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Life in the Philippines
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A roasted pig, known as the Lechón. A common celebratory dish.

Filipino cuisine consists of the foods, preparation methods and eating customs found in the Philippines. The style of cooking and the foods associated with it have evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to a mixed cuisine with many Hispanic, Chinese, American, and other Asian influences adapted to indigenous ingredients and the local palate.

Filipinos traditionally eat three main meals a day - agahan (breakfast), tanghalían (lunch), and hapunan (dinner) plus an afternoon snack called meriénda (another variant is minandál or minindál). Dishes range from the very simple, like a meal of fried salted fish and rice, to the elaborate paellas and cocidos created for fiestas.

Popular dishes include lechón (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).


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.[1] 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.

The arrival of Spanish settlers brought with them chili peppers, tomatoes, corn, potatoes, and the method of sautéing 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 neighbors. 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 de valenciana, chorizo into its local version of longganisa (from Spanish longaniza), and escabeche.

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 fast food 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, which is usually served at breakfast together with a fried egg and cured meat or sausages. Rice is often enjoyed with the sauce or broth 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 (halaan and 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.
  • "Binalot" - literally "wrapped." This generally refers to dishes wrapped in banana leaves or even aluminum foil. The wrapper is generally inedible (in contrast to lumpia — see below).
  • "Binuro" − fermented.
  • "Busa/Pabusa" - 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" − sautéed with garlic, onions and tomatoes.
  • "Halabos/Hinalabos" - mostly for shellfish. Steamed in their own juices and sometimes carbonated soda.
  • "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 coals.
  • "Kinilaw" or "Kilawin" − marinated in vinegar or calamansi juice along with garlic, onions, ginger, tomato, peppers.
  • "Laga/Nilaga/Palaga" − boiled, sometimes with onions and black peppercorns.
  • "Nilasing" − cooked with an alcoholic beverage.
  • "Lechon/Nilechon" − roasted over a spit.
  • "Lumpia" - wrapped with an edible wrapper.
  • "Minatamis" − cooked with sugar, or with other sweeteners such as panucha (panela).
  • "Pinakbet" − to cook with vegetables usually with sitaw (yardlong beans), calabaza, talong (eggplant), and ampalaya (bitter melon) among others and bagoong.
  • "Paksiw/Pinaksiw" − cooked in vinegar.
  • "Pangat/Pinangat" − boiled in salted water with tomatoes.
  • "Palaman/Pinalaman" − "filled" as in siopao, though "palaman" also refers to the filling in a sandwich.
  • "Pinakuluan" - boiled.
  • "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 is almost exclusively 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 also known as calamondin, and almost any other sour fruit abundant in the locality.
  • "Tosta/Tinosta/Tostado" - toasted, as in polvoron or Mamon Tostado.
  • "Torta/Tinorta/Patorta" - 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.


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 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, aromatic bouquet, and gustatory delight.

Counterpoint is 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)

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.

Unlike many of their Asian counterparts Filipinos do not eat with chopsticks. Due to western influence, food is often eaten using utensils, e.g., forks, knives, spoons. But the primary pairing of utensils used at a Filipino dining table is that of spoon and fork not knife and fork. 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.[2]


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, longganisa, 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 sinangág (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 longganisa 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). Pankaplog is a slang term referring to a breakfast consisting of pan de sal, kape (coffee), and itlog (egg).[3]


Puto in banana leaf liners

Merienda is taken from the Spanish and is a light meal or snack especially in the afternoon, 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): breads and pastries like pan de sal, ensaymada (buttery sweet rolls covered with cheese), hopia (pastries similar to mooncakes filled with sweet bean paste) and empanada (savory pastries stuffed with meat). There's also the option of cakes made with sticky rice (kakanin) like kutsinta, sapin-sapin, palitaw, biko, suman, bibingka, and pitsi-pitsi.

Savory dishes often eaten during merienda 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. Street foods, most of which are skewered on bamboo sticks, such as squid balls, fish balls and others are common choices too.


Pulutan (from the Filipino 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 pulutan include chicharon (also spelled tsitsaron), 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 it is made from mesenteries of pig intestines and has a bulaklak or flower appearance; and chicharong manok or chink, chicken skin that has been deep fried until crispy.

Some grilled foods include barbecue isaw, chicken or pig intestines marinated and skewered; barbecue tenga, pig ears that have been marinated and skewered; pork barbecue which is skewered pork marinated in a usually sweet blend; betamax, salted solidified pork or chicken blood which is skewered; adidas which is grilled or sautéed 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, chillies, 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 evaporated

For 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. Lechón, 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 de valenciana, morcon, embutido (referring to a meatloaf dish, not a sausage as understood elsewhere), 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.

