Food and Drink

Information about eating and drinking in the Philippines: Filipino cuisine, regional specialities and mealtime customs...

Filipino food is as diverse as its heritage and as different as its regions. The cuisine is characterised by sweet, salty, sour and spicy flavours, with white rice being a key ingredient in practically every meal in Filipino homes. The cuisine has a family-orientated tradition, so one-pot dishes are commonplace and are usually served alongside a rice accompaniment two or three times a day. Seafood plays a large role in the diet, along with pork (baboy) and beef.

The Filipino culinary identity has emerged from the amalgamation of multiple foreign influences; Malay, Spanish, Central American, Indian, Chinese and North American cuisine have all had a role to play in shaping the strong flavors associated with the country's cuisine.

While preparing food, singing is discouraged, as it is believed that those who do so will be forever considered a bachelor or spinster.  If offered food by your host, it is impolite to decline. Before eating, 'grace' is said at the dinner table in some Filipino homes. The host invites those around the table to start eating.

Singing or arguing while eating is considered rude in the Philippines; It is believed that showing lack of respect for food may mean it is harder to come by in the future. Manners also dictate that one should not leave the table if someone else is still eating, and that one should finish the food on one's plate.

Kamayan means eating with the hands. Although in many urban parts a fork and spoon are used, using hands to eat is a perfectly acceptable and traditional means of dining, especially at home.

Eating Out

Filipinos enjoy their sugar and when eating out in the Philippines a lot of the dishes may be sweeter, or contain more sugar than expected. When out and about there are many options for snacks (pulutan) and street food to choose from. These are served from carinderia food stalls, which are abundant. Examples of the delicacies on offer include:

  • Abodang Mani – Deep-fried peanuts with salt and garlic
  • Adidas – Slang for barbecued chicken feet
  • Banana cue – Deep fried bananas in caramelized brown sugar
  • Balut – Boiled duck embryo eaten from the shell
  • Camote cue – Sugar coated, sliced sweet potato
  • Chicharon Bulaklak – Deep-fried, salty pork intestines
  • Chicharron – Deep-fried pork rinds
  • Fishballs – Deep-fried balls of fish
  • Ginanggang – Grilled skewered bananas with margarine and sugar
  • Isaw – Barbecued pig or chicken intestines
  • Kesong puti – Soft white cheese made from carabao (buffalo) milk
  • Kikiam – Pork and vegetables in a wrap
  • Pan de sal – Small bread buns
  • Tenga – Barbecued pig's ear
  • Tokneneng – Battered boiled egg
  • Tokwa’t baboy – Boiled pork and deep-fried tofu
  • Turon – Sweet, deep-fried spring roll filled with bananas and jackfruit

Fast Food

Fast food has also arrived in the Philippines from the USA. Outlets such as McDonalds, Pizza Hut, KFC and Taco Bell can be found in the Manila area and in some cases across the country. Inspired by their US cousins, domestic fast food chains have sprung up in the Philippines and include:

Chowking (Chinese-style fast food),Goldilocks (cakes and pastries), Gotoking (traditional Filipino dishes served as fast food), Greenwich Pizza (pizza and pasta chain), Jollibee (burgers, fried chicken and spaghetti), Mang Inasal (barbecued fast food) and Tapa King (traditional Filipino dishes served as fast food).

Filipino Ingredients

Meals are often a labor of love and take a few hours to prepare. Filipino meals are cooked for longer and this prolonged preparation time gives the food its intense flavor. Key ingredients in the Filipino kitchen which contribute to the punchy flavors associated with the country's cuisine include:

  • Bagoong – Shrimp paste
  • Banana ketchup – Banana, vinegar and spice condiment
  • Calamansi – Citrus fruit
  • Corned beef – Tinned salted beef
  • Longaniza – Sweet or savory spiced sausage made from chicken, beef or tuna
  • Mang Tomas – All-purpose pork liver and vinegar sauce condiment
  • Patis – Fish sauce
  • Spam – Tinned pork and the word used for ham
  • Sarsa – Sweet sauce.
  • Sukang Iloco – Vinegar derived from sugar cane used for marinating, glazing and dipping
  • Tuyo – Dried fish

Spices and flavorings

Big bursts of flavor are a feature of Filipino food. Spices play a considerable role in giving the food its unique identity. Herbs and spices used in Filipino cuisine include annatto, bay, black pepper, chilli, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, pandan and tamarind (sampalok)

Fruits and Vegetables

The Filipino diet is largely centered around meat but fruits and vegetables are widely available across the islands and are incorporated into most dishes. Included in meals, one may find ampalaya (bitter melon), bananas, batuan fruit, breadfruit, calamansi (golden lime), camote (sweet potato), cassava, coconuts, durian, jackfruit, lime, mango, mangosteen, onion, plantains, pili nut, pitaya (dragon fruit), rambutan, saba banana, tabon-tabon and taro.

Main Dishes (Ulam)

Typical Filipino dishes that are eaten around the country include:

  • Adobo – Meat braised in vinegar, bay leaves, garlic, salt and pepper
  • Batchoy – Noodle soup with pork and beef
  • Crispy pata – Deep-fried pork knuckles
  • Dinuguan – Savory pork stew made from pig's blood, garlic and vinegar. Sometimes called 'Chocolate meat'
  • Kare-kare – Beef and peanut stew
  • Kilawin – Raw seafood dish similar to cerviche cured in vinegar or calamansi juice
  • Lechon kawali – Deep-fried pork belly
  • Lomi – Thick egg noodle soup
  • Lumpia – Spring roll-inspired crispy pastry containing a variety of fillings
  • Pancit bihon– Thin rice noodles
  • Pinangat – Sweet with coconut milk or savoury with fish stew
  • Silog – Fried rice and eggs. The name is usually preceded by their accompaniment for example, tosilog if the fried rice and eggs are served with tocino (pork fat)
  • Sinigang – Fish soup or stew
  • Tapa – Thinly sliced cured meat served grilled or fried.
  • Tocino- Sweet cured pork
  • Torta – Ground beef omelette