The Philippines, also known the as the Pearl of the Orient, is one of the most popular travel destinations in Southeast Asia. The archipelagic country has over 7,100 islands and is home to an amazing number of unique plants and animals.
Thanks to its archipelagic natures, the Philippines is full of scenic white sand beaches, idyllic coves and picturesque bays. For the more adventurous traveler, the country also has plenty of nature trails amidst its lush jungles and mountains.
But one of the most underrated aspects of Philippine culture is its food. When you travel to the Philippines, you should relish every opportunity you have to sample their unique cuisine.
Filipino Cuisine and the World
According to the latest statistics published by the Philippine government, more than 7 million travelers visited the country in 2018. The country caters thoroughly to the needs of tourists and other travelers, with the Department of Tourism dedicated to streamlining your experience. Visiting the country is the best way to experience its unique cuisine.
The Philippine cuisine has been influenced by every country that’s traipsed through the islands. Aside form native ingredients, their dishes also incorporate spice pallets developed during the Spanish occupation, which lasted for more than 300 years. During this period, the Filipino people incorporated ingredients shipped in from Mexico and Spain itself.
There’s also influences from neighboring Asian countries, especially China, Malaysia and Indonesia. This cultural melting pot translates to an extremely unique and inclusive cuisine.
When you’re tired of choosing the usual Pizza Hut toppings, you can try your hand at replicating Filipino dishes without stepping foot in the country. There are an estimated 2.2 million Filipinos living overseas, and you can probably recreate their cuisines with staples from your local supermarket or Filipino grocery.
These markets can carry Barrio Fiesta shrimp paste, a unique condiment used to flavor certain dishes or add a bit of zing to raw ingredients, like water spinach or kangkong, which is a key vegetable in a few Filipino meals.
Filipino Delicacies You Need to Try
When you visit the Philippines, you need to give the following delicacies a try. Although they’re best purchased fresh in the country, if you’re ever fortunate enough to find a Filipino market in your neighborhood, try to look for these offerings on the shelves.
Gourmands who go to Philippines will most like know of this unique dish. Balut is the fermented embryo of a duckling still in the egg. Closed-minded people may find the tableau disturbing, but the balut packs a powerful flavor punch. It’s salty and sour and crunchy at the same time, enhanced with a generous splash of vinegar when eaten.
The Filipino dessert. The name comes form the Filipino words meaning “mixed up,” and indeed the dish needs to be thoroughly mixed before you can enjoy. Halo-halo is presented as layers of sweetened mongo beans, purple yam jam, sweet coconut jelly, flan, jackfruit and shaved ice in a tall glass. Evaporated milk is then poured over the entire thing and you mix it up with a long spoon. It’s the perfect treat for hot afternoons and long summer days.
A unique sour Filipino stew, it’s also a very versatile dish. The core ingredients of sinigang are vegetables, notably water spinach, yard long beans, eggplants and white radishes. The meat ingredients are remarkably changeable, with some recipes using pork and others using milkfish. The key flavor ingredient of sinigang is a souring agent, most often tamarind. This infuses the stew with a zesty flavor unlike any other.
Few big celebrations in the Philippines are complete without the famous lechon. This consists of a whole young pig, slowly roasted over a very hot bed of coals over several hours. The pig is coated repeatedly with savory sauces and roasted until the skin is crackling and the meat is succulent. Traditionally, lechon is served on a bamboo spit over banana leaves.
Technically, tapsilog is a combination meal. But it’s still one of the most memorable dishes in the country. The main component of tapsilog is tapa, dried meat that’s been smoked and cured until its simultaneously sweet, salty and smoky. This is served alongside a fried egg, or itlog in Filipino, and garlic fried rice, or sinangag in Filipino. The term tapsilog comes from the combination of all three. It’s a breakfast meal that’s tough to beat and is as unique to the country as and English breakfast.
The Philippines is more than just a series of beaches and hotels. It’s also home to remarkable culture and a unique cuisine. These delicacies are the best way to taste the true meaning of Philippine culture.