Countries would always have a staple dish or line of dishes that is commonly associated with them. For example, sushi for Japan, pasta for Italy, dumpling and curry for most Asian countries, and so on. You also have food named along with their countries like Belgian waffles, Hungarian sausages, Norwegian salmon, and so forth. But when you say Philippines – what comes to mind? The easiest answer would always be adobo or simplest – chicken adobo. Here’s my attempt as a food traveler to point out not one but ten Philippine signature dishes. All the photos in this list are mine and I have taken them before helping myself to these lovely dishes. So you can be sure this article is first-hand information. Let’s start.
- Kansi or Bulalo or a meat soup. I love Bacolod’s signature dish kansi – from the beef’s bone marrow reduced to softness with some langka (unripe jackfruit) and batwan to make the soup sour. In Luzon, they have bulalo – also made from bone marrow, but the sourness is less than kansi, and the dish is packed with leafy vegetables, corn and many things. These soup is best when steamy hot.Bacolod’s Kansi with Batuan
- Lechon or the whole roasted pig – undeniably every Filipino’s favorite, except for those who stay away from pork. Roasted whole pig, with all the ingredients inside. Crispy skin that everyone wants to just get a piece of. But my favorite is the rib part – where all the juices of the ingredients inside just cling on for dear life. Where to get the yummiest version – I am afraid to say with finality. Every province would always claim theirs is the best. Although I must say Cebu has been successful in branding the dish by opening restaurants whose superstar is lechon. In Cebu, they do not usually need the sarsa or dip which is usually visible and quite tasty in other cities like Bacolod and Iloilo. Tips in eating lechon – share with friends when you order a kilo of it to avoid pumping your blood pressure. One fourth serving is ideal for one. Derivatives from lechon is the tasty lechon belly, which is usually boneless. If you have left-over, whip it up into a nice old-fashioned lechon paksiw usually cooked vinegar, garlic, onion and basil leaves or to make things easy – Sarsa ni Mang Tomas. Bacolod’s Bellycious Lechon BellyCebu’s Zubuchon Lechon with Atchara and Dayap Juice
- Kinilaw or raw fish or seafood cured with vinegar. The famous main ingredient is usually fish, but shrimps and even pork skin can also be used. The fish is cut in small parts and mixed with vinegar, ginger, onion, peppers and cucumber in some cases. Others use mayonnaise, cream, and salted eggs. It is like Japanese sashimi already mixed with its dip. Best to eat kinilaw with beer. It’s usually called a pulutan in Tagalog and sumsuman in Hiligaynon. Kinilaw in Borongan City, Eastern Samar
- Chorizo or Longganisa or a Spanish-Filipino version of sausage. A really delicious dish which requires preparation. Using ground pork, or now to avoid fat, people use chicken or even fish, but nothing beats the taste of pork of course. The mixture of pork, garlic and other ingredients is usually inserted into cleaned and dried pork intestines or paitan in Ilonggo or it can be molded into what we call as “skinless”. Every province have their own recipe, but for me, the ones in Luzon, with all the extra amount of garlic is really good. This is a dish you cannot eat without rice.Tuguegarao’s Garlic Longganisa
- Utan or Sinabawang Gulay or vegetable soup. This dish is probably the healthiest in this list. Made from different vegetables, most popular of which are squash, eggplant, okra, string beans, monggo beans, and malunggay. And many other vegetables and leaves that are usually found growing in a typical Filipino village. The vegetables are peeled, washed and blanched. Usually shrimp paste called bagoong, dried fish, pork, or shrimps are added to the broth to give it flavor.Arnel’s Laswa (Ilonggo term for vegetable soup)
- Pancit or noodles. This is a dish that we can associate with Chinese cuisine but it is also found in most Asian countries. Noodles made of flour, are usually used in the Philippines. Luzon regions are famous for their pansiteria where you find pancit batil patong, pancit cabagan,pancit luglug and many more versions. And of course, in the genre of pansit is our famous batchoy or noodles with soup topped with pork skin, liver and egg.
- Tinapa or smoked fish, alternatively also sardines. Like we cannot get enough of sardines, they say since it is usually associated with the ones inside a can, cheap and ideal if one cannot afford expensive dishes. I think there is always a can of sardines in every Filipino household. But aside from the canned version, Filipinos are really fond of homemade sardines, the ones either pressure-cooked or smoked. It’s definitely delicious especially with steaming white rice. Mindanao cities like Dipolog have great sardines. But the bangus sardines of Dagupan is also yummy. For old-style smoked tinapa, we get those outside of El Ideal store in Silay City, Negros Occidental.
- Tinola, Sinigang, or any stew-like dish that combines meat, chicken, fish and vegetables. Other countries claim to have great tasting stew but wait till they have tried out delicious fish or chicken tinola, pork or beef sinigang. And in this category I will have to insist in including my husband’s forte – the KBL (kadios, baboy, langka).
- Sinugba or grilled food. The smell of charcoal-grilled food will drive every Filipino crazy, especially fish. Our version of BBQ (barbecue) is to die for. Sugba is our local word for grill. The best way to enjoy this dish is to secure really fresh ingredients. Sprinkle just enough salt to taste and throw the item to the fire. One classic example of grilled delight is the famous Bacolod chicken inasal. Please read my separate write-up about it.
- Crispy Dishes. All kinds of Crispy, from crispy tadyang to crispy shrimps. Filipinos absolutely like fried, oily food not for its oiliness but its crispiness. The crackling sound of food is like music to the ears. Vinegar is the usual condiment for anything crispy. In the genre of crispy you can add the common torta or anything wrapped in eggs and deep fried in oil and lumpia style or ground meat wrapped in a special edible wrapper, also fried in oil .
I have more than ten favorite Philippine dishes but for now let me just guide my friends from other countries with these shortlist. I am sure you will love your food adventure in the Philippines.
To follow real time updates from me – I have an FB site called My Food Treasure Map. https://web.facebook.com/foodtreasuremap/