29 Must-Try Classic Filipino Dishes: A New Zealander's Take
Brendan Lee | Jul 24, 2014
If you’re ever in Manila and looking to sample some local eats, here’s a list of classic Filipino dishes and where you can get them. Enjoy!
1) Fresh Lumpia
The fresh version of lumpia is a bit like a spring roll crossed with a burrito. It’s big and fat and filled with meat, lettuce, carrots, peanuts; I think there was even some coconut in there.
On the side there’s a sweet sauce, or you can opt for vinegar. It’s pretty awesome. Don’t forget to try the deep fried version – even more awesome.
Get it at: The Legazpi Sunday market (corner of Legazpi St. and Rufino St.)
2) Chicken Sotanghon
It kind of feels like the Philippine version of Grandma’s chicken soup. It’s got your chicken, shitake mushrooms, carrots, green onions, vermicelli noodles, who knows what else. All I know is that it’s super tasty and you need to try it.
Get it at: Recipes at Greenbelt 3 (most other Filipino restaurants also serve it).
3) Beef Mechado
I can’t decide if I like this. It’s prepared by taking a decent cut of beef, stuffing it with pork fat and then slow cooking it in a tomato sauce. Some potatoes and carrots are chucked in, too. Sounds awesome right? I think it was a little too tomatoey for my liking, but it’ll grow on me.
Get it at: Fely J’s in Greenbelt 5
4) Paksiyo Baboy Bisaya (Pork and Banana Claypot)
Shanks of pork simmered in a soy based sauce with bananas. It tastes as wild as it sounds. I freakin’ love it!
Get it at: Fely J’s in Greenbelt 5
5) Leche Flan
While eating this, I was trying to figure out how it was any different to creme caramel, because to me it tasted exactly the same. After some Googling I learned that the custard in this is thicker because they use condensed milk and more egg yolks.
I couldn’t really taste the difference, which I guess means I’m a few years away from being a judge on Top Chef. Anyway, I had to include this on the list; it’s one of the country’s favourite desserts!
Chicharons are like the Doritos of the Philippines. They snack on it like finger food and open a big bag of them while sitting down for a movie. Basically it’s deep fried pork skin, and aside from eating it on its own they also garnish various dishes with it.
What’s it taste like? Well, kinda like a bag of very porky tasting Munchos, which I’m not really the biggest fan of. The locals, however, absolutely love it.
So, I used to think the Chinese made the best pork.
That is until I tasted lechon. Damn! Dem Filipinos know how to cook a pig. This juicy, crispy masterpiece is something I won’t even try to describe.
I had the privilege of attending a local baptism and they served up this freakin’ life-changing roasted pig, I could’ve eaten the whole thing! Apparently the best lechon is from Cebu City, which is going to be my first stop on my next trip to The Phils.
Get it at: Sabroso Lechon, one of my favourites (corner of E Rodriguez Ave and Tomas Morato)
This is a type of cake made with coconut milk and baked in a banana leaf. I guess the idea is it’s supposed to end up tasting like coconut and banana, which it kinda does. You’re supposed to eat it hot, but not before lathering it with butter and coconut.
The texture really reminded of a crumpet, especially with the melted butter seeping through it. I’m a fan.
Get it at: A franchise called Bibingkinitan, or various street stalls around the city
This is a classic Filipino stew, consisting of oxtail, tripe, eggplant and Chinese veges. It has a strong peanut flavour and is served with shrimp paste on the side.
It’s one of the flagship dishes here in the Philippines, but I can’t say I particularly enjoyed it. An acquired taste, perhaps.
Get it at: Most Filipino restaurants
A classic dish from the Batangas area, this consists of flat egg noodles cooked in a very thick, eggy sauce. There’s also a whole bunch of other stuff in it depending on what variety you order (pork, seafood, chicken). It’s so thick that it’s almost like a cross between a noodle soup and a stew.
On the side, it’s complemented with a sauce of freshly diced onions, chili, calamansi and soy sauce. Put the two together and BAM! It’s seriously magic.
Get it at: Lomi King in Lipa, Batangas