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.
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 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:
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:
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.
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.
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!)
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!
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…
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.
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
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