Regional specialties

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

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 meat, goat 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 (strawberries being a notable example) which would otherwise wilt in lower regions are grown there. 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 flour mixed with molasses, and served inside pitugo shells, and with a stick to "poke" its sticky substance with.

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

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

Bicol is known for its very spicy Bicol express. The region is also the well-known home of natong also known as laing or pinangat (a pork or fish stew in taro leaves).

Bulacan is popular for chicharon (pork rinds) and steamed rice and tuber cakes like puto. It is a center for 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 milk candy pastillas de leche, with its pabalat wrapper.[4]

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 (peanut brittle).

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 not commonly found elsewhere. These fish are delicious native delicacies. Batangas is also known for its special coffee, kapeng barako.

Iloilo is known for La Paz batchoy, pancit molo, dinuguan, puto, and biscocho and piyaya.

Cebu is known for its lechón. Lechon prepared "Cebu style", also known as inasal in Visayan, is characterized by a crispy outer skin and a moist juicy meat with a unique taste given by a blend of spices. Cebu is also known for sweets like dried mangoes and caramel tarts.

Further south in Mindanao, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi dishes are filled with the spices of the rest of Southeast Asia: turmeric, coriander, lemon grass, cumin, and chillies — ingredients not commonly used in the rest of Filipino cooking (except in the Bicol Region where there is a fairly liberal use of chillies). Being free from Hispanicization, 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 rest of 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 (satay) 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, and yams are grown. Sambal is a popular sauce in the region. 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


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 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 (a variety of coconut the meat of which is often cut into strings, sweetened, preserved, and served in desserts) and often topped with butter, sugar and shredded cheese. Also commonly sold in Filipino bakeries is pan de coco a sweet bread roll filled with shredded coconut mixed with molasses. Putok, which literally means "explode", refers to a small hard bread roll whose cratered surface is glazed with sugar. Kababayan is a small sweet gong-shaped muffin that has a moist consistency. Spanish bread refers to 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. Brazo de mercedes, a rolled cake or jelly roll, 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. Silvañas are oval shaped, large cookie sized desserts, with a thin meringue on either side of a buttercream filling and dusted with crumbed cookies. Not overly sweet, they are rich, crisp, chewy, and buttery all at the same time. Barquillos use sweet thin 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 a crunchy, sweet, twice-baked bread. Another baked goody 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 colloquially called shingaling. It is hollow but crunchy with a salty flavor.

For a softer treat there is mamon a chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar named from a slang Spanish term for breast. There's also crema de fruta which is an elaborate sponge cake topped in succeeding layers of cream, custard, candied fruit, and gelatine. Similar to a sponge cake 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 mamon variant is mamon 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 probably of Chinese origin. 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 is a turnover-type pastry filled with a savory-sweet meat filling. Typically made with ground meat and raisins, it can be deep fried or baked.

Main dishes

There are many dishes frequently cooked in Filipino households. One widely cooked dish is adobo. It usually consists of pork or chicken, sometimes both, stewed or braised in a sauce made from soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic, bay leaf, and peppercorns. It can also be prepared "dry" by cooking out the liquid and concentrating the flavor.


There are several popular stew dishes. 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). In dinuguan, a pig's blood, entrails, and meat are cooked with vinegar and seasoned with chili peppers, usually siling mahaba.

Mechado, kaldereta, and afritada are Spanish influenced tomato sauce based dishes that are somewhat similar to one another. In these dishes meat is cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, and onions. Mechado gets its name from the pork fat that is inserted in a slab of beef making it look like a wick (mitsa) coming out of a beef "candle". The larded meat is then cooked in a seasoned tomato sauce and later sliced and served with the sauce it was cooked in. Kaldereta can be beef but is also associated with goat. Chunks of meat are cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, chopped onions, peas, carrots, bell peppers and potatoes to make a stew with some recipes calling for the addition of soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, chilies, ground liver or some combination thereof. Afritada tends to be the name given to the dish when chicken and pork is used. Another similar dish said to originate from the Rizal area is waknatoy. Pork or beef sirloin is combined with potatoes and cut sausages and cooked in a tomato-based sauce sweetened with pickles. Pochero is derived from the Spanish cocido; it is a sweeter stew that has beef and banana or plantain slices simmered in tomato sauce.

