Philippines Food

What to Eat in Philippines

Filipino food has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to a cuisine predominantly built around Hispanic dishes fused with Asian influences. Rice is the staple of Filipino cuisine, usually mixed with fried fish or meat. Common dishes are meat stews and vegetables marinated in vinegar, grilled fish and a wide variety of soups and noodles. Barbecued skewers of meat or seafood, pieces of fried pig skin and green papaya strips are popular snacks. Regional specialties include grilled pig's cheek and ears, vegetables sautéed in fermented shrimp paste and chicken liver with chili and onions.

Kain na tayo – ‘lets eat’, is a common phrase travellers will often hear. As in all Asian countries eating is an integral part of the culture and something the population loves to do communally. Other than the three staple meals a day the Filipinos love their 'meryenda', which literally means snack. These in-between meal snacks can include bihon – fried rice sticks or goto which is Filipino congee. Another popular snack is bibingka, delicious fluffy rice cakes topped with cheese.

It is no secret that coconuts are used a lot in creating Filipino dishes. Cooking meat and vegetables using coconut milk creates dishes called guinatan. These dishes originated in the Malay side of Filipino cuisine. Apart from that, coconuts are also used in creating mouth-watering desserts like bibingka (puddings made of ground rice, sugar and coconut milk, baked in a clay oven, topped with fresh, salted duck eggs) and macapuno (thick dessert jam). For dessert try halo halo which consists of a glass of ice, packed with fruits, coconut, baby corn, ice cream, caramel and a number of other tropical delights.

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National Dishes

The roots of the cuisine can be found in Malay, Chinese and Spanish fare. Even though this is a country made up of thousands of islands there are only a handful of national dishes eaten across the land. Unlike its surrounding Asian counterparts, hot chilies are not a predominant ingredient in Filipino dishes, although rice it also used as a base and staple ingredient.

The reputation of Filipino food precedes it, but not necessarily for the right reasons. This is primarily a consequence of the balut dish – a boiled duck egg containing a partially developed embryo, sometimes with tiny feathers. In truth the food is pretty mild and somewhat bland but nonetheless a satisfactory feed.  Dishes are eaten with a fork and spoon.


Made from chicken, pork, squid (pusit) or vegetables stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. It is believed that this dish was derived, and then, Filipinized from the Spanish adobado, a more complicated preparation soaked in garlic and oil.


Another popular national cuisine of the Philippines is the bistek or beef and onion rings braised in soy sauce. This dish is what one would call beef steak, Filipino-style – with a touch of soy sauce.


Lechon (litson) is an important dish at many fiesta occasions. Lechon is a suckling pig, slowly roasted over live coals to make it crispy and tasty. This dish is often served with a thick liver sauce, simmered with vinegar, sugar and herbs and is eaten during religious festivals, and as you might imagine it can feed a lot of people.

Lumpia Prito

Lumpia or better known as spring rolls in English are filled with vegetables and meat. This dish tastes great when served with soy sauce, vinegar or a slightly sweet sauce, sometimes eaten with banana ketchup and soy sauce.


The lightly boiled, slightly sour soup known as sinigang is served with rice. This soup is cooked using souring agents like unripe guavas, tamarind leaves and flowers, kamias and tomatoes. There are different varieties of sinigang such as sinigang na isda (sour vegetable soup with fish) and sinigang na baboy (sour vegetable soup with pork).

Street Food in Philippines

Street food sold by vendors in cities and towns across Asia is what the vast majority of the general public snack on. Generally speaking it is the cheapest food to be found, while still being very tasty. Some of these are skewered on bamboo sticks like a kebab or served in a parcel made from a banana leaf. Below are some of the most commonly eaten and found street foods.


Adidas are grilled chicken feet on skewers; named after the three stripes in the brand's logo.


Banana-cue is saba (a fat cooking variety of banana) that's coated with brown sugar and deep-fried in oil; one large or two small bananas are served on a skewer.


Betamax is chicken or pig's blood that's dried and roasted; served cut into small cubes.


Kamote-cue is sweet potato that's coated with brown sugar and deep fried; several large pieces are served on a thin bamboo skewer.


Taho is a drink made from soft bean curd sweetened with caramel syrup... You can spot a taho vendor from afar as he carries two large metal cans suspended on a stick over his shoulder.


Turon is banana, wrapped like a spring roll and deep fried; jackfruit is sometimes included in the filling.


Walkman is pig's ears that are marinated and then grilled on skewers.


If you are invited to a Filipino's house, never refer to your host's wife as a 'hostess'. This has a negative meaning in the Philippines. Dress well. Appearances matter and you will be judged on how you look. If you send a handwritten 'thank you' note to the hosts in the week following the dinner or party it shows you have class and will be a clear sign of appreciation that will not go unnoticed.

Always wait to be asked several times before moving into the dining room or helping yourself to food. Do not start eating until the host invites you to do so. Meals are often served family-style or as a buffet where guests serve themselves. Hold the fork in the left hand and use it to guide food to the spoon in your right hand. Whether you should leave some food on your plate or finish everything is a matter of personal preference rather than a culture-driven gesture, although a cleared plate speaks volumes in terms of appreciation.

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