Filipino cuisine is a delicious mix of Spanish, Chinese and indigenous influences. // © 2015 Creative Commons User nicoleabalde
Feature image (above): Pork shoulder adobo is a classic example of Filipino food. // © 2015 Creative Commons User lumachrome
The Philippines’ cuisine is an amalgamation of indigenous recipes and Spanish and Chinese influence. While some of these dishes may be found in other countries, the Philippines adds its own unique spin.
Below are five can’t-miss dishes that showcase all the best things about Filipino food: its intense flavor, creativity and resourcefulness. So, pass the pancit, and try not to look too long at the balut (duck embryo).
No list about Filipino food is complete without mentioning adobo. While adobo is native to Spanish cuisine, the Filipino version of marinating meat and seafood in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic is indigenous to the Philippines.
Chicken adobo is a popular variation, as well as pork adobo. Adobo exemplifies Filipino resourcefulness, as the marinade allows meat and seafood to take on a longer shelf life and maintain its flavor.
Balut is infamous not because of its taste, but because of how it looks. It is, after all, a half-boiled duck embryo tucked inside its own shell. Commonly sold as street food, balut can also be marinated in adobo or served salted. How old the embryo inside of the shell is entirely regional — some prefer their embryo with bones and others without. Those in the know will recommend that you slurp the warm soup inside before you eat the rest.
Filipino champorado, a chocolate-flavored rice porridge, can be traced back to Mexico, where champurrado is a chocolate drink made with either corn flour or maize. The Filipino version, however, uses sticky rice and cocoa powder instead and can be served warm or cold. Champorado aficionados will tell you to always thin out the thick porridge by adding a little extra milk — and pour in some more sugar while you’re at it.
Kare-kare is a Filipino stew made of oxtail and various vegetables, such as eggplant or green beans, which is then thickened with peanut butter (a staple of Filipino dishes that can even be found in Filipino spaghetti). Kare-kare is a dish for special occasions, but its rich taste will make you want to eat it daily.
Pancit palabok is a shrimp-flavored noodle dish topped with pork cracklings, boiled shrimp and hard-boiled eggs. The dish is so ubiquitous that the Philippines’ famous chain of fast-food restaurants, Jollibee, offers its own version. Pancit palabok is just one way the Philippines prepares pancit (noodles), which is typically served at birthday parties to symbolize longevity for the birthday boy or girl — so don’t cut those long noodles!
Pork sisig is created by chopping up a pig’s ears, liver and face and then seasoning the mix with chili peppers and calamansi, a citrus fruit native to the Philippines. The dish was invented by Lucia Cunanan, which put her city, Angeles City, on the map as the “Sisig Capital of the Philippines.” Pork sisig is considered the perfect complement to beer and is usually served as an appetizer.