So, the Philippines are not my favorite food country. In fact, to be honest, it is one of my least favorite. I hate to say it, but it’s true.
I loved the Philippines, it’s a beautiful country, but the cuisine was a bit of a let down. Compared to other Southeast Asian cuisine, I felt it lacked flavor and freshness. It’s a lot of fatty meats, soy sauce and vinegar. Which just isn’t my style.
There wasn’t a huge offer of vegetables, especially compared to mainland Southeast Asia. The most common ones were bitter melon, squash and string beans. All quite good, but unfortunately usually served with meat or fish mixed in. This made it hard to find local vegetarian food. I often got laughed at when asking for vegetables without meat. The fruit is amazing though, the mangoes are incredible.
But these of course there are some good dishes that are worth a try. These are my favorite things to eat in the Philippines.
Traditional one pot dishes
The traditional local food is easily recognized by a line of beaten up aluminium pots. Each one containing a magical conconction.
It’s the most authentic and also most affordable food. For about 40-60 peso you get rice and a scoop from the content of the pot you desire. Which can be anything from chicken adobo, pork, fish soup or (if you’re lucky) squash curry.
I wasn’t a fan of the meat or fish dishes, but the squash and coconut curry was bomb! It was also often the only vegetarian option, but one I was happy to eat.
Super fresh seafood
I am not a fan of pork, which is hard to avoid in the Philippines, but I do love seafood. Being an island nation, there is an abundance of fresh seafood everywhere you go in the Philippines, like tuna, shrimp, crab, etc. So the seafood served in the Philippines is super fresh and tasty.
It’s usually served either in a stew or soup or simply grilled on the barbecue. I preferred the clean flavor of fresh fish served on the grill with just a bit of lime and garlic. Delicious!
An abundance of fast food
I have never seen such a big variety of fast food, especially American chains, outside the US. There is a clear US influence in the Filipino culture and the Filipino’s love fast food!
It won’t be healthy, but if all else fails, you’ll be able to find something edible here. From the big hitters like Pizza Hut and McDonalds and smaller chains, you can find them all (especially in Manilla). Or try some ‘local’ fast food at Jollibee which serves everything from burgers to spaghetti.
All the alcohol
Filipino’s like to drink and alcohol is really affordable. Beer and rum are brewed on the islands and generally the drinks of choice.
San Miguel, the national beer, is pretty good. It comes in Pilsner and flavored light beer. Either is perfect to cool off after a long day at the beach. Their stronger brother Red Horse is tasty as well and guarantees you a fun night.
And if beer is not your thing, the local rum is cheap and surprisingly palpable. It is so affordable that a rum coke is the same price as a beer (around 1 USD).
For a non-alcoholic refreshment, you should try the coconut water. They’ll cut open a fresh coconut for you to drink out off. It’s super refreshing and hydrating. You can often even get a shot of rum in your coconut. Cheers!
If there is one thing the Filipino’s know how to cook, it’s pastries! From cakes to buns, if you have a sweet tooth, you can fill it here. There are bakers everywhere, and although the bread is nothing special, the pastries are delicious. Make sure you try the donut like cinnamon buns and the ube filled flat breads.
So, while I didn’t love Filipino food, there was plenty that I liked. I made it through my three weeks in the Philippines with a slight weight loss but a deep love for the country.
What are your favorite Filipino dishes? Anything I should try on my next visit? Let me know in the comments.
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