Different vinegar-based stews using milkfish, pork hocks, or even leftover lechon are called paksiw. Paksiw dishes differ greatly from one another based on the type of meat used. Although paksiw is made using the same basic ingredients as adobo, it is prepared differently in that other ingredients are added and the proportions of ingredients and water are different. Fish paksiw usually include the addition of ginger, fish sauce, and maybe siling mahaba and vegetables. Paksiw made with pork hocks usually sees the addition of sugar, banana blossoms, and water so that the meat is stewed in a sweet sauce. A similar Visayan dish called humba sees the addition of fermented black beans. Both dishes are probably related to pata tim which is of Chinese origin. Paksiw made from lechon meat features the addition of ground liver or liver spread. This adds flavor and thickens the sauce so that it starts to caramelize around the meat by the time dish is finished cooking.

For a dish with more vegetables there is dinengdeng a dish consisting of moringa leaves (malunggay) and slices of bittermelon. There is also pinakbet which is stewed in vegetables heavily flavored with bagoong.

Filipino soups tend to be very hearty and stew-like containing large chunks of meat and vegetables or noodles. They are usually intended to be filling and not a light preparatory introduction for the main course. They tend to be served with the rest of the meal and eaten with rice when they are not meals unto themselves. Tinola has large chicken pieces, green papaya slices with chili, spinach, or moringa leaves cooked in a ginger flavored broth. The large chunks of the chicken in this dish contrast to the small pieces found in chicken noodle soup. 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). Ma Mon Luk was known for it. Filipinos have a modified version of chicken noodle soup called sotanghon, consisting of cellophane noodles, chicken, and sometimes mushrooms. Another soup, sinigang is typically made with either pork, beef, chicken or seafood and made sour with tamarind or other suitable ingredients. Some seafood variants can be made sour by the use of guava fruit or miso.

For noodle dishes there is 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 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 parlance that is a modified version of spaghetti bolognese. It is sometimes made with banana ketchup instead of tomato sauce, sweetened with sugar and topped with hot dog slices.

There are several rice porridges that are popular in the Philippines. One is arroz caldo which is a rice porridge cooked with chicken, ginger and sometimes saffron, garnished with spring onions (chives), toasted garlic, and coconut milk to make a type of gruel. Another variant is goto which is an arroz caldo made with ox tripe. There is also another much different rice porridge called champorado which is sweet and flavored with chocolate and often served at breakfast paired with tuyo or daing.

Another rice based dish is arroz de valenciana which is a Filipino variation of the Spanish paella named after the Spanish city Valencia. There is also kiampong a type of fried rice 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 known in the Philippines as longganisa.

Filipinos also eat tocino, longganisa, 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. Longganisa 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. Bistek, also known as "Filipino beef steak," consists of thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi and then fried in a skillet that is typically served with onions. In another pork dish, 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 the Filipino take on rotisserie chicken. Available in many hole-in-the-wall stands or restaurant chains (Andok's, Baliwag, Toto's, Sr. Pedro's, G.S. Pagtakhan's), it is typically a specially seasoned chicken roasted over a charcoal flame served with "sarsa" (sauce) made from mashed pork liver, starch, sugar, and spices.

Celebratory food

In Filipino celebrations, often lechón 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), singkamas (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.

Desserts and snacks


Filipinos eat a wide variety of sweet desserts and snacks. One often seen 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.

For cold desserts there is halo-halo which can be described as a dessert made with shaved ice, milk, and sugar with additional ingredients like coconut, halaya (mashed purple yam), caramel custard, plantains, jackfruit, red beans, tapioca and pinipig being typical. Other similar treats made with shaved ice include 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. Sorbetes (ice cream) is popular too. A local version uses coconut milk instead of cow milk.

A slice of sapin-sapin sold at a market in California

Lumpia are spring rolls that can be either fresh or fried. Fresh lumpia (lumpiang sariwa) is usually made for fiestas or special occasions as it can be labor-intensive to prepare, while one version of fried lumpia (lumpiang prito), lumpiang shanghai is usually filled with ground pork and a combination of vegetables, and served with a sweet and sour dipping sauce.[5] 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.

There 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; 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 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. Ice candy made from juice or chocolate put it in a freezer to freeze is another treat. It can be any kind of flavor depending on the maker; chocolate and buko (coconut) flavored ice candy are two of the most popular.

Street food

Filipinos have their own distinct range of street food. Some of these are skewered on sticks in the manner of a kebab. One such example is banana-cue which is a whole banana or plantain skewered on a short thin bamboo 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 consisting of an eggroll or phyllo wrapper filled with plantain and jackfruit and sprinkled with sugar 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 kind of like a 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. Another Filipino egg snack is balut, essentially a boiled pre-hatched poultry egg, 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 by street hawkers calling out their product. 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 chilli.

