy is another batter-based, deep-fried street food in the Philippines. Along with the batter, it normally includes bean sprouts and very small shrimps shells and all. It is commonly dipped in a combination of vinegar and chili.

Other street food include betamax that is roasted dried chicken blood served cut into and served as small cubes for which it received its name in resemblance to a Betamax tape. Isaw, is another street food, which is seasoned hog or chicken intestines. Another street food is the Proven, which is essentially the proventriculus of a chicken, dipped in cornstarch, and deep-fried. Then there is Pinoy Fries which are fries made from sweet potatoes with the same tenderness of french fries but take on a more rounder presentation in contrast to stringy appearance in french fries.


In a typical Filipino bakery, pandesal and ensaimada are often sold. Pandesal came from the Spanish pan de sal (literally, bread of salt) and is a ubiquitous breakfast fare, normally eaten with (and sometimes even dipped in) coffee. It typically takes the form of a bread roll, and is usually baked covered in bread crumbs. Contrary to what its name implies, pandesal is not particularly salty as very little salt is used in baking it. Soft, chewy pandesal is much preferred to a crusty one, a holdover from the days when cheap, low-grade flour was used to cut costs. Ensaimada, also spelled as ensaymada from the Spanish ensaimada, has been altered much to suit the Philippine palate producing a pastry with a soft and chewy texture. It can be made with a variety of fillings such as ube (purple yam) and macapuno and often topped with butter, sugar and shredded cheese. Other food sold in Filipino bakeries include pan de coco a sweet bread roll filled with shredded coconut mixed with molasses. Other breads like putok, which literally means “explode,” refers to a small hard bread roll whose cratered surface is glazed with sugar, and “kababayan,” a small, sweet kulintang-shaped (gong) muffin that has a moist consitency. There is also “Spanish bread” a rolled pastry which looks like a croissant prior to being given a crescent shape, and has a filling consisting of sugar and butter.

There are also rolls like pianono which is a chiffon roll flavored with different fillings. In a different roll, brazo de mercedes is similar to a rolled cake or jelly roll and is made from a sheet of meringue rolled around a custard filling. Similar to the previous dessert, it takes on a layered presentation instead of being rolled and typically features caramelized sugar and nuts for sans rival. Similar to both the two previous desserts mentioned, it has different texture due to the addition of sweetened bread crumbs for silva?as. In a more delicate roll, barquillos takes on as sweet thinly crunchy wafers rolled into tubes that can be sold hollow or filled with polvoron (sweetened and toasted flour mixed with ground nuts). Meringues are also present in the Philippines, due to the Spanish influence, but they are called merengue – with all the vowels pronounced.

Some Filipino pies, for example the egg pie is a mainstay in local bakeries, serving as a type of pie with a very rich egg custard filling. It is typically baked so that the exposed custard on top is browned. The other pie, buko pie, is made with a filling made from buko (young coconut meat) and dairy. Mini pastries like turrones de casuy are made up of cashew marzipan wrapped with a wafer made to resemble a candy wrapper but take on a miniature look of a pie in a size of about a quarter. There is also “napoleones,” – again with all the vowels pronounced – a Mille-feuille pastry stuffed with a sweet milk-based filling.

There are hard pastries like biskotso that feature as a crunchy, sweet, twice-baked bread. Another baked crunchy food is sinipit which is a sweet pastry covered in a crunchy sugar glaze, made to resemble a length of rope. Similar to sinipit is a snack eaten on roadsides, and colloquially called shingaling. It is crunchy, hollow, but has a salty flavor.

On the softer side, mamon is a very soft chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar named from a slang Spanish term for breast. A soft cake like crema de fruta which is a more elaborate sponge cake, topped in succeeding layers of cream, custard, candied fruit, and gelatine. Related to sponge cakes is mamoncillo which generally refers to slices taken from a large mamon cake, but it is unrelated to the fruit of the same name. Sandwich pastries like inipit are made with two thin layers of chiffon sandwiching a filling of custard that is topped with butter and sugar. Another mammon variant is mammon tostada, basically mamoncillo toasted to a crunchy texture.

