Food is an integral part of the Filipino culture. To understand why, you need to travel and experience it. We asked the most passionate Pinoy Travel Bloggers this question: “What is Your Most Awesome Food Experience while Traveling in the Philippines?“
The answers pleasantly surprised us. We have only tried 16 (✔) out of 30. Our favorite posts are marked with a ★ symbol because we recommend it as a must-try food experience or we want to taste the food in our future travels. Travel the Philippines First!
LUZON AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
I’m inspired by the post of Kara Santos on experiencing what Aeta food really is. Hopefully, I can go to the 2nd Aeta Forest Food Festival. For balikbayans out there, Graciel Cecilio created a great guide on how to have an awesome food experience.
Ivan Briñas Cultura‘s Best Bibingka and Strangest Bibingka posts were very interesting. Every Filipino should try Alagao in Antipolo as blogged by Tita Lili. If you want something more exotic, there’s Frog Legs in the Estero by Brenna Bustamante. We aim to try the Pakaskas, featured by Josiah Sicad, one of these days.
1. ★ AETA FOREST FOOD by Kara Santos | CAPAS, TARLAC
“In terms of forest food, we learned that Aetas primarily plant mountain rice, wild bananas, corn, and root crops like ube (a form of taro), kamoteng kahoy (cassava) and kamoteng baging (mountain yams). Wild bananas called amukaw have lots of tiny black seeds, which are strained before the edible part of the banana is made into a refreshing juice. The extract is believed to cure ‘pasma’ (trembling hands and sweaty palms that occur after hard labor).”
2. ★ PINOY FIESTA PLATE by Graciel Cecilio | FIESTA IN THE PROVINCES ✔
“Rule of thumb is to load up your plate with a sampling of food. 1. White rice- the foundation of any Filipino plate 2. Lechon- roast pork 3. Binagoongan- pork in shrimp paste with steamed vegetables 4. Sago’t Gulaman- caramelized sugar drink with gelatin 5. Kaldereta- goat in tomato and liver paste 6. Dinuguan – blood pudding stew 7. Lumpia- pork or vegetable spring rolls”
3. ★ ALAGAO by Tita Lili | ANTIPOLO ✔
“As its signature appetizer, one makes his own “rolls” using an alagao leaf and stuffing it with various spices. There’s fried garlic, minced onions, green chili for the brave ones, alamang fried to a crisp, cut up basil leaves, cubed mangoes, ginger and some nuts. You choose your fillings, lay them on the leaf, smear it with some sweet dark sauce, and then wrap the leaf like you would a lumpia. Voila! The sweet, salty, sour and spicy all compete for attention and make out a sensation that is not quite the same as any other. What do you know, I actually like it!”
4. FROG LEGS by Brenna Bustamante | KAINAN SA ESTERO
“Then, as we entered Kainan sa Estero (Eatery in Estero, ‘Estero’ meaning canal, correct me if I’m wrong), I was already having doubts. I was just too chicken to back out on my co-bloggers who were all excited now to eat frogs. As we settled on a specific eatery, the stall had a display of fresh food and we opted to take a look and do photo ops.
Wrong move! The owner of the stall showed us the frogs we were about to eat. I thought I was going to spill. Yes, it was gross, especially if you have a wild imagination like me that couldn’t help picturing a real frog – turned (into) what was in the display.
It was slimy, with legs all over the place, dipped in some kind of yellowish or murky sauce, and within their bodies – I spotted a silver thread that looked somewhat like metal – ‘Oh my gawd, is that its backbone?’ my immediate thoughts had been.”
5. PAKASKAS by Josiah Sicad | BATANGAS
“When we were on our way to Isla Verde, one of the passengers was carrying a nice tube packaging. Luckily, she sat right next to us and we were able to ask regarding the packaging, she said it was Pakaskas. It’s a snack made in the island and it’s made from Buri palm sugar molds. I had the chance to buy this in Brgy. San Agapito. It was sold at 20 pesos per tube. Each tube had 5 segments and each segment (is) further divided into 2 sub-segments.”
6. BIBINGKA by Ivan Briñas Cultura | BOAC, MARINDUQUE
“The Best Bibingka. My visit (to) Marinduque last April 2011 was my most memorable trip ever, not only because it was my very first solo travel but also (because) of the awesome foods I experienced there. Among the foods I’ve tasted in Marinduque, their bibingka is my most favorite. This special bibingka is found only in Boac, the province’s capital. Boac’s Bibingka is the largest and the best (I’ve) ever tasted. Its rich coconut taste blends well with its other ingredients. Definitely, my taste buds loved it at first bite.”
