Philippine food: What do they eat in the Philippines?

Philippine Food: What Do They Eat in the Philippines?

Are you curious about the culinary delights of the Philippines? Look no further! In this article, we will take you on a mouthwatering journey through the diverse and flavorful world of Philippine cuisine. From traditional dishes passed down through generations to modern fusion creations, the Philippines offers a unique and exciting dining experience. Get ready to explore the rich flavors, vibrant colors, and fascinating cultural influences that make Filipino food a true gastronomic adventure.

Introduction to Philippine cuisine

Philippine cuisine is a unique and diverse blend of flavors and influences that reflects the country’s rich history and cultural heritage. With its tropical climate and abundant natural resources, the Philippines boasts a wide array of ingredients and cooking techniques that contribute to its vibrant culinary landscape.

Regional variations of Philippine food

The Philippines is composed of over 7,000 islands, each with its own distinct culinary traditions and flavors. As a result, regional variations in Philippine cuisine are abundant and offer a delightful culinary adventure for food enthusiasts.

  1. Northern Luzon: In this region, popular dishes include Pinakbet (a vegetable stew), Bagnet (crispy fried pork belly), and Dinakdakan (grilled pig’s head and liver). The cuisine here often features strong flavors and the use of fermented ingredients like bagoong (shrimp paste).

  2. Visayas: The Visayas region is known for its seafood dishes and unique flavor combinations. Some popular dishes include Kinilaw (raw fish marinated in vinegar or citrus juice), Inasal (grilled chicken marinated in a special sauce), and Batchoy (noodle soup with pork offal).

  3. Mindanao: Mindanao’s cuisine is heavily influenced by its Muslim population, resulting in dishes like Beef Rendang (spicy beef curry), Satti (skewered meat served with a peanut sauce), and Sinuglaw (a combination of grilled pork belly and raw fish ceviche). The use of spices, coconut milk, and chili peppers is common in this region.

  4. Bicol: Bicolano cuisine is known for its love of spicy food. Some famous dishes from this region include Bicol Express (pork cooked in coconut milk and chili peppers), Laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk and spices), and Pinangat (fish cooked in coconut milk and wrapped in taro leaves).

These are just a few examples of the regional variations in Philippine cuisine, each offering unique flavors and culinary experiences.

Influences on Philippine cuisine

Philippine cuisine has been shaped by various influences throughout history, resulting in a rich tapestry of flavors and cooking techniques. The following are some of the major influences on Philippine cuisine:

  1. Spanish Influence: The Philippines was colonized by Spain for over 300 years, and Spanish culinary traditions have left a lasting impact on Philippine cuisine. Dishes like Adobo (meat marinated in vinegar and soy sauce), Arroz Valenciana (a version of paella), and Lechon (roast pig) are all examples of Spanish-influenced dishes that have become integral to Filipino cuisine.

  2. Chinese Influence: Chinese traders and immigrants have played a significant role in shaping Philippine cuisine. Noodles, dumplings, and soy-based sauces are commonly used in Filipino-Chinese dishes like Pancit (noodle stir-fry), Siopao (steamed buns), and Lumpia (spring rolls).

  3. Malay Influence: The indigenous Malay people of the Philippines have also contributed to the country’s culinary heritage. Traditional cooking methods such as grilling, boiling, and steaming are prevalent in Malay-influenced dishes like Sinigang (sour soup), Kare-Kare (peanut-based stew), and Halo-Halo (a popular dessert with mixed fruits, beans, and shaved ice).

  4. American Influence: The Philippines was under American rule for several decades, and American culinary influences can be seen in dishes like the Filipino-style spaghetti (with a sweeter sauce), hotdogs in bread rolls, and fried chicken. Fast food chains, such as McDonald’s and KFC, have also gained popularity and become part of the Filipino food culture.

These influences, along with indigenous cooking traditions, have merged to create the unique and diverse flavors that define Philippine cuisine today. Whether you’re a fan of seafood, meat, or vegetarian dishes, the Philippines offers a culinary experience that is sure to satisfy any palate.

Traditional Filipino dishes


Adobo is considered the national dish of the Philippines and is a staple in Filipino cuisine. This classic dish is made by marinating meat, usually chicken or pork, in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, and spices. It is then braised until tender, resulting in a savory and flavorful dish. Adobo’s unique taste comes from the combination of tangy vinegar and the richness of soy sauce. It is often served with steamed rice and is enjoyed by Filipinos across all regions.


Sinigang is another popular Filipino dish known for its sour taste. It is a comforting soup made with a tamarind-based broth, combined with various vegetables and choice of meat, such as pork, beef, or shrimp. The sourness of the tamarind gives sinigang its distinct flavor, which is balanced by the sweetness of the vegetables. This hearty soup is often enjoyed during rainy days or as a main dish in Filipino households. Sinigang is best served piping hot and is commonly eaten with rice.


Lechon is a mouthwatering Filipino delicacy that is often prepared for special occasions and festivities. It is a whole roasted pig cooked over an open fire or charcoal, resulting in a crispy skin and tender, flavorful meat. Lechon is a labor-intensive dish that requires hours of preparation and roasting. The skin is seasoned with various spices and herbs, giving it a deliciously fragrant taste. The meat is succulent and juicy, making it a favorite among Filipinos. Lechon is often the centerpiece of celebrations and is enjoyed with family and friends.

These traditional Filipino dishes, including adobo, sinigang, and lechon, represent the rich culinary heritage of the Philippines. They showcase the diverse flavors and cooking techniques that make Filipino cuisine unique and beloved by many. Whether it’s the savory and tangy adobo, the comforting sourness of sinigang, or the succulent goodness of lechon, these dishes are sure to delight anyone who tries them.

Popular street food in the Philippines


Balut is one of the most unique and popular street foods in the Philippines. It is a fertilized duck egg that is boiled and eaten from the shell. This delicacy is often enjoyed as a snack or appetizer by locals and tourists alike. Balut is known for its interesting texture and rich flavor, making it a must-try for adventurous eaters. The egg is typically incubated for about 14 to 21 days before being cooked, resulting in a partially developed embryo inside. The embryo is considered the highlight of the dish, with locals savoring its soft bones, beak, and feathers. Despite its unusual appearance, balut is highly regarded for its nutritional value, being a good source of protein, calcium, and other essential nutrients.


Isaw is another popular street food that can be found across the Philippines. It refers to grilled chicken or pork intestines skewered on bamboo sticks. This savory delicacy is often marinated in a flavorful blend of spices before being grilled to perfection. Isaw is loved for its smoky aroma and deliciously charred taste. It is commonly served with a tangy vinegar-based dipping sauce, which adds a refreshing kick to each bite. The crispy and slightly chewy texture of isaw is a favorite among locals, making it a staple in street food stalls and night markets. Despite its humble origins, isaw has gained popularity and is now enjoyed by people from all walks of life.


Taho is a beloved Filipino street food that is often consumed as a breakfast or midday snack. It consists of soft tofu, sago pearls, and a sweet syrup made from caramelized sugar. Taho vendors can be easily spotted on the streets, carrying a large metal container with three compartments: one for the warm tofu, one for the sago pearls, and one for the syrup. When ordering taho, the vendor scoops a generous amount of tofu into a cup, adds a spoonful of sago pearls, and drizzles it with the syrup. The resulting dessert-like snack is both creamy and sweet, providing a delightful contrast in flavors and textures. Taho is not only delicious but also a good source of protein and calcium, making it a popular choice for those seeking a quick and energizing treat.

These popular street foods offer a glimpse into the diverse and flavorful culinary scene of the Philippines. Whether you’re a food enthusiast looking to try something new or a traveler wanting to experience the local culture, these unique delicacies should definitely be on your must-try list when visiting the Philippines.

Famous desserts in the Philippines


Halo-halo is a popular Filipino dessert that literally means "mix-mix" in English. It is a refreshing and colorful dessert that consists of various ingredients layered together and topped with shaved ice and sweetened milk. Some common ingredients found in halo-halo include sweetened beans, coconut strings, jellies, fruits, and leche flan. It is then mixed together before being enjoyed. Halo-halo is a delightful treat especially during the hot summer months in the Philippines.

Leche flan

Leche flan is a famous Filipino caramel custard dessert. It is a rich and creamy dessert made from eggs, condensed milk, and caramel syrup. The mixture is steamed until it sets into a smooth and silky texture. The caramel syrup gives the leche flan a sweet and slightly bitter flavor that perfectly complements the custard. Leche flan is often served chilled and is commonly enjoyed during special occasions and celebrations in the Philippines.

Buko pandan

Buko pandan is a popular Filipino dessert that combines the flavors of young coconut and pandan leaves. It is made by mixing shredded young coconut meat, pandan-flavored gelatin cubes, tapioca pearls, and sweetened cream. The pandan leaves give the dessert a distinct aroma and flavor, while the coconut adds a creamy and refreshing element. Buko pandan is often served chilled and is a staple dessert in many Filipino gatherings and festivities.

These famous desserts in the Philippines showcase the country’s love for sweet and indulgent treats. Whether you prefer the colorful and refreshing halo-halo, the rich and creamy leche flan, or the aromatic and creamy buko pandan, these desserts are sure to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a taste of Filipino culinary delights.

Unique ingredients used in Filipino cooking

Fish sauce (Patis)

Fish sauce, known as patis in the Philippines, is a staple ingredient used in Filipino cooking. It is a pungent and salty liquid made from fermenting fish with salt. This condiment adds a distinct umami flavor to many Filipino dishes and is often used as a seasoning or dipping sauce.

Patis is commonly made from anchovies, but other fish varieties such as sardines or mackerel can also be used. The fermentation process takes several months, allowing the fish to break down and release its rich flavors. The resulting sauce is dark amber in color and has a strong aroma that mellows out when cooked.

In Filipino cuisine, patis is used to enhance the taste of soups, stews, and stir-fries. It serves as a base for various sauces, marinades, and dipping sauces. Its unique flavor profile brings out the natural sweetness and savory notes of other ingredients, creating a harmonious blend of flavors in Filipino dishes.

Shrimp paste (Bagoong)

Shrimp paste, or bagoong, is another distinctive ingredient widely used in Filipino cuisine. It is made by fermenting small shrimp, typically mixed with salt, and allowing the mixture to mature for several weeks or months. The result is a strong and savory paste that adds depth and complexity to Filipino dishes.

Bagoong comes in different forms and variations across the Philippines. Some types are made purely from shrimp, while others may include additional ingredients like fish, squid, or even fruits. The paste can range in color from light pink to dark brown, depending on the specific recipe and fermentation process.

Filipinos use bagoong as a condiment, flavoring agent, or even as a main ingredient in certain dishes. It is commonly used in popular Filipino dishes such as kare-kare (oxtail stew), binagoongan (pork cooked with shrimp paste), and pinakbet (mixed vegetable stew). The umami-rich and briny taste of bagoong adds a unique and unforgettable element to Filipino cooking.

Coconut milk (Gata)

Coconut milk, locally known as gata, is a versatile ingredient that plays a significant role in Filipino cuisine. It is extracted from the grated flesh of mature coconuts and is used in both savory and sweet dishes. Coconut milk adds a creamy texture, tropical aroma, and a subtle sweetness to Filipino recipes.

To extract coconut milk, grated coconut flesh is mixed with water and then squeezed or strained to separate the liquid from the solids. The first extraction, known as the "thick milk," is rich and creamy, while the second extraction, called the "thin milk," is lighter and less concentrated.

In Filipino cooking, coconut milk is commonly used in dishes such as adobo (meat stewed in soy sauce and vinegar), ginataang gulay (vegetables cooked in coconut milk), and bicol express (spicy pork dish). It provides a luscious base and helps balance the flavors of spicy or acidic ingredients.

Furthermore, coconut milk is also widely used in Filipino desserts like halo-halo (mixed fruit and shaved ice dessert), biko (sticky rice cake), and bibingka (rice cake). Its natural sweetness and creamy texture make it a beloved ingredient in both savory and sweet Filipino dishes.

The cuisine of the Philippines is a delicious blend of flavors, influenced by its rich history and diverse cultural heritage. From staple dishes like adobo and sinigang to unique delicacies such as balut and lechon, Filipino food offers a wide range of options for both locals and visitors to enjoy. Whether you’re a fan of savory or sweet, spicy or mild, the Philippines has something to satisfy every palate. With its unique culinary traditions and vibrant food scene, it’s no wonder that Filipino cuisine is gaining recognition and popularity worldwide. So, the next time you find yourself wondering, "What do they eat in the Philippines?", be prepared to embark on a gastronomic adventure unlike any other.

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