7 Filipino Dishes You MUST TRY in Manila
Filipino cuisine is not for the faint of heart! As product of both a long history of colonization and a unique geography – an archipelago of 7,107 islands – it is rich, colorful, diverse, and absolutely unapologetic.
Here’s a crash course to 7 Filipino dishes you must try in Manila during the AOUGCC weekend.
Adobo is the quintessential Filipino dish, possibly every foreigner’s introduction to Philippine cuisine starts with this dish. Not to be confused with Mexican adobo, Filipino adobo is basically meat – chicken, pork, beef, lamb, duck, name it – gently simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, garlic, and peppercorn. What’s remarkable about this dish is that even with these base ingredients, there is not one standard Filipino adobo recipe. Foodies say that every province has its signature adobo recipe while some argue that the recipe varies per family. Whether the former or the latter is true, one thing for sure is that Filipinos love their adobo with plenty of rice.
Just like adobo, sinigang can be cooked a myriad ways but the basic formula is meat or seafood in sour broth with an accompaniment of vegetables. The most common variety is pork spareribs in tamarind broth with taro, daikon, water spinach, and that ubiquitous green chili. A single slurp of the broth will let you know if you’re having good sinigang – the sourness should make your lips pucker and then immediately smile.
Sisig is one dish that is distinctly Filipino. Conceived in the country’s culinary capital of Pampanga during the American occupation, it is a testament to the Filipino’s resilience and resourcefulness especially in hard times. Sisig is made of pork face that is boiled, grilled, and then chopped into tiny pieces, smeared with grilled chicken liver, blended and seasoned with onions, vinegar, and red chili pepper until you reach that perfect balance of charred/fatty/spicy goodness. This popular bar chow has received renowned chef/author Anthony Bourdain’s stamp of approval, and that says a lot. Oh, most important tip of all: best enjoyed with a cold bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen.
This is another dish that has earned Anthony Bourdain’s favor. A symbol of abundance and opulence, lechon is often reserved for special occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, and town fiestas. Lechon is a labor of love, a product of hours of whole pig painstakingly roasting on an open spit while a cook braves the heat to slather the skin with a mixture of oil, herbs, and seasonings. This results in a glorious reddish golden skin with the most magical crisp while the meat is rendered tender, juicy, and flavorful.
Traditionally, kare-kare features oxtail, tripe, and native vegetables in a thick gravy-like sauce made from ground peanuts. It is then served with bagoong (sautéed shrimp paste) and a steaming cup of rice. Food historians trace kare-kare’s origins to the 18 th century during the British invasion. As with most dishes, it has evolved over time and given birth to delicious varieties such as seafood kare-kare.
Kinilaw is the healthiest dish you’ll find in this list. It makes it to the list not because of a social-moral obligation to include a healthy dish but because it is so good, it is a definite must try. Similar to the West’s ceviche, kinilaw is fresh seafood cooked in acid, often a combination of vinegar and calamansi (Philippine lime). It is a harmonious marriage of subtle and powerful flavors and textures – sour from the acid, the natural crisp and sweetness of fresh seafood, spiciness from the onions and chili peppers, and a hint of bitterness from the ginger. Favorite produce for kinilaw are tuna, tanigue, and oysters.
Filipinos love to end their meal on a sweet note, and you should, too. Halo-halo perfectly complements the Philippines’ hot weather and can be enjoyed as dessert or merienda. Loosely translated as “mix-mix”, halo-halo features layers of ingredients such as sweetened banana, jackfruit, red beans, macapuno, sweet potato, and nata de coco then topped with shaved ice, then again topped with ube and leche flan and then smothered with milk. What you have to do is mix all the ingredients together so that you end up with a little bit of everything in every delicious spoonful.
When in the Philippines, do as the Filipinos do: don’t scrimp on the sawsawan (dipping sauce) and don’t hesitate to eat with your clean, bare hands – food always tastes better that way!
Article By: Jansie Santos