7. ★ BIBINGKANG ABNOY by Ivan Briñas Cultura | PATEROS
“The Strangest Bibingka. Just this morning, (I) tasted the strangest bibingka. Far different from other bibingkas, Pateros’ Bibingkang Abnoy tastes weird and smells awful. Surely, the picky eaters would never dare to taste or even get near this strange food. Its main ingredient is Pateros’ very own abnoy egg (undeveloped duck eggs). But I’m not a picky eater (medyo lang), so I bravely ate a slice of Bibingkang Abnoy dipped in vinegar. It actually tastes nicer when dipped in vinegar. Its texture is more like a scrambled egg than a bibingka.”
NORTHERN LUZON AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
The Cordillera region is proud of its famed Pinikpikan — you should try it when you travel to see the Banawe Rice Terraces, like Claire Raborar. Baler’s food is awesome, including the ensaladang pako as blogged by Mervin (also known as Pinoy Adventurista).
Personally, I haven’t tried Oh My Gulay (featured by Marky Ramone Go), but it has been on my list for the longest time. I would agree with Ding Fuellos that everyone should try Poqui Poqui when in Vigan. Also, check out the Binungay (blogged by Chin Chan) when you visit Bolinao in Pangasinan.
8. ★ PINIKPIKAN by Claire Raborar | BANAWE ✔
“His kids started to build (a) fire while Kuya emerged from his cabin with the chicken in one hand and a stick on the other. He told us he would prepare Pinikpikan, and before I could (murmur) another question, he started beating the live chicken until it was dark and blue before throwing it into the open fire. Apparently, the dish derives its flavor from the coagulated blood, the burned feathers and skin, and the Etag, which is a cured meat, aged underground in earthen jars.”
9. OH MY GULAY by Marky Ramone Go | BAGUIO
“The food arrived and it lasted a few minutes before the waiter was taking our empty plates away. I felt my starvation has gone to another dimension and was close to committing mass farting, but since it was all veggie, I never felt bloated unlike when I eat pork, chicken of any of these fastfood meals. I guess that’s the upside of eating vegetables, it doesn’t make you feel heavy but it gives a lighter feeling, making you think you’re just about ready to do all sorts of stuff, including yoga and some breakdance moves.”
10. POQUI POQUI by Ding Fuellos | VIGAN ✔
“Ilocanos have a penchant for something fetid and stinky, like the ever-gratifying bagoong (shrimp paste and halubaybay). They love fermented rice (burong kanin) on their fried fish or boiled eggplant. They just love to munch fresh shallots with their tomatoes or chopped radish (which has an equally unpleasant smell). Tuyo (dried fish) is their breakfast staple. They delight at the stomach-churning warek-warek. The real warek-warek, which my late uncle loves, is actually a concoction of an offensively bitter juice of half-digested grass meal which can be found in the stomach of a goat, mixed with either the half-cooked and grilled goat’s testicles or goat skin and other spices like shallots. So what does this have something to do with an Ilocano dish called poqui-poqui? …
Having been to Vigan one time made me experience the real Ilocano cuisine–of course one of them is poqui-poqui. It is just actually commonly known as ensaladang talong (eggplant salad). “
11. BINUNGAY by Chin Chan | BOLINAO, PANGASINAN ✔
“This rice cake delicacy is made by steaming a bamboo segment, which is filled with coconut milk and sticky rice over fire. I was able to get the cooking process from one of the vendors and soon try it myself when I get back home. I just found out that the whole process is really easy. Just get a 10-12 inch piece of bamboo with the node in the middle. Followed by washing the sticky rice, put some rock salt and fill the bamboo with it. Leave some space for the coconut milk and coconut cream . Cover it with a banana leaf. Place the bamboo pieces in an oven . You will know it when it’s ready to eat when the bamboo turns brown . And to eat it, you need to crack the bamboo (in) half . I am sure this binungay would taste good with hot chocolate or coffee or just…plain sugar.”
12. ★ ENSALADANG PAKO by Pinoy Adventurista | BALER ✔
“Regardless of how exotic this native salad might be, I really enjoyed it and will certainly ask for another serving on my next trip to Aurora. Be it a main dish, a zesty salad or (in our case) as pulutan, this is a must-try when visiting the province! I didn’t just (fall) in love with Aurora, but also (with) their ‘Ensaladang Pako’.”