Stuffed based foods include siomai similar to the Chinese shaomai and siopao similar to the Chinese baozi but larger and steamed bunned. The filling is often mixed with a sweet sauce made from soy sauce and sugar. Buchi is another snack fare that arguably has Chinese origins. Bite-sized, buchi is made of deep-fried dough balls (often from rice flour) filled with a sweet mung bean paste, and coated on the outside with sesame seeds, some variants have ube as the filling. There are also the many varieties of the mooncake-like hopia, which come in different shapes (from a flat, circular stuffed form, to cubes), and have different textures (predominantly using flaky pastry, but sometimes like the ones in mooncakes) and fillings. Empanada are turnover-type pastries filled with savory-sweet meat filling. Typically made with ground meat and raisins, it can be deep fried or baked.

Main courses

At home usually, several of these dishes are cooked daily by many Filipino households. One widely cooked dish is adobo which pork or chicken (occasionally beef) is stewed or braised in a sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, and peppercorns. It can also be prepared “dry” by cooking out the liquid and concentrating the flavor.


There are several styles of stew dishes cooked by Filipinos. Some well-known stews are kare-kare and dinuguan. With kare-kare, also known as “peanut stew,” the oxtail or ox tripe is the main ingredient that is stewed with vegetables in a peanut-based preparation. It is typically served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). With dinuguan, it is created from pork blood, entrails, and meat and sometimes seasoned with red peppers, usually thai peppers. Mechado can be included in this list using pork cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, and onions, but goat meat can be used instead which would be then be turned into kaldereta. Varieties using other meats such as dog meat also exist. In afritada, the use pork or beef is simmered into a tomato sauce, typically with peas and carrots and of course potatoes in similar cut size to the pork. Allegedly originating from the Rizal area, Waknatoy is a dish similar to afritada, caldereta, and mechado. It has either pork or beef sirloin with potatoes, cut sausages, and has a tomato-based sauce sweetened with pickles. Different vinegar-based stews using milkfish, pork hocks, or even leftover lechon are called paksiw. Although paksiw is made using the same ingredients as adobo, it is prepared differently in that it is not stirred as it simmers, resulting in a different flavor as the vinegar is cooked first. On the sweetness scale, pochero makes use of beef and banana or plantain slices simmered in tomato sauce as its name is derived from the Spanish cocido.

Foods with strong green leafy appearance are dinengdeng a dish consisting of malunggay leaves and slices of bittermelon, and pinakbet which is stewed in vegetables heavily flavored with bagoong. In balance to color, the traditional tinola has a strong chicken presence accompanied by a ginger soup cooked with whole chicken pieces, green papaya slices with chili, spinach, or malunggay leaves. The large chunks of the chicken in this dish contrast to the small pieces found in can of chicken noodle soup. On the other hand, simuwam involves similar ingredients and cooking methods as tinola, but is specifically used to refer to variants made with fish or other seafood.

Filipinos have their own styles of soups. In one recipe, binacol is a warm chicken soup cooked with coconut water and served with strips of coconut meat. In a well-known soup, La Paz Batchoy is garnished with pork innards, crushed pork cracklings, chopped vegetables, and topped with a raw egg. There is another dish with the same name that uses misua, beef heart, kidneys and intestines, but does not contain eggs or vegetables. In mami, the noodle soup is made from chicken, beef, pork, wonton dumplings, or intestines (called laman-loob). It was first prepared by Ma Mon Luk. Filipinos have a modified version of chicken noodle soup called sotanghon, consisting of cellophane noodles, chicken, and sometimes mushrooms. In another soup, sinigang is typically made with either pork, beef, or seafood and made outstandingly sour with tamarind or other suitable ingredients. Some seafood variants can be made sour by the use of guava fruit or miso. Sinigang made from chicken is commonly referred to as sinampalukan.

Two dishes with strong noodle appearance are pancit and ispageti. Pancit can be described as a dish primarily consisting of noodles, vegetables, and slices of meat or shrimp with variations primarily distinguished by the type of noodles used. Some pancit, such as mami, molo, and la Paz-styled batchoy, are noodle soups while the “dry” varieties are comparable to chow mein in preparation. Then there is “Spaghetti” or “ispageti” in the local colloquy that is a modified version of Spaghetti Bolognese, a drastically simplified version of the Italian dish. It is made with banana ketchup instead of tomato sauce, sweetened with sugar and topped with hot dog slices.