Among other street foods are already mentioned pulutan like isaw, seasoned hog or chicken intestines; betamax, roasted dried chicken blood served cut into and served as small cubes for which it received its name in resemblance to a Betamax tape; and 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 a somewhat rounder and blockier shape in contrast to the stringy appearance of french fries.

Side dishes and complements

Itlog na pula (red eggs) are duck eggs that have been cured in brine or a mixture of clay-and-salt for a few weeks making them salty. They are later hard boiled and dyed with red food coloring, hence its name, to distinguish them from chicken eggs before they are sold over the shelves. They are often served mixed in with diced tomatoes.

Atchara is a side dish of pickled papaya strips similar to sauerkraut. It's a frequent accompaniment to fried dishes like tapa or daing.

Nata de coco which is a chewy, translucent, jelly-like food product produced by the bacterial fermentation of coconut water can be serve with pandesal. Kesong puti is a soft white cheese made from carabao milk (although cow milk is also used in most commercial variants). Grated mature coconut (niyog), is normally 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 bull's testes[6][7] or penis.[8], and 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.[9][10] The act of beating the chicken in preparation of the dish apparently violates the Philippine Animal Welfare Act 1998.[11]

Filipino drinks and cocktails

Due to the tropical climate chilled drinks are popular.


There are a wide variety of alcoholic drinks in the Philippines manufactured by local breweries and distilleries. 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). Rum is often associated with Tanduay. For serbesa (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 imported brands like Gilbey's, are commonly found. Some people refer to gin by the shape of the bottle: bilog for a circular bottle and kwatro kantos (literally meaning four corners) for a square or rectangular bottle. Gin is sometimes combined withother ingredients to come up with variations. Some have gin being with fruit juices like pineapple, pomelo, and guyabano (soursop).

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. Any remaining unconsumed tuba is then often 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.

Chilled drinks and shakes

Stands selling cold fruit drinks and fruit shakes are common. Tropical fruit drinks one encounters include those based on dalandan (green mandarin), suha (pomelo), piña (pineapple), banana, and guyabano (soursop). The shakes usually contain crushed ice, evaporated or condensed milk, and fruits like the perennially popular mango. Other fruit flavors are melon, papaya, avocado, watermelon, strawberry, and durian to name but a few.

Other chilled drinks include gulaman at sago a flavored iced-drink with agar gelatin and sago pearls with banana extract sometimes added to the accompanying syrup; fresh buko juice, the water or juice straight out of a young coconut via an inserted straw, a less fresh variation of which is made out of bottled coconut juice, scraped coconut flesh, sugar, and water; and calamansi juice, the juice of Philippine limes usually sweetened with honey, syrup or sugar.


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 kapeng barako. Another drink consumed is a warm chocolate drink called tsokolate that is traditionally made from dry powdery chocolate tablets called tablea.

See also


  1. ^ Knuuttila, Kyle. "Rice in the Philippines". Retrieved 2006-11-30.  
  2. ^ "Philippines — Eating Habits & Hospitality". The Global Gourmet. Retrieved 2006-11-21.  
  3. ^ "Pakaplog". Pinoy Slang. Retrieved 2008-11-12.  
  4. ^ "100% Pinoy: Pinoy Panghimagas". (2008-07-04). [Online video clip.] GMA News. Retrieved 2009-12-13.
  5. ^ Besa, Amy and Romy Dorotan. (2006). Memories of Philippine Kitchens. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. ISBN 1584794518.  
  6. ^ "Philippines: Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern". Retrieved 2007-07-16.  
  7. ^ Sutherland, Matthew. "Philippines From A British Perspective". Retrieved 2007-07-16.  
  8. ^ Asiras, Reggie. "More Healing Recipes". Retrieved 2007-07-16.  
  9. ^ Fenix, Mickey. (2006-06-07). "Ringside view of pinikpikan process". The Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-12-14.  
  10. ^ Johnson, Jody. (2006-05-28). "Killing me softly". [Weblog Entry.] Jody's Peace Corp Experience. Retrieved 2009-12-13.  
  11. ^ Republic of the Philippines. "The Animal Welfare Act 1998". Retrieved 2006-12-04. "In all the above mentioned cases, including those of cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, poultry, rabbits, carabaos, horses, deer and crocodiles the killing of the animals shall be done through humane procedures at all times."  

Further reading

External links

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