SOUTHERN LUZON AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
One of my recent discoveries is the unsung Kinalas of Naga. Kinalas’ fame should be on the same level as the Batchoy of Iloilo or Kansi of Bacolod. I now understand why Estan Cabigas and Lauren Gaile are raving about it. 🙂 Also, check out the Sili Ice Cream or Sili Shake of Bicol Blends Cafe.
13. ★ KINALAS by Estan Cabigas | NAGA, CAMARINES NORTE ✔
“The broth is not too salty, not too bland. Just the right seasoning that I need not add fish sauce…it is just so delicious. The noodles, like pasta, (are) al dente. But the meat, oh boy, the meat was just memorable. Very tender, very tasty. Home cooking at its best. While into my last spoonful of broth and bits of noodles and meat, I (couldn’t) help but rave and praise it. It’s no wonder…people really come to this place.”
★ KINALAS by Lauren Gaile | NAGA, CAMARINES NORTE ✔
“I wish there was a fried version of this dish, with the broth made into a glazed reduction and drizzled atop the crispy log-log. Kinalas is a famous dish in Naga, though not a tourist attraction per (se), because the usual stuff we hear of is Sili, Bicol Express, Laing and Pinangat, so the first time (I) heard about Kinalas was through (the) recommendation of a friend who probably guffawed at the thought of me eating and enjoying simmered animal heads. They will be disappointed to learn that i had no *PFFFT* moment because i only found out about its true identity after returning to Manila. (Yes, i would still eat it again.) It was salty, sinful and pleasurable, much like my entire trip, and eating it after such a gamble with fate together with fellow travelers made it so much better.”
14. ★ SILI SHAKE by Tita Lili | BICOL BLENDS CAFE ✔
“Just like the sili ice cream, the sili shake can be quite deceptive. It starts off like your typical, standard milk shake. But the finish! Oh, the finish…….will remind you to take your food “slowly” as our elders would often say when we were younger. Chew slowly. Drink. Don’t slurp. Savor every bite. Relish every sip. And give your taste buds the chance to discern the variety of flavors each food morsel offers!”
PALAWAN AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
Bistro Coron (see Bistro Coron: Mind Blowing Flavours of Kinilaw by Plif Damon) and Ka Lui are two of the foodie institutions that are must-tries for people traveling to Palawan. Jerome Baluyut also raved about the Binakol there.
15. ★ KA LUI by Anton Diaz | PUERTO PRINCESA ✔
“Eating in Ka Lui (named after the owner, Louie Oliva) is like eating in a Filipino home, where each guest is treated like a VIP. Here, the menu changes daily, depending on what the freshest seafood, vegetables and fruits are available at the Puerto Princesa market. The dishes are quite unique, and their presentation can surprise you.
When you enter the restaurant, you have to leave your shoes outside. As you rest your feet on the clean and polished floor of Ka Lui, enjoy the bahay kubo-inspired ambiance as the fresh air of Puerto Princesa cools you off while you eat. Nothing beats the Ka Lui experience.”
16. ★ KINILAW by Plif Damon | BISTRO CORON ✔
“And came the Kinilaw. I was never a big fan of Kinilaw. But I’ve tried it a couple of times in the past and it was just ok. So I wasn’t really excited to try it because I was expecting that it would just taste like the other Kinilaw that I’ve tried in the past. But I was wrong. My mind was blown away by the flavours. I couldn’t even describe it. The spiciness of some chilli peppers complimented perfectly the flavour of coconut milk and vinegar. The meat of the fish was just perfectly cooked by the vinegar. It was indeed ‘heavenly.’ “
17. BINAKOL by Jerome Baluyut | PUERTO PRINCESA ✔
“I got curious (as) to where it…originated, so I (did) a little research. Binakol na Manok originated in the Panay Islands. Ilongos who migrated to the islands of Palawan in search (of) greener pastures brought with them this mouth-watering concoction. At first look, you might think that this is your typical Tinola, but once you’ve tasted its broth, I’m sure you’ll be asking for more.”
MINDANAO AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
I must admit that I haven’t really explored Mindanao that much. But Edelito Sangco‘s posts on the Sayongsong and Harug desserts really piqued my interest in this part of the Philippines. Also, we will try the Fish Tinola of Surigao (featured by Aleah Phils) hopefully soon.
