The many islands of the Philippines have not only produced a diverse set of cultures but they have also introduced an array of dishes that are unique to the country. From the highlands, to the coastal areas, to the far flung towns, each one boasts of fresh ingredients as well as delicious dishes.
To give you an idea of what to try out the next time you travel, here are 10 must-try regional dishes in the Philippines.
1. Adobong Dilaw
Adobo is typically brown in color because soy sauce is used as a main ingredient. But in the town of Taal in Batangas, they have their own version called the adobong dilaw because of the use of turmeric. It looks like it’s curry because of its color but it is in fact, a different version of adobo.
Bohol’s calamay is a delicious delicacy that needs some appreciation. Like many dishes, each province or town has their own version of it. In the town of Jagna in Bohol, calamay is made out of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Peanut is sometimes added in some versions of this delicacy. It takes several hours of laborious stirring for it to turn into the sweet and sticky Jagna calamay.
3. Pancit Batil-Patong
A showcase of vibrant ingredients, Pancit Batil-Patong fills your plate with all kinds of yummy things, all aimed to please your craving to the fullest. It’s traditionally served with minced carabao meat and chopped fresh vegetables and is then topped off with chicharon and egg. Derived from the local term ‘batil patong’ which means ‘to beat the egg’, it is definitely a must-try dish when visiting the province of Cagayan.
4. Tiniim na Manok
General Tinio, Nueva Ecija
This tasty looking chicken dish, marinated and simmered in pineapple juice, is served with a thick peanut-flavored sauce. Once you take a bite, your palate will instantly be treated to rich flavors brought to you by the dish’s many seasonings like pepper, shallots, ginger and other spices.
Have you ever wondered which dish is most likely to stand out in the mind of a traveler who has visited all 81 provinces of the Philippines? For Mervin Marasigan, otherwise known as Pinoy Adventurista, the exotic Kapampangan specialty dish called Betute tops his list of must-eat regional dishes in the country.
Marasigan describes the Betute dish as “deep fried farm frogs stuffed with minced pork, garlic and spices. It tastes like chicken, smells clean and the stuffing is quite flavorful. This is definitely a must-try when dining in Pampanga. You really have to try it.”
A delicacy of Quezon province, sinantol is a blend of seafood and santol in gata (coconut milk). There are versions of this dish that substiture pork or fish instead of crabs and shrimps.
World wanderer Christine Rogador has traveled to many countries but still remembers this interesting dish fondly when asked about her list of favorite food. “The dish has the right combination of sour, salty, spicy and creamy flavors which makes it unique and appetizing. It is usually paired with fried fish or ginangang isda which is what Quezonians call “paksiw,” describes Rogador.
The province of Rizal is known as one of the leading culinary spots in the country, with many of its towns having perfected their own unique manner of preparing food. Angono resident poet and travel writer Celine Reyes recommends a certain dish called Minaluto.
According to Reyes, “Minaluto, a local take on the Spanish paella, is a blend of rice, and popular Filipino viands. Along with the variety of seafood and meat, the dish puts a highlight on Angono’s prized kanduli – a fish with a tasty and versatile meat, caught in the Laguna Lake. It’s definitely a hearty must-try dish!”
Zamboanga and other parts of Mindanao
Zamboanga City, a melting pot of culinary influences from the Moro, Spanish and other southern settlers, presents a long list of interesting dishes. Among those that stand out is the Pyanggang. It’s similar to the typical chicken inasal but it’s laden with rich sauce and it’s black, thanks to the process of mixing it with burnt ground coconut meat. This dish’s taste is made richer by other various spices.
This was my lifesaver during my backpacking trip to Maguindanao some years back. Why? It only costs ₱10-15 per order! Partner it with hot brewed coffee and you’ve got yourself the perfect breakfast to fuel up your day.
Fellow travel blogger Lai Ariel Samangka agrees as he also considers Pastil as go-to comfort food when traveling in this part of the Philippines. “Pastil is the most popular Maguindanaon delicacy in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat. It is made of cooked rice, crowned with sauteed shredded meat of chicken, beef, or fish and perfectly wrapped with a heated banana leaf.”
Food blogger and most recently, newly-minted lawyer, Stacy Liong recommends the Ilocano dish called Insarabasab. “Insarabasab or Sarabasab directly means meat roasted is open fire. Thus, Insarabasab is pork (usually pork shoulder and pig face) roasted in wood fire or char grilled mixed with onions, ginger, vinegar, salt, pepper, siling labuyo, tomatoes, soy sauce, sukang Ilokos and kalamansi. This dish is the Ilocos Norte’s favorite pulutan. Some versions add some mayonnaise making it appear similar to Pampanga’s Sisig.”