Influenced by the Muslims, Spaniards, Chinese, and settlers from Visayas and Luzon, Zamboanga City’s cuisine is one big delicious melting pot of different textures and flavors. This underrated food hub, shaped by decades of preservation and fusion, is a highly-recommended destination for foodie travelers. To guide you through your food trip around the city, here are must-visit places to eat in Zamboanga!
1. Alavar Seafood Restaurant
No visit to Zamboanga City is complete without trying out Alavar Seafood Restaurant’s Curacha, a deep-sea giant crab that’s almost the size of a child’s face. Using your bare hands, crack the shell open to reveal the thick and juicy meat inside. Don’t forget to smother it in the restaurant’s signature Alavar sauce! You will be surprised at how many crabs you’ve licked clean, as the Curacha is definitely a delight to the taste buds. Other must-try dishes at Alavar include the dinuguan cooked Chavacano style, prawn curry, grilled tuna jaw, pinakbet Chavacano, Paella Chavacano and many more.
Alavar Seafood Restaurant can be found at Don Alfaro Street Tetuan, Zamboanga City.
2. Paseo del Mar and Palmeras Restaurant
Paseo del Mar and Hacienda Palmeras are popular spots to try the Knickerbocker. If compared to the halo-halo or the fruit salad, one can say that the Knickerbocker is “same same but different”. While it also has milk cream, sliced frozen fruits, jelly cubes, and ice cream, it’s still a unique and refreshing dessert concept.
3. Tsokolate Restaurant
Aside from cakes, pies and pastries, Tsokolate also serves hot plated meals to go with their aromatic and flavorful brewed coffee. Mixing great food with a laidback vibe, you get to feast your eyes on cool decorations like vinyl records and other pop culture mementos. This charming nook is an ideal spot to hang out with friends and enjoy a wonderful meal.
Tsokolate Restaurant can be found at NS Valderosa St, Zamboanga City.
4. Dennis Coffee Garden
It’s popular for its brewed coffee and Tausug cuisine but Dennis Coffee Garden also serves traditional native pastries that are widely-known in the whole Sulu archipelago. Don’t forget to try out a platter of Daral (comparable to a crepe but with a sugary coconut filling), Jualan (fried bananas that come with a sweetened dip), Pulihmandi (purple colored balls made of rice and covered with coconut shavings) and Sulu’s version of a pancake called apam.Dennis Coffee Garden has locations at Labuan-Limpapa National Rd. and KCC Mall along Gov. Camins Rd. (near the airport), Zamboanga City.
5. Bay Tal Mal
Coined from the Arabic word ‘Bayt-ul Mal’ which means ‘House of Wealth’, Bay Tal Mal serves traditional Tausug and Halal Moro cuisines. The Moroccan inspired interior sets an idyllic mood that’s perfect for feasting on Latal-–a platter of a variety of Tausug native dishes. These go great with rice and other favorites such as chicken piyanggang and kiyaliya.
Bay Tal Mal can be found at DSEN Bldg., Mayor Jaldon St., Canelar, Zamboanga City.
6. Jimmy’s Satti and Johnny’s Morning Sun Satti
If you’re arriving in Zamboanga early in the morning, consider yourself fortunate because you can immediately try what most locals’ choose for breakfast. The Satti Ayam or Sati is flavored local barbecue (either chicken, pork or liver) that’s eaten with a soupy, sweet and spicy sauce and rice wrapped in coconut leaves. Upon arriving, you can head straight to either Jimmy’s Satti or Johnny’s Morning Sun Satti–-both are modest eateries located on the side of the road not far from the airport.
7. La Vista del Mar
A favorite among seafood lovers, this seaside restaurant serves many of the region’s heritage cuisines. A scene-stealing dish here is a healthy bowl of goodness called Ensalada Chamba. It’s an appropriate play on the word chamba, which means ‘stroke of luck’ because the combination of the ingredients (namely diced mangoes, sliced eggplants, salted egg, cucumber and others) just happened to blend perfectly well.
La Vista del Mar can be found at Labuan-Lampara National Rd., Zamboanga City.
There are a lot of must-try dishes in Zamboanga, available in a number of restaurants in the city. Some of these are:
1. Sama Bangingi Muslim Delicacies
These are just a few of the favorite appetizers which originated from the Sama Bangingi ethno-linguistic group residing in the Greater Sulu Archipelago:
From bottom left (counter clockwise); Lokot lokot (rice flour rolls), baulo mamun, panganan, kalling, pitis patani, baulo tapung, panyalam or panyam bangingi (middle).
2. Baked Imbao
In Zamboanga, clams are prepared in a number of different ways and one of the end products is the Baked Imbao. Capped off with garlic and butter, it serves as the perfect appetizer to any dish.
3. Chupa Kulo
A familiar sight on dinner tables among the houses in the coastal towns and islands surrounding Zamboanga City, Chupa Kulo are snails simmered in squash and coconut milk. As the name suggests,you need to suck it to be able to eat the slimy yet flavorsome meat inside each shell.