10 famous foods you must try in the Philippines

Sebastien Chaneac

If you believed half the online blogs about Filipino cuisine, you’d think it was one of the worst places on earth for a foodie. But we think this is simply not the case! Filipino food is endearing, surprising, and full of wonderful flavours.

We travelled around the Philippines extensively as a gay couple and found many traditional yummy prizes to enjoy. With the exception of balut(!), we've put together our favourite foods and drinks from the Philippines that we think everyone must try.

 

This is our video of our travels around the Philippines as a gay couple, focusing on the awesome gay scene of Manila, party island Boracay (pre-cleanup!) and the stunning Palawan.

1. Chicken adobo: the famous Filipino dish

Chicken adobo is one of the most famous foods to try in the Philippines, known and loved by everyone.

Adobo means “marinade” in Spanish and this is just that: chicken (or pork) marinated in a mixture of soya sauce and vinegar. Other ingredients are added depending on whose recipe you follow.

Our recipe for chicken adobo has been simplified to enable us to replicate it at home. A very unique recipe we tried was infused adobo with tea at the excellent gay-owned restaurant: Station 7Tea8S in Quezon City with our local gay friend Dennis.

Tea infused adobo famous foods in Philippines
Trying tea-infused chicken adobo with our friend Dennis

2. Balut: that duck embryo street food snack

Now THIS bad boy always raises eyebrows with every foreigner.

Balut is a developing duck embryo boiled and eaten as a snack in the shell and with a splash of vinegar. This is definitely one of the most famous foods to try in the Philippines and certainly the strangest we've ever tried!

balut famous foods in Philippines
Stefan falling in love with the famous balut on Puka Beach on Boracay island

Balut is popular street food, which originated in the Philippines and is also frequently found in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

The ideal age of the duck embryo is 17 days, when the chick is not old enough to fully show its beak, feathers, claws and the bones are undeveloped.

Sebastien tried a 17 days old balut at Puka Beach on Boracay island and absolutely loved (!) it:

 

3. Kare Kare: oxtail stew

Kare kare is an oxtail and ox tripes stew with lots of vegetables, flavoured with ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter, onions and garlic. It is served with shrimp sauce (‘bagoong’), sometimes spiced with chill and sprinkled with calamansi juice (Filipino lime).

Kare Kare is famous throughout the whole country. The alleged origin of its name is from the word ‘curry’ due to the influence of the Indian community in Metro Manila’s Cainta, Rizal area.

This is seen as comfort food for Filipinos and also for Stefan:

kare kare famous foods in Philippines
Stefan about to go face down into this kare kare

4. Kinilaw: raw fish salad

Kinilaw is similar to the famous Peruvian dish called ceviche. It is a raw fish salad served in an acidic juice, usually kalamansi (Filipino lime) and vinegar, which “cooks” the meat. Kinilaw comes from the word, “kilaw” which means, ‘eaten fresh’.

Other ingredients usually include garlic, ginger, onion, pepper and chilli. We had lots of kinilaw fun at the popular Los Indios Bravos restaurant in Boracay for Sebastien's birthday:

kinilaw famous foods in Philippines
A kinilaw birthday treat for Sebastien on Boracay island

5. SINIGANG: sour meat stew

Sinigang is a meat based sour stew or soup with lots of vegetables. The most popular souring agent is tamarind (sampalok). Pork (baboy) is the most common meat used but chicken, beef and fish are also popular.

Alternative souring agents include guava, tomatoes or kalamansi (Filipino lime). We enjoyed this soup so much that our Filipina friend BC Lee was kind enough to give us her recipe for sinigang.

sinigang famous foods in Philippines
#Stefan serving sinigang# – the new hit song in the Filipino pop charts!

6. Paksiw na lechon: suckling pig prizes

Lechon means ‘suckling pig’ in Spanish and is literally a whole pig roasted over charcoal for many hours for special occasions. This is considered the national dish of the Philippines and the city of Cebu is considered one of the most famous places to eat it.

The leftovers of the lechon are stewed with vinegar and spices and become a delicious dish called paksiw na lechon. Paksiw literally means: to cook and simmer with vinegar.

paksiw na lechon famous foods in Philippines
Sebastien trying paksiw na lechon in Malate, Metro Manila

7. Tapsilog: a cured beef breakfast treat

Taspsilog is a famous Filipino breakfast, which refers to the contents comprising the meal. In this case, cured beef (tapa), fried rice (sinangag) and a fried egg (itlog).

Variants include ‘adosilog’ (adobo with fried rice and fried egg), litsilog (lechon with fried rice and egg) and ‘Stefansilog’ (a Stefan with fried rice and egg…ok this one is us being silly!)

Stefan with tapsilog breakfast famous foods in Philippines
A Stefansilog breakfast: Stefan served with tapa (beef), sinangag (fried rice) and an itlog (fried egg)

8. Halo halo: a cheeky dessert

This is THE famous Filipino dessert. Halo Halo (meaning ‘mixed together’ in Filipino) is served in a tall glass containing ice shavings, evaporated milk and various small chunks of yummy goodies all mixed in together.

Yummy goodies include boiled kidney beans, chickpeas (“garbanzo”), sugar palm fruit (“kaong”), jackfruit, tapioca, sweet potato, sweet beans, coconut gel, ice cream, guava paste, purple yam and many more!

The end result is a tropical, colourful and exciting mess: great for the beach!

halo halo famous foods in Philippines
Two greedy boys about to fight over this halo halo

9. Buko: the Filipino coconut

Buko is the word for coconut in the Filipino language (called Tagalog). No day in the Philippines was complete for us without the famous buko…first the juice, then eating the yummy fleshy fruit inside.

We quickly became the Bucoholics of Boracay…

buco famous foods in Philippines
Stefan and Sebastien becoming the bukoholics of Boracay

The Philippines is the second-largest producer of the world’s coconuts (after Indonesia) and the coconut tree called the ‘Tree of Life’.

The Filipinos make good use of the tree, other than the many uses of the fruit itself, you can also use it as wood fire, the leaves for thatching, the coconut husk to make ropes and many more.

10. Rum: the Filipino drink of choice

The Philippines is The big rum producer in Asia and is the Filipino’s spirit of choice. It’s made from sugar cane and usually cheaper than bottled water.

Tanduay rum has been around since 1854. It is so famous throughout Asia that it has become the world's second most popular rum brand in the world after Bacardi.

Tanduay rum and coke famous drinks in Philippines
Sebastien enjoying one of the many delights of the Philippines!
Travel advice for LGTBQ community

Advice for LGBTQ travellers to the Philippines

The information we present in this guide is from our experience and perspective travelling as a gay couple in the Philippines, a destination we found to be one of the most gay friendly countries in Asia. However, homophobia is still prevalent in more rural and remote areas, so LGBTQ travellers should take care. Also, we advise all travellers to avoid the south, especially Mindanao, the Sulu Archipelago and the Zamboanga Peninsula as violent crime is prevalent there. For more, read out our article about why we think the Philippines is such a gay friendly country.

Happy travels are safe travels

We recommend you always take out travel insurance before your next vacation. What happens if you suffer from illness, injury, theft or a cancellation? With travel insurance, you can have peace of mind and not worry. We love World Nomads travel insurance and have been using it for years. Their comprehensive coverage is second to none and their online claims process is very user friendly.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, an activity or your insurance, we’ll earn a small commission. There is never an extra cost to you for using these links and it helps us keep the site going.

Sebastien Chaneac

Sebastien is the co-founder, editor and author of nomadicboys.com. He is a tech geek, a total travel nerd and a food enthusiast. He spends the majority of his time planning Nomadic Boys' travels meticulously right down to the minute details. Sebastien has travelled to over 80 countries with his partner in crime and the love of his life, Stefan. He regularly shares his expertise of what it’s like travelling as a gay couple both on Nomadic Boys and on prominent publications ranging from Pink News, Matador, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian and many more. Originally from France, Sebastien moved to London in the early 2000s where he pursued a career as a computer programmer for Thompson Reuters and Bloomberg. He subsequently left it all to explore his passion for travelling around the world with Stefan to hand, and thus Nomadic Boys was born. Find out more about Nomadic Boys.

