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From Barbecue to Balut – a Quick Look at Filipino Cuisine

Despite being a heavily populated country with a large diaspora abroad, the cuisine of the Philippines has quite surprisingly not found as much popularity as its neighbours Vietnam and Thailand. Despite several hundred years of colonisation by the Spanish and the Americans, the Philippines has a cuisine that has evolved and adapted to locally available ingredients.

If you are travelling to the Philippines for the first time, you might have no idea what to expect in terms of food. This is an attempt to demystify the food eaten by the millions of inhabitants in this archipelago of more than 7,000 islands.

As a nation that is both multicultural and divided into many islands, one cannot expect all of the Philippines to have a singular monotonous cuisine. In coastal areas, seafood is aplenty and is the main source of protein. In most of the Philippines, though, meat – particularly pork and chicken – feature heavily. Being situated in the tropical region of the world, the Philippines enjoys plenty of sunshine and heat, allowing a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

As for the meals, a typical Filipino meal will be a meat-rich food served with white rice, followed by a delicious sweet dessert. Although Filipino food is rarely spicy, hot sauce is available as an accompaniment for those who can handle the heat. Common flatware is used, as chopsticks will only be found in authentic Chinese restaurants in cities.

Common Menu Items

Let’s take a close look at some of the common menu items that you might see in an authentic Filipino restaurant or typical eatery.

  • Adobo – although it shares its name with the Spanish adobo, it is a different dish – a meaty treat – typically chicken or pork – cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, and a few spices. There are many ways of making adobo, but all are eaten with the Filipino staple of white rice. For the authentic adobo taste, go for a version prepared in a traditional clay pot.
  • Lechon – Bringing you memories of medieval re-enactments, Lechon is simply suckling pigs, skewered and slow-roasted over charcoal until they become a scalded red. Lechon is popular at parties, festivals, gatherings, buffets, and eateries that specialise in rotisserie-style pork
  • Kinilaw – this is the local take on ceviche. Kinilaw is raw fish, ‘cooked’ without heat in vinegar and citrus, and garnished with chillies and onions. It is one of the best raw fish dishes you will ever taste.
  • Asado – Similar to Chinese barbecued pork skewers, Asado is typically meat barbecued and braised with a sweet marinade.
  • Lumpia – Lumpia are spring rolls (not fried) stuffed with lettuce, lean meat, garlic, and crushed peanuts. Bean sprouts, tofu, and carrots may be added for additional flavour and crunch. Lumpia is typically served with a dipping sauce.

Desserts like no other

Filipino desserts might dazzle those unfamiliar with them, owing to their colours and flavours, but once you dig in, you will realise the rich deliciousness of these desserts.

  • Halo – in the Tagalog language, its name means “Mix mix”, and you will understand why it is named the same after you see it for yourself. Although preparations may vary, Halo Halo is always created using shaved ice, evaporated milk (or condensed milk for those who love it very sweet), and a range of fruits and beans. Ice cream may be added for additional flavour. Halo Halo is typically served unmixed in a tall glass for presentation, and the tradition is to mix everything up well before you start eating.
  • Buko Pandan – A mix of tapioca pearls, evaporated milk, condensed milk, shredded young coconut, and jelly (agar or normal), flavoured with Pandan, is a popular dessert that is also easy to make.

Balut in the Philippines – not exactly everyone’s cup of tea

For anyone in the West, or outside of the Philippines, Balut may sound like something created for a horror movie or reality show. In fact, several reality shows have featured them as part of a challenge. Balut is a fertilized duck egg, where the embryo is allowed to grow halfway, and hard-boiled and eaten like a normal egg. Removing a couple of small feathers from one’s mouth while chewing on it is common to practise. Although it sounds like an exotic dish Filipinos take out to scare tourists, it is a commonly eaten snack throughout the Philippines. Most locals like to add some salt, garlic, or vinegar to enhance flavour.

For food lovers, the world over, the Philippines is a must-visit an exotic destination, and who better to make travel arrangements with than Mabuhay Travels? Contact us today, and we will find you the cheapest ticket prices to any destination in the Philippines.

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I’m a friendly and hardworking person who strives to be better in whatever I put my mind to. I love to travel and experience different cultures around the world. Coming from an attractive town in London. I been in this field for the past few years and have loved where it has taken me. I acquired a talent for writing and I’m the latest articles writer for Mabuhay Travel Blog.

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