It is never a meal without rice
Rice (particularly white rice), is considered the ultimate staple in Filipino food. It is present in every household and is more than likely part of every Filipino’s meal, breakfast, lunch and dinner. Because of its plain, starchy flavor, it pairs well with a lot of salty and sour local dishes. Filipinos love rice so much that they would consume it whether it is traditionally cooked white rice (kanin), burnt rice (tutong), left-over rice (bahaw) or fried rice (sinangag). Restaurants and fast food chains catering to Filipinos based out of the country make sure that rice is always part of their menu.
Desserts can also be a meal in itself
The saying that there is always room for dessert holds true for Filipinos, but did you know that a Pinoy dessert can actually pass off as a meal in itself? In fact, a typical Filipino afternoon is best spent with a cup of coffee and baked pastries like ensaymada (sweet bread with sugar and butter) or a colorful platter of kakanin (rice cakes).
Pork is king
In the Philippines it is rare to find purely-vegetable dishes, whether in households or local restaurants. Even if you order chop suey or pinakbet, these mixed vegetable dishes will often have pork in the mix. Filipinos are meat lovers through and through. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Cebu’s famous lechon, roast suckling pig with crispy skin that people travel far and wide to taste. You will also come across different variations of classic dishes with a piggy twist, such as pork sinigang, pork sisig, and the country’s national dish, adobo.
Food in the Philippines influenced by multiple cultures
As we made our way through the country discovering the food in the Philippines, one thing that struck us was the complexity of the Filipino cuisine. The food has been shaped by Chinese, Malaysian, Spanish, Indian and Western influences. In addition, each region and island has adopted their own unique cooking style.
Popular dishes like pancit (noodles) and lumpia (spring rolls) have Chinese heritage. The presence of the Spaniards brought with them lechon and flan dessert. And Indian soldiers who settled in the Philippines during the British invasion, are said to have introduced kare-kare (traditional oxtail stew). These cultural influences and the diverse cooking preparation methods from the 7,000 islands makes the food from the Philippines surprising and complex.
Duck embryos are considered a delicacy
The balut is one of the most talked about street food in the Philippines. It is a developing bird embryo that is boiled and best enjoyed with a dash of rock salt or spicy vinegar. Albeit very intimidating at first, eating balut is actually quite pleasant, and once people get over the grossness factor, they usually go back for seconds.
Filipino cuisine would not be complete without merienda
Filipinos love Merienda or “snacks in between meals”. The perfect excuse to eat several times during the day. In the Philippines, there are typically two meriendas. One in the late morning, and the other one in the afternoon.
A large variety of sweet or savory dishes can be eaten at Merienda. Sweet delicacies might be pastries, mango pies, sticky rice, rice cake and more. And for the savory options you might have empanaditas (small savory pastries), noodles, fish balls, and the famous local delicacy balut (developing duck embryo).