There are several rice porridges that Filipino cooks create. One popular dish is arroz caldo which is a rice porridge cooked with chicken, ginger and sometimes saffron, garnished with spring onions (chives) and coconut milk to make a type of gruel. Arroz caldo is the chicken version of lugaw that is a variant of the Chinese congee usually cooked with either tripe, pork, or beef, with seafood rarely being used. Another variant is goto which is an arroz caldo made with ox tripe. There is this other rice porridge called champorado which is sweet and flavored with chocolate, and would be paired with tuyo or daing.

Two other rice based dishes include arroz valenciana which is a Filipino variation of the Spanish paella and thought to be named after the Spanish city Valencia. There is also kiampong a type of fried topped with pork pieces, chives and peanuts. It can be found in Chinese restaurants in Binondo and Manila.

A type of seafood salad known as kinilaw is made up of raw seafood such as fish or shrimp cooked only by steeping in local vinegar, sometimes with coconut milk, onions, spices and other local ingredients. It is comparable to the Peruvian ceviche.

Chorizo also known as Longanisa. Dominating in meatiness and toughness and chewiness, Filipinos dine on tocino, longanisa, and bistek. Tocino is a sweetened cured meat either chicken or pork and is marinated and cured for a number of days before being fried. Longanisa is a sweet or spicy sausage, typically made from pork though other meats can also be used, and are often colored red traditionally through the use of the anatto seed although artificial food coloring is also used to cut costs. Bistek, also known as “Filipino Beef Steak,” consists of thinly sliced beef marinated in soya sauce and kalamansi and then fried on a skillet or griddle that is typically served with onions. In another pork diet, crispy pata pork knuckles (the pata) are marinated in garlic flavored vinegar then deep fried until crispy and golden brown, with other parts of the pork leg prepared in the same way.

Lechon manok is a variant of the rotisserie chicken. Available in most major Filipino supermarkets, hole-in-the-wall stands, or restaurant chains (Andok’s, Baliwag, Toto’s), it is typically served with “sarsa” (sauce) made from mashed pork liver, starch sugar and spices.

Celebratory Food

Package of biko and pirurutongIn Filipino celebrations, often lech?n serves as the centerpiece of the dinner table. It is usually a whole roasted suckling pig, but piglets (lechonillo, or lechon de leche) or cattle calves (lechong baka) can also be prepared in place to the popular adult pig. It is typically served with a “sarsa” (sauce) made from mashed pork liver, starch, sugar and spices or a variation that does not include pork liver.

More common in celebrations than in everyday home, lumpiang sariwa, sometimes referred to as ‘fresh lumpia’, are fresh spring rolls that consists of a soft crepe wrapped around a filling that can include strips of kamote (sweet potato), jicama, bean sprouts, green beans, cabbage, carrots and meat (often pork). It can be served warm or cold and typically with a sweet peanut and garlic sauce. Ukoy is shredded papaya combined with small shrimp (and occasionally bean sprouts) and fried to make shrimp patties. It is often eaten with vinegar seasoned with garlic, salt and pepper. Both lumpiang sariwa and ukoy are often accompanied together in Filipino parties. Lumpiang sariwa has Chinese origins, having derived from popiah.

Available mostly during the Christmas season and sold in front of churches along with bibingka, puto bumbong is a style of purple-yam flavored puto.

Side dishes and complements

Not eaten as the main course but rather a side dish, the process of creating itlog na pula involves duck eggs that have been cured in brine or a mixture of clay-and-salt for a few weeks, providing for its saltiness, and then later hard boiled with their shells to be later dyed with red food coloring, hence its name, to distinguish them from chicken eggs before they are sold over the shelves. There is also another food called atchara which is pickled papaya strips.

Other foods are used as food complements. One could use nata de coco which is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food product produced by the bacterial fermentation of coconut water to serve with pandesal. One could also use kesong puti a soft white cheese made from carabao’s milk but cow’s milk is also used in most commercial variants for serving in a sandwich. Yet another would be grated mature coconut (niyog), which normally is served with sweet rice-based desserts.

Exotic dishes

Some exotic dishes in the Filipino diet are camaro which are field crickets cooked in soy sauce, salt, and vinegar as it is popular in Pampanga; papaitan which is goat or beef innards stew flavored with bile that gives it a bitter (pait) taste; Soup No. 5 (Also spelled as “Soup #5”) which is a soup made out of testicles which can be found in restaurants in Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila; asocena or dog meat popular in the Cordillera Administrative Region; and pinikpikan chicken where the chicken has been beaten to death to tenderize the meat and to infuse it with blood. It is then burned in fire to remove its feathers then boiled with salt and pork. [8] [9] The act of beating the chicken in preparation of the dish apparently violates the Philippine Animal Welfare Act 1998.[10]

Filipino drinks and cocktails

The climate of the Philippines is characterized by having relatively high temperature, high humidity and abundant rainfall that make it a reason why chilled drinks are popular.


There are a wide variety of alcoholic drinks in the diet. This includes brandy, and its variations such as Brandy-Iced Tea Powder (a popular cocktail consisting of one or more liqueurs and iced tea powder); and Brandy-Grape Juice Powder (same as above but with grape juice powder). Other different alcoholic beverages include rum as Tanduay is the local favorite. Another choice could be serbesa which is a translation for beer. The most popular choices in restaurants and bars are San Miguel Beer, Red Horse Beer and San Miguel Light.

Several gins, both local varieties like Ginebra San Miguel (as well as GSM Blue and GSM Premium Gin) and the “London Dry” imported types like Gilbey’s, are consumed. Other variations include Gin-Bulag (which literally translates to “gin-blind,” it is said that consuming amounts of it will make one blind). Other people classifies “gin” with the shape of the bottle. They call it “bilog” (for a circular bottle) and “kwatro kantos” (literally means four corners, referring to a bottle that is rectangular or square in shape). Variations of “gin” can be in a mixture of “gin” and juice examples are: Gin-Pineapple Juice Powder (any kind of gin mixed with pineapple juice), Gin-Pomelo Juice Powder (just like the former but mixed with pomelo juice instead of pineapple), and Gin-Guy Juice Powder (any kind of gin mixed with guyabano (also known as soursop) juice). Lambanog is a type of hard liquor made from distilled coconut extract.

Tuba (or toddy) is a type of hard liquor made from fresh drippings extracted from a cut young stem of palm. The cutting of the palm stem usually done early in the morning by a mananguete, a person whose profession involves climbing palm trees and extracting the tuba to supply to customers later in the day. The morning accumulated palm juice or drippings from a cut stem is then harvested by noon then brought to buyers then prepared for consumption. Sometimes this is being done twice a day so that there are two harvests of tuba in a day occurring first at noon-time and later in the late-afternoon. Normally, tuba has to be consumed right after the mananguete brings it over or it becomes too sour to be consumed as a drink so that any remaining unconsumed tuba in the day is being stored in jars for several days to become palm vinegar. Additionally, tuba can be distilled to produce lambanog, a neutral liquor often noted for its relatively high alcohol content.


Some shakes that are included in a Filipino diet are fresh mango shake consisting of ripe mangoes blended with milk, ice, and sugar; fruit shakes similar to milkshakes but only contain fruit or flavoring (usually containing Evaporated or Condensed Milk)crushed ice, Evaporated or Condensed Milk, and fruits like Strawberry (which is native in Baguio for its cold climate), Melon, Papaya, Avocado, Watermelon, and the popular Mango to name a few but has rare fruits like Durian

Chilled drinks and cocktails

Other chilled drinks include gulaman at sago a flavored iced-drink with agar gelatin and sago pearls with banana extract is added to the accompanying syrup; fresh buko juice drink from a young coconut where the coconut is penetrated to allow straw into the membrane allowing a person to drink its juice later opened afterwards to scrape and eat its tender flesh, which a variation of this is made out of coconut juice, scraped coconut flesh, sugar, and water; kalamansi juice juiced Philippine limes sweetened with honey, syrup or sugar; and other tropical fruit drinks that includes dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), pi?a (pineapple), banana, and guyabano (soursop). Oranges, apples, grapes, and mangoes are also preferred.

A different class off diet involving the use of shaved ice includes halo-halo which is a dessert featuring a wide variety of sweet ingredients with shredded ice, topped with sugar and milk; saba con yelo which is shaved ice served with milk and minatamis na saging ripe plantains chopped, and caramelized with brown sugar; and mais con yelo which is shaved ice served with steamed corn kernels, sugar, and milk.


Teas include pandan iced tea made with pandan leaves and lemon grass, and salabat, sometimes called ginger tea, brewed from ginger root. A particular coffee sold as a premium brewed coffee from the cool mountains of Batangas is known as Kape Barako. Another drink consumed is a warm chocolate drink called tsokolate that is traditionally made from dry powdery chocolate tablets called Tablea.