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Eating Your Way Through the Philippines: Famous Filipino Dishes

The Filipino consumes three substantial meals a day on average. In addition to those meals, they also enjoy snacks in between.

Food is one of the things Filipinos love dearly - as you can imagine.

Philippine cuisine features a wide range of unique dishes. Thanks to the Filipinos’ love of food and aversion to food waste, they developed exquisite dishes that are still part of their culture.

It’s possible that you’ve eaten something which may have been Filipino in origin. Some are sweet, some are savory, and others are downright weird, as you have probably noticed. It does not taste like much at first, but it grows on you as you get used to it.

Unlike other cuisines, it isn’t as flamboyant or classy-looking. Although it’s not the best, it’s still very popular among both casual diners and gourmets. One unique characteristic of Philippine gastronomy is the homey, warm, and colorful taste that reflects Philippine culture.

There are many things to discover here in the world, especially when it comes to good food. The sheer number of options available can make it difficult to decide where to start. Is there any better place to be than on a seven thousand island archipelago?

You surely won’t regret eating in the Philippines.

Exploring the Philippine Gastronomic Culture

Discovering the Classics is the best way to familiarize yourself with Filipino Food if you’re thinking about trying it out for yourself. Here are a few that you should try when visiting the Philippines.

  1. Kare-Kare
kare kare Among the many Filipino dishes, Kare-kare is said to have the most varied origins. Photo by Cala on Unplash

A typical Kare-Kare recipe contains beef, oxtails, peanut sauce, and several vegetables, such as eggplant, pechay, banana heart, and green beans.

The perfect complement to this dish is bagoong (shrimp paste), as it creates an incomparable mélange of savory flavors.

It is unknown when or how Kare-kare as a Filipino cuisine originated. According to other sources, the name kare-kare is heavily influenced by Indian curry, while those from Pampanga (in the Philippines) claim to have created the recipe themselves.

It doesn’t matter where Kare-Kare originated, Filipinos still enjoy it, especially because preparing it is difficult and meticulous. When it is prepared in a Filipino home, you can bet that the entire family will be gathered around to enjoy it.

  1. Bulalo

Filipinos are known for their love of stews and soups. A dish like Bulalo, or beef shank stew, certainly doesn’t slack off when it comes to meeting their standards.

Beef shanks and bone marrow are simmered slowly with fish sauce, onions, and peppercorns in water, then the vegetables are added, resulting in a flavorful soup. Considering the amount of love and care it takes to prepare this dish, it’s no wonder why it’s one of the most popular soups in the Philippines.

Have you ever been in a bad mood? Do you want something to warm you up during a rainy, cold night? Filipinos believe the best way to deal with this is to have a nice, steaming cup of Bulalo.

When you’re in need of comfort food, this dish is sure to please you.

  1. Kaldereta

Kaldereta, a popular Filipino dish composed of beef stew and tomato sauce, is surprisingly tasty and rich.

There are several ways to prepare this dish. It is also possible to use goat meat, pork, or chicken in place of beef in this mouthwatering dish.

kaldereta on pan Any karenderia, or local eatery, is bound to have Kaldereta as a food choice. Photo by Artur Kornakov on Unplash

A common ingredient in Kaldereta recipes is liver paste. It thickens the sauce by adding substance to it. There are a few places in the Philippines, however, that use peanut butter or coconut milk instead.

Surely, this dish should not be missed when exploring Philippine cuisine. Filipino households have long considered it to be one of the few staple dishes.

  1. Sinigang

Another Filipino classic is Sinigang, a soup broth that is sour but utterly delightful.

There are two main variations of this dish: beef and pork. The Philippines abroad enjoy this dish because it is easy to prepare and is a comfort food favorite.

There’s a Filipino joke that says to keep the title of Filipino you must love Sinigang, but obviously that is a joke. That proves just how widespread the popularity of this dish is, regardless of whether it’s Filipino.

The flavors of this tangy dish are usually attributed to tamarind, kamias, and various vegetables. Filipino cuisine uses interchangeable meats, just like their other dishes. No matter what you choose, you’ll find yourself shivering in the delicious sourness of Sinigang.

  1. Adobo

Every native of the Southeast Asian country thinks of adobo when they think of comfort food. It is considered the unofficial national dish of the Philippines. This is one of the dishes that are often found at Filipino parties.

This dish is actually known as Adobo because of the method of preparing it, which involves marinating the meat in garlic, vinegar, and soy sauce. Adding a bay leaf, star anise, and whole black pepper makes this aromatic dish even more savory.

Filipino food on pan Adobo is most enjoyed by Filipinos living overseas, as it brings back memories to when they lived in the Philippines. Photo by Eiliv-Sonas Aceron on Unplash

Perhaps you’re thinking, isn’t Adobo a Mexican seasoning? There is a strange coincidence between their names, even though they are used differently by the two ends of the spectrum.

The bottom line:

Mexican Adobo = a type of seasoning used for marinades

Filipino Adobo = the cooking technique itself

  1. Lechon

This dish is what Filipinos are most looking forward to eating among all other dishes on the table. This is the best Filipino food for parties.

Whenever Filipinos have a gathering, Lechon is a must-have. The aroma of a completely roasted pig with superbly crisp skin is impossible to resist once you have tried it. You’ll feel even more so after you bite into something!

Although this dish is well-liked by many people, it is typically served only at special occasions. Typically, Filipinos spend several hours roasting the Lechon, which makes it even more special to them.

To avoid wasting any leftover food, Filipinos usually bring leftovers over to their home before leaving a party. Lechon leftovers are often made into Paksiw or Sisig so as not to waste any bit of food.

But the secret to what really makes all these dishes delicious is…

Rice.

Humba with Rice Filipinos take the infamous quote “rice is life” to the next level. There’s never a meal without this staple. Photo by Ke Vin on Unsplash

Whenever these dishes are served with the ultimate Filipino staple, they taste better than ever.

The Filipino people are avid consumers of rice, similar to their Asian neighbors. It’s cemented itself in Filipino eating culture. Adding this scratch-filled carbohydrate to Filipino cuisine completes its saucy nature.

A Filipino household never goes without rice for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. The Philippines are famous for their rice, so don’t be surprised if you see rice on the menu. It’s masarap, as the Filipinos say!

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