78 thoughts on “10 famous foods you must try in the Philippines”

  1. Wow! Amazing food list i love to eat all this mention food. Thank you for sharing such useful information about famous food in the Philippines.

  2. Wow.. nice foods to their… thanks for the sharing this blog post.. it’s very nice and you did good job.. please keep up with a new post.

  3. After seeing all the filipino foods listed above it makes me hungry now. I wanna eat balut again and also paksiw. I love these two foods (street food and main dish food). Thanks stefan and sebastian for the awesome blog about our (filipino) foods! Great blog!

  4. Loved your post! So helpful! I will definitely be driven by your advice in my food choices while visiting Philippines 🙂 and I just saw your video from PH and omg… I just can’t wait to go there! 😀

    all the best!

  5. Nice!!! I love that food. I love several times in the Philippines and my favorite is the pork sinigang and pancit bihon 😉 oh… And chicken adobo 😉 hehe

  6. Warm balut with salt is my best combination. Crack the shell of the pointed side of the balut, slurp the warm soup and then drizzle the meat with a good pinch of rock salt, Then if you can eat in one mouthful.
    Yummm..

  7. Well, for me Filipino food is a bit too salty, sweet, oily, and sour. Hardly to find any food with veggies there. I always have problem with my digestion while traveling there. Sorry Filipino friends, I just said the truth 🙁

  8. Haha, I love Balut! Well not love, but I think it’s actually pretty tasty 🙂 Not the hard part though, which my Filipino girlfriend at that time let me eat while while laughing behind my back 😮

    My favorite Filipino food is Ampalaya actually. It’s bitter lemon with scrambled eggs and tomatoes. It’s something you either love or hate I figure. I love it.

    Cheers! Gulp gulp gulp…

  9. It was fun reading your blog. And thank you for giving great comments about our food 🙂 next time when you come back, try the sisig, pares and bulalo 🙂

  10. Your great food and travel blog brings back wonderful memories of my visits to the Philippines (and enjoying Philippine food among friends in Paris). It is interesting what you say about the coconut. Coconut oil was one of the main cooking oils used in the US until the 1980s when the American soybean lobby mounted a successful campaign to discredit coconut oil as a highly saturated fat, bad for health – and thus captured the US (and European) market for soya. The health risks have since been debunked (while soya – and palm oil – is highly questionable) so we can now sip coconut oil without feeling guilty!

    • Thanks for that Wilfrid! Whenever shopping for groceries in Asia we’re always stumped as to which one to buy and this now explains why Palm Oil is so cheap compared to Coconut.

  11. Omg! Ur finally here in the gayest country ever! Yay! Ur missing some more islands here. Lemme know guys happy to give a tour. U guys are in the national paper today. Love love ur blog!

    • Thanks Jake! We loved the Philippines so much – incredible country and THE nicest people ever 🙂 Yes we missed too many islands and therefore need to return for you to show us some? We’d love that.

      • U got it guys. Just send me an email. Happy travel! Another cool place to go and tolerate to our community is Bali. I went there like 3 yrs ago and it was really nice.

  12. Even though he didn’t finish eating the balut, Sebastien is still a good sport for at least trying it. From the looks of it, you got the ‘balut sa pula’ (which means the chick is fully formed with feathers and all).. it does have a gritty (feathery?) taste hehehe… If you get another chance, better ask for ‘balut sa puti’… all you will have is a mushy white stuff along with the yolk… it goes down much better than its gritty counterpart :). It’s great to eat balut late at night and you haven’t had any sleep. Where’s Stefan’s balut eating attempt? 🙂

    Thank you for this list and I learned something new too… good to know you enjoyed the food!

  13. I don’t know if I could eat the duck egg! :/ But the Ox tail soup looks yummy! Plus those coconuts!! You boys always slay it! 🙂 Happy Travels!!!

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