One of the most diverse and interesting cuisines in the world, Filipino food has evolved over the centuries to incorporate all the influences from various cultures. Filipino cuisine has its roots in traditional Malaysian and Indonesian food, yet elements from Chinese, Spanish and American cuisine contributes to the modern palate of the people of the Philippines.
A must try dish for any visitors to the Philippines, kare kare is the local’s take on curry. Richer and sweeter in comparison to traditional curries, an essential component in a typical kare kare is ground roasted peanut (or peanut butter). Typical proteins used for the dish are oxtail, seafood and goat meat. The vegetable laden curry is usually accompanied with bagoong guisado (sautéed shrimp paste sauce), best eaten with a generous heaping of white rice!
One of the most famous dishes originating from the Ilocos region of the Philippines, adobo is a national dish that all Filipinos love. The protein (usually pork, chicken or beef) is marinated in vinegar (rice vinegar or coconut vinegar is commonly used), garlic, soy sauce, bay leaves and crushed black pepper before they are cooked in small claypots. Our favourite version is the unconventional deep-fried twist served at Manam Comfort Filipino restaurant.
Another famous dish in the Philippines is the sisig, a staple to any traditional Filipino meal. Often served as a side dish and sometimes starring as the main dish, sisig is a dish of minced pork liver and pork ears which are boiled, grilled and lightly seared with chopped onions and served on a hot plate. Sometimes, chicaron (pork cracklings) are sprinkled over for an added crunch. Modern versions of the dish use other proteins such as chicken, bangus (milkfish) and squid.
Typically reserved for special celebrations, crispy pata is a must try delicacy that one will find in upscale establishments in Manila. A whole pork leg is marinated in vinegar, garlic, salt, black pepper, bay leaves and fish sauce before being boiled. Once tender, the boiled pork leg is dried of excess liquid, coated with flour and deep fried to perfection. Best eaten hot with mounds of fluffy white rice.
The undisputable winner amongst the sweet treats we had for our trip in Manila is the ube sago at Manam Filipino Comfort restaurant. A delightful shake made from frozen yam, milk, condensed milk and sago, ube sago is pure umami in a tall iced glass, with just the right amount of sweetness. A perfect accompaniment to a delicious spread of Filipino food.