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A Vlogger’s Guide to Filipino Food


Attention all vloggers! Read this before you even think about pressing that record button!

Over the years, the Philippines has slowly become a popular destination for digital nomads who vlog about their travel experiences. Of course, you don’t visit another country without tasting its cuisine, and the food is usually the first thing these nomads want to experience.

The Philippines does have some interesting food items, but oftentimes, the more unusual or exotic dishes are overlooked. In some cases, the vloggers have a local “guide” showing them around who unfortunately doesn’t really know anything about the food they’re touting beyond the usual “it’s a local favorite”. 

Many “food experts” have tried to define Filipino food but in my opinion, it defies explanation. It’s an experience in itself, and it’s either you like it, or you don’t. If there’s such a thing as fusion, Filipino cuisine is perhaps the best example, and here are some dishes that tourists should definitely try.

Jollibee Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti

Let’s get one thing straight: fried chicken and spaghetti are NOT good examples of Filipino food. However, Chickenjoy and Jolly Spaghetti has become so hyped up that this is usually the first thing tourists want to eat when they arrive at the Philippines. Yeah, you should give it a try. Just look for an establishment with a smiling bee in front.

Some Australian vlogger trying Chickenjoy for the first time in Manila

Pancit

There are three common kinds of pancit: bihon, canton, and miki-bihon. Pancit bihon is made with rice noodles, pancit canton with flour and egg noodles, and miki-bihon with a mixture of rice and egg noodles. Aside from the noodles, the three use practically the same ingredients—strips of pork and chicken, fishballs, kikiam, strips of cabbage, julienned carrots, onions, garlic, bits of shrimp, heck, put in whatever you want. Chow mein, if you will.

Some localities in the Philippines have their own version of pancit, so if you’re traveling outside Manila, it’s worth asking around if the place you’re visiting has a specialty pancit (or any specialty dish they’re proud of).

Sinigang

This is the Filipino version of a sour soup. I know it sounds weird, but sinigang is actually very refreshing. The most common kind is pork sinigang, but the sinigang with prawns can easily be your favorite. In my opinion, it blows tom yum goong away in terms of flavor.

Papaitan

A sour soup or stew made of meat and offal and flavored with bile from the animal where the meat and offal came from. 

Bopis

Also called pulutok, the closest thing I can compare this to is the Scottish haggis except it’s not stuffed in a pig’s stomach. It’s made from pig’s lungs and heart, sauteed in tomatoes, chilies, garlic, and onions.

Dinuguan

A savory stew made from pig’s blood, offal, and meat, often served with rice, occasionally served with the Filipino rice cake called puto. Don’t knock it until you’re tried it, and definitely a must-try for vampire fans.

Batchoy

The Philippines’ answer to ramen. It’s a savory noodle soup with strips of chicken, pork, and liver. The best place to get this is in Netong’s or Deco’s in La Paz Market in Iloilo City, but it should be available in some restaurants and food courts in Manila.

Lomi

No, you don’t have to go all the way to Batangas for good lomi. Just go to any Filipino-Chinese restaurant and order this hearty and filling noodle soup.

Kare-kare

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This is the Filipinos’ attempt at curry, introduced by Indian conscripts during the British occupation of Manila. Kare-kare made with peanut butter is crap. Real kare-kare is made using a paste made of crushed peanuts. Also, if you’re served bagoong (fermented fish paste) with your kare-kare, it means the stew is too sweet and it’s been cooked wrong.

Halo-halo

Also spelled “halu-halo”, this is a shaved ice treat that started as kakigori, introduced to the Filipinos by Japanese immigrants in the 1920s. Over the years, other ingredients like sweetened bananas, jellies, leche flan, and ice cream were added to the mix, ending up with one of the most refreshing cool treats you’ll ever taste.

A very important note: STIR AND MIX everything thoroughly before eating. I find it really irritating when tourists order this and the server doesn’t bother to explain how to eat this properly.

Balut

I included this only because I wanted to teach newbies how to eat it properly, because nobody (even the vendor) ever teaches vloggers how to eat this the right way, so here it goes: 

  1. Crack the balut on the wide end and make a hole roughly a centimeter in diameter. Be careful not to spill the liquid inside.
  2. Sprinkle some salt into the hole (you can also add a few drops of vinegar) and drink the liquid.
  3. Once you’ve drunk all the liquid, peel off the rest of the shell and eat the yolk (the yellow part) and the chick. DO NOT EAT THE HARD WHITE PART. THROW IT AWAY.
  4. Brag to your friends that you’ve eaten balut.

I didn’t include lechon and sisig anymore since everyone on YouTube has already suggested this. I also don’t want to suggest Binondo food because most of the food there trace their origins from Hong Kong, although a trip to Binondo would be worth it, as it’s the world’s oldest Chinatown.

While this list is not complete, it should give a first-timer to the Philippines a good start on what food items to try out. Happy eating!

Some carienderias to try next time you’re in Manila!





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