18. ★ SAYONGSONG by Edelito Sangco | BUCAS GRANDE ISLAND, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
“To expose such Filipino desserts to my readers who have not yet visited the place, I requested some expert sayongsong makers to do the actual cooking demonstration. After gathering the ingredients, sheets of coconut leaves were formed into cones while grated coconut were pressed for coconut cream and milk. The 3 cups coconut cream, produced by the first pressing, was mixed with ¼ kilo margarine and ¼ kilo brown sugar and cooked in medium heat with constant stirring for 15 minutes . . .“
19. ★ HARUG by Edelito Sangco | BUCAS GRANDE ISLAND, SURIGAO DEL NORTE
“The Harug, which is also among the popular Filipino desserts, is a variation of the ginataan and binignit…. The Harug is prepared by putting the mongo into a kettle with boiling water and allowing it to continously boil for one hour or until its grains can already be mashed. Pour the cubed camote, cassava and squash, as well as the glutinous rice, and let it boil for another hour. Mix the coconut milk and let it boil for 10 minutes. Do not stir from the start as it could affect the taste. Mix the cubed banana, brown sugar, salt, young coconut meat strips and coconut cream. Afterwards, stir constantly for 15 minutes. Serve hot or cold.”
20. FISH TINOLA by Aleah Phils | SURIGAO DEL SUR
“We began our travels at dawn, and breakfast always found us on the road. The best—and for us, the only—food for traveling was tinola, fish stewed in clear broth garnished with vegetables and spices. When ordered at roadside eateries, this hot soup is usually served with one slice of fish, a few leafy vegetables, and a bit of ginger. It can be made spicy with a dash of black pepper or a few pieces of chili.”
BATANES AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
Yes, Batanes is my favorite for natural wonders and organic food, especially the Coconut Crab (as blogged by Gay Mitra-Emami and Ivan Henares) and Turmeric Rice (raved about by Christine Fernandez). There’s a whole debate about eating the Coconut Crab, a threatened/endangered species. But Batanes locals are saying that Coconut Crabs are OK to be consumed locally on the island.
21. ★ TURMERIC RICE by Christine Fernandez | BATANES ✔
“I anticipated the worst as I opened my mouth for my first taste of turmeric rice. I might have even closed my eyes in case I had to make an intense effort to shove it down my throat. Then it was finally in! I chewed and had a moment of enlightenment. It’s not bad at all! In fact, I like it! It does not have a gingery after-taste as I imagined it would have, no overpowering flavor actually. It’s like my favorite cup of white rice with a hint of something good. Its color suddenly became appealing to me and I was smiling all throughout lunch. There was great food, amazing company and breathtaking views – and I got to try something different!”
22. ★ COCONUT CRAB by Gay Mitra-Emami | BATANES ✔
“My knowledge of the coconut crab was scant, though it was my second Batanes visit. I only knew of the local delicacy dibang or flying fish the first time I went, and loved it. With a hefty price of P600-P1,000 per kilo, I thought the coconut crab better prove its worth.
It looks more like a gigantic bug lobster than a crab. I picked a pincer from the plate and peered closer. I bit off its white flesh sticking out and savored the taste. The coconut crab is named so because it does feed on coconuts (its mighty claws could open a coconut shell). However it does not taste like it, perhaps because apart from coconuts, it also feeds on other fruits and animal carcasses. It is also not as sweet as the common crab, but more tasty than the lobster. In a seafood-y kind of tasty, if you know what I mean.”
★ COCONUT CRAB by Ivan Henares | BATANES ✔
“It was brought to my attention that the coconut crab (Birgus latro), also known as tatus in Batanes, is a threatened species. According to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, “Buying, using, gathering, possessing and/or transporting [this] species are prohibited under Philippine laws (Republic Act No. 8550, Sec. 91, 92 and 97; Fisheries Administrative Order 202 and 208) and international treaty (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, CITES).”
VISAYAS AWESOME FOOD EXPERIENCES:
I agree with Bridgette Rebuca that you should try Ted’s or Deco’s Batchoy of Iloilo. You should also put the original Pala Pala of Bacolod (by Journeying James) and the Larsian of Cebu (by Mhe-anne Ojeda) on your list. Go on a food trip in Carcar, Cebu for their Chicharon, among others (by Lloyd Lostboy).
I must confess I haven’t tried Argao’s Torta (by Rv Escatron), Ngohiong in Cebu (by Doi Domasian), Oatiekin Bars (by Edcel Suyo) in Dumaguete, and Madge Coffee (by Jennifer Valmonte) in Iloilo. I’ve taken note of all of them for my next food trip.
23. TORTA by Rv Escatron | ARGAO, CEBU
24. ★ BATCHOY by Bridgette Rebuca | ILOILO ✔
“Unlike my Deco’s bowl, the one I had at Ted’s Oldtimer in Diversion road is an all-out production. A bowl complete with egg and many little bits of meat all over the place. One word … Yum!
25. PALