Filipino dishes are not yet as popular as Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines, but it doesn't mean they're not as good as the culinary masterpieces of their Asian neighbors. The Philippines, an archipelagic country of 7,107 islands, is a food haven consisting of dishes that appeal to varying taste buds. Each dish may have different variations depending on the province or region you are in. Here are seven Filipino dishes that you need to try when you're in the country or when you find yourself in a Filipino restaurant:
The list of Filipino dishes is never complete without adobo. This dish can be cooked with pork, chicken, or a combination of both in a marinade consisting of vinegar, soy sauces, and a variety of spices, including garlic, laurel leaves, and black pepper. This mixture is then simmered over low to medium heat until the meat is tender. Like most Philippine dishes, adobo is best paired with steamed rice and a cold drink.
Tamarind is the main culprit for the fruity-sour taste of this dish. Sinigang is cooked with meat (pork, fish, beef, shrimp) stewed in tomatoes with spices such as onion and garlic, and vegetables including radish, river spinach, and eggplant. Other variations include taro leaves, okra, and string beans. Sinigang is conveniently cooked these days with tamarind-flavored bouillon and seasonings taking the place of the real fruit.
Hailing from the northern Philippines province of Ilocos, pinakbet is a hodgepodge of vegetables cooked in shrimp paste. The result is a healthy dish loved by many. Think squash, eggplant, okra, string beans … all in one dish. A variation involves adding crispy pork on top of the cooked veggies.
Brace yourself for this one! Dinuguan is a dish of pig blood (or chicken blood), innards (think whatever it is inside an animal's body), and pork meat. No, you're not anywhere close to being a vampire when you eat this one because it is cooked with garlic, vinegar, green pepper, and chili. It's considered an adventurous dish for tourists who come and visit. Try it if you can muster all your strength to open your mouth.
Kare-kare is a festival dish characterized by oxtail boiled until tender and further slow-cooked in peanut-butter sauce and vegetables. Kare-kare, which I consider an evolution of the famous curry from India, is served during special occasions. My favorite is the kare-kare of Laguna Garden/Cafe Laguna in Cebu.
6. Lechon Baboy
Literally, the name translates to roasted pig. Writing this makes me feel homesick because lechon is my comfort food. Everything that involves lechon making is crucial - from slaughtering the pig, thoroughly cleaning the inside and outside, stuffing the best spices and stitching the belly to prevent spices from slipping, to roasting the pig. Celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain called Cebu's lechon the world's best pig ever!
This one is simple - taro leaves cooked in coconut milk. The twist? It can be made into spicy laing - not just any kind of spicy but really, really, really spicy laing. The Bicolanos (that's what people from the Bicol region, where the dish originated, are called) love spicy food and you can be sure the lovely laing can't escape the hot treatment.
Have you tried any of these dishes? What do you think of them?