About the food of the Philippines

The Chocolate Hills in Bohol Province, Philippines. Photo by Ramir Borja.

Welcome to our week at the Filipino Global Table, where you can stovetop travel your way to these 7, 107 tropical islands in the western Pacific ocean. Tucked between her mountains, tropical rain forests, and gorgeous coasts live 28 million people who enjoy a diet with influences from Spain, China, and Malaysia and beyond.

The food packs a serious punch. According to wikipedia, “Filipino cuisine is distinguished by its bold combination of sweet (tamis), sour (asim), and salty (alat) flavors. While other Asian cuisines may be known for a more subtle delivery and presentation, Filipino cuisine is often delivered all at once in a single presentation.”

Pork is extremely popular. If you’re ever in the mood to roast a whole pig, you can learn how from the beautiful people of the Philippines. Called Lechon, the meat is slow cooked over charcoal until tender on the inside and crackling on the outside. Then there’s pork in adobo, braised in vinegar, garlic, and soy sauce (chicken is also used for Adobo). You’ll also find pork in lumpia shangai, a meat laden “egg roll” like treat.

armers plant rice at the stonewalled Nagacadan Rice Terraces 20 minutes uphill in Bilong from the Kiangan town center. Photo by Shubert Ciencia.

While rice goes with everything, pancit – or noodles – are a close second in popularity. Rice can be served like a porridge, with meats and vegetables cooked in it, or it can simply be steamed.

For dessert, saddle up to bibinka, a hot rice cake topped with anything from duck eggs, cheese, butter, or coconut. Or simply pass by a roadside stand and try sago al guluman – a tapioca and gelatin based drink that’s squishy and slurpy in your mouth.

Please add your favorite filipino food here in the comments. I’m dealing with some health issues today, so unfortunately have to cut this short to get some rest. 

Maps and flag courtesy of CIA World Factbook. T’ NALAK Festival in Koronadal, South Cotabato. Photo by Mark Navales.


  1. Brian S. says

    I first discovered the wildly diverse and often very weird (sisig is sauteed pig ears and entrails) cuisine of the Philippines in a tiny restaurant way out in Queens, N.Y., where all the staff and customers were Filipino and very few people spoke English. I wrote a review which I will reproduce here because it’s a good survey of the varied charms of this great regional cuisine. Oh and in case you happen to go there, here are some lessons in ordering food in Tagalog. (I stuck to English.)


    I’ve known about Renee’s Kitchenette for years, and I’m sure you have too. I never went that often, maybe once every few years, but lately I’ve been going a lot. It’s like an overlooked wallflower that turns out to have hidden charms. Filipino food can be addictive. I’ve read an article by a Filipino woman whose yearning for the foods of home is so great that she spends all her savings on plane tickets for Manila. If she’d known about Renee’s she could have saved her money.

    This tiny but sparkling clean Queens place bills itself as “home of Pampanga’s best cuisine.” Pampanga is the region of the Philippines that has been devastated by volcanoes. But the crowds of Filipino diners seemed happy enough the first time I went there this year. I ate quite early, so I could see a movie. The place was almost full, though. I ordered a whole Tilapia served with a sweet and sour sauce yummy enough to appeal to those who like sweet and sour but sophisticated enough to appeal to those too sophisticated for sweet and sour. Ginger, spices, just enough sugar so it wont taste too tart. I ate the whole fish, head tail and everything between. It was $9, including a bowl of rice which I doused with a sauce made from rotten fish. (Same sauce as in Vietnam and Thailand and all of south Asia — and ancient Rome too, for that matter).

    The second time I went later. It was jammed, I was lucky to get a table and later had to share it with a Filipino family. I was the only one there not part of a Filipino family… though I was, I guess, when I shared the table. What I got, Sarciadong Tilapia, was one of the best Filipino meals ever. A whole tilapia fish was cooked and topped with diced tomatoes, minced onion and scrambled egg. It was almost literally swimming in a bright red broth made with stock, lots of garlic, and tomatoes. The broth was probably a legacy of the centuries of Spanish rule.

    I thought about Spain on my third visit. And midway through my delicious plate of Kalderetang Kambing I had a very minor culinary epiphany. For culinary purposes, the Philippines should be considered part of Latin America. The biggest food influence on the Philippines is Spain. My goat stew, with its rich brown sauce, was just like that served in El Castillo de Jagua, a wonderful Dominican restaurant on Rivington in Manhattan. Yes, there are Chinese influences in Filipino cooking, sweet and sour, fried noodles etc, but they are a lot like the stuff served in Chino latino restaurants that cater to a Latin crowd. So on the food map of the world the Philippine Islands lie between Cuba and the Dominican Republic, and maybe that’s why they call it the Bermuda Triangle.

  2. Thank you for profiling Philippine cuisine! I am a Filipina-american and always look forward to trips home. The pilgrimage back to the Philippines is 21 hours and when I’m there I load up on various “silogs” for breakfast. Garlic rice and a fried egg is the staple and depending on your mood, you can choose from an array of meats prepared in different ways. That’s MY favorite.

    When my mother first arrived here alone and with very little, she became depressed because she was very homesick. A friend thought to bring her a traditional filipino meal and when she sat in her kitchen to eat it, she cried. I’m sure out of a little homesickness, but a lot because it helped bring her back home for dinner.

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