The seven thousand island archipelago that makes up the Philippines has some tasty foods for the adventurous traveller. It shares many common ingredients with recipes found in other Southeast Asian countries. But what makes Filipino cuisine different is that many dishes are not pungent and spicy like nearby Thailand and Indonesia.

 Spanish colonization has had a big impact on the evolution of Filipino food. The national dish, chicken or pork adobo, is slowly marinated in a sauce containing vinegar, garlic, soy sauce and pepper. The word adobo is also used to describe a style of cooking. Ginataan is anything that is cooked in coconut milk, and inihaw is a dish that has been grilled or broiled.


 Lechon (roast pig) is a Filipino favourite eaten during major festivals and its crispy skin is enjoyed with a sweet liver paste. There are no shortages of seafood, restaurant menus frequently offer such specialties as bangus, (milkfish) hipon, (shrimps) and sugpo (prawns). Other fare of Spanish origin includes morcon (beef rolls) and embutido (pork rolls). The "merienda", or afternoon snack, is an important Filipino tradition. A common favourite is bibingka, a cake made with flour, eggs and coconut milk which is then cooked in a pan lined with banana leaves.


 Chinese influence can be seen in many Filipino dishes. Lumpia are spring rolls stuffed with minced meat or vegetables, and Yangzhou fried rice is sold in panciterias (a term that is used for a Chinese style restaurant but the name is Spanish).


 Pancit is the generic name for noodles and Pancit Molo, a variation of wonton soup is a specialty from the town of the same name in the Iloilo province of the Philippines. Rice is an important component of the Filipino diet as in other parts of Southeast Asia, and many Chinese dishes introduced to the Filipino population have been given Hispanic names. Case in point, arroz caldo. This is a dish that can be ordered in fast food restaurants and is similar to Chinese congee. Basically it is rice porridge with slices of chicken with spring onions added on top.

 The Americans brought pizza, burgers, sandwiches and salads and now these foods can be found in the big shopping malls that occupy downtown Manila.

 Unlike other countries in Asia, bakeries are found all over the Philippines and this again reflects a strong European influence on the national cuisine. Ensaymadas are sweet rolls topped with cheese and are eaten at breakfast and with afternoon tea.


 Halo Halo (translated as mix mix) is a multi-layered dessert with several ingredients. It's a tempting snack especially in the hot and humid climate of the Philippines. It's made with jackfruit, plantains, preserved sweet beans and gelatin cubes. Shaved ice and coconut milk make this mixture very enticing, and ice cream is usually added on the top. As in many other Filipino dishes, Asian and Western ingredients combine to form something delicious.

halo halo
Halo Halo

Filipino cuisine is a relative newcomer to cities in North America and Europe. And, if you are looking for a taste of something different and don't know where to find a Filipino eatery look in the yellow pages. Many dishes are easy to prepare at home and the ingredients can be picked up in an Oriental or Spanish food store.

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