Filipino food was developed out of making the most of locally available ingredients along with influences from nearby Asian countries.
Lechon Baboy (Roast Pig)
Lechon baboy (roast pig) is a pig grilled over hot coals and is stuffed with a mixture of garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass, salt, pepper, bay leaves and star anise.
While most lechon sold are fully grown pigs, there are also suckling pigs that are being sold. These are pigs that are only two to six weeks old.
There are special lechon variants which are stuffed with paella (a rice dish with saffron and seafood) or with crabs, shrimps and clams.
The lechon is always the star attraction in town fiestas and special occasions.
It is usually served with a sauce made out of pork liver, sugar, vinger and pepper.
Lechon Manok (Roast Chicken)
Lechon manok (roasted chicken) is a chicken grilled over hot coals and is marinated in a mixture of garlic, onion, ginger, lemongrass, salt and pepper.
It is usually served with a sauce made out of pork liver, sugar, vinegar and pepper.
Lechon manok has become so popular that many chains opened to sell the dish to the public.
The most popular ones are Andok's, Baliwag, Mang Bok’s, Uling Roasters and Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro.
Kare Kare (Ox Tripe in Peanut Sauce)
Kare Kare is a beef, ox tripe or ox tail stew in peanut sauce.
This stew is usually cooked in clay pots and is filled with vegetables such as egg plant, string beans, banana blossoms and bok choy.
Toasted ground rice or peanut butter is used as a thickener for the peanut sauce.
The dish is then mix with bagoong (shrimp paste) to add saltiness to the dish.
Kare Kare is a special dish usually reserved for fiestas and special occassions.
Balut (Duck Embryo)
Balut is a steamed fertilized duck embryo that is typically two to three weeks old.
The embryo inside is soft enough to be eaten whole.
This snack is typically sold in stalls or by vendors carrying the eggs in baskets.
A lot of Westerners are appalled by the duck eggs so it has been featured in Fear Factor as a challenge for contestants to eat.
The best balut is said to come from the city of Pateros.
Chicken and Pork Adobo (Chicken and Pork in Soy Sauce and Vinegar)
Adobo is chicken and pork marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, onion, garlic, peppercorns, sugar and bay leaves.
Some variants add oyster sauce, coconut milk or pineapples to add variety.
For the protein you can choose to have chicken, pork or a combination of both.
The combination of spices make for a rich sauce that is good on rice and gives the dish a distinctive aromatic flavor.
Chicharon (Pork Rinds)
Chicharon is a popular snack made out of pork rind or pork belly. This is usually dried then deep fried.
What makes this special is the puffiness and crispness of the chicharon.
The sauce for this snack is vinegar with onion and chili pepper.
The province of Bulacan is supposedly where the best chicharon is sourced.
Bistek (Beef Stew)
Bistek or beefsteak is one of the best dishes to top on rice as it is beef sirloin with a tasty sauce.
The sauce is comprised of soy sauce, kalamansi (Philippine lemon), black pepper, garlic, salt and onions.
The rich sauce gets absorbed by the meat and provides an aromatic flavor. It is also excellent in helping flavor your rice.
You can also choose to top your bistek with homemade potato fries.
Pork Sinigang (Sour Pork Stew)
Sinigang is a sour pork stew that uses different souring agents such as sampalok (tamarind), kamias (ginger lily), kalamansi (Philippine lemon) and santol (cotton fruit).
Usually the cut used for this dish is pork belly or spare ribs.
The dish is then cooked in a mixture of vegetables such as tomato, onion, kangkong (Chinese spinach), sitaw (string beans) and gabi (taro).
Sinigang is a popular dish especially during the rainy season as it is a good and hearty meal during cold weather.
Halo Halo (Shaved Ice Sundae)
Halo Halo in English can be translated as "mixture." This perfectly describes this desert as it is a mixture of different ingredients. What
is common to all halo halo variants however are milk and shaved ice.
Popular ingredients are langka (jackfruit), ube (purple yam), sago (tapioca pearls), minatamis na saging (sweetened bananas), nata de coco (coconut jelly), gulaman (agar jelly), kamote (sweet potato), pinipig (rice crispies), leche flan (caramel custard), ice cream, barquillos (wafer sticks), munggo (sweetened mung beans), macapuno (shredded coconut meat) and garbansos (sweetened chickpeas).
Being a tropical country, the Philippines is hot and temperatures can reach up to 42.2 degrees Celsius (107.96 degrees Fahrenheit). So cooling down with a sweet and cold desert is a common practice in this archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.
Pares (Beef Stew with Garlic Rice)
Pares in English means pair. The reason it is called as such is because the beef stew with the special sauce is paired with garlic fried rice. The term pares was coined by Roger Tiu and Mrs. Lolita ” Lolly” Tiu. The couple started their restaurant called Jonas' Pares. Their goal was to provide a fine dining experience to the common man.
Pares is usually served with beef soup. The soup comes from boiled beef bones and is topped with fresh spring onions.
The beef stew is made from cubed beef brisket that has been stewed in a mixture of brown sugar, soy sauce, star anise, dried bay leaves, cornstarch, black pepper, onion, garlic and salt.
The beef stew is likewise topped with spring onion.
Pares is a popular street food and could be found all over the Philippines as it is a full and satisfying meal for a low price.
© 2021 Jan Michael Ong