How to Eat Like a Local in the Philippines
Coming from a family of ‘foodies’, one of my favourite parts of going on holiday is getting the chance to discover the local food and drink. And when I got the chance to travel to the Philippines, I couldn’t wait to start sampling some of their dishes
Once ruled by both Spanish and American colonists, located in Southeast Asia and surrounded by water – it’s no surprise that the resulting cuisine here is a fusion of Spanish, American and Oriental influences and ingredients, with plenty of fresh seafood served in spectacular settings. Here's my pick of the best local dishes:
Filipino people love to eat and are some of friendliest people I’ve ever met, so when it comes to hosting a party, they know exactly how to put on a good spread. It wouldn’t be a special occasion without Lechón – Spanish for roasted suckling pig – and there’s nothing that gets the taste buds going more than watching the whole thing, slowly roasting over an open fire as the sun goes down, ready for your evening meal. This national pork dish is crispy on the outside with tender fall-off-the-bone meat that makes a great centrepiece for / addition to…
…a Boodle Fight!
Not that we ever technically got into a fight over our food, but a boodle fight is a Filipino tradition where everyone gathers around a long table full of food, spread over heated banana leaves, and eats with their bare hands. The ‘fight’ refers to the act of grabbing and eating as much as you can with your hands before the food runs out! The tradition originated from the military here, but now locals gather together bringing whatever they have to share with their community, including the fresh catch of the day, chargrilled meats like Lechón and chicken, sweet mangoes and plenty of sticky rice and salads. With so many delicious dishes on offer, the best way to experience this is to get stuck in and get messy!
One for daredevils – balút (or ‘eggs with legs’ as it’s also known) is a developing bird embryo. Not for the faint hearted, the egg is incubated for between 14-21 days, then boiled and eaten from the shell. It's said to contain plenty of protein and calcium so, if you fancy trying something a little different, this street food dish is a popular one with the locals.
(La Paz) Batchoy Soup
Made with a variety of meats (but traditionally pork innards) La Paz Batchoy is a hearty soup that provides the ultimate comfort food. Served in the markets to workers to keep them sustained during the early morning shifts, the meat is simmered with spices for hours before combining with vegetables and noodles to make a warming broth. A tantalising combination of salt, sweet and mildly spicy awaits…
Halo-Halo literally translated means ‘mix-mix’ – and, after ordering one, I understood why! A Filipino dessert or a refreshing snack to cool you down after a hot day exploring the city, this really does contain a mix of everything. At first glance, you might mistake it for an ice cream sundae, but it contains much more than that – yams, jelly, milk, flan, coconut, beans and even sweetcorn! In a dessert! This sugary concoction is definitely worth a try as you’re unlikely to experience anything else quite like it anywhere else!
Turon (banana fritters)
Filipinos love their desserts, which worked perfectly for my sweet tooth. One thing that did take me by surprise, however, was a new-found love for bananas – in all forms!
After visiting the Philippines, I realised I’d been all too simple with my banana consumption and have since been inspired to enjoy bananas in a multitude of ways (sweet banana chips make for a delicious and semi-healthy office snack it turns out!). But what I really fell in love with was Turon – a snack made of thinly sliced bananas, jackfruit and brown sugar rolled in a lumpia wrapper and fried until crispy. The result was a perfect pick-me-up whilst discovering island life. Obviously our group devoured the whole lot and couldn’t resist asking for more.
The Filipino version of lemonade, Calamansi is a small green citrus fruit that makes for a delightfully refreshing juice, Most importantly, it works even better when mixed with gin! The sour fruit is rich in vitamin c and consumed on a regular basis in the Philippines, but sadly it's not available in the UK! Thankfully I brought some Calamansi concentrate back with me, I loved it that much!
Don Papa rum
A rich and light amber-coloured rum served in a stylish bottle, this flavoursome drink is made using sugar cane from the island of Negros. It’s matured in oak barrels for seven years before being blended and the result is an incredibly smooth and fruity rum, that’s perfect served over ice. Sipping this, whilst watching the sun set over crystal clear waters, was the perfect way to end an unforgettable trip to the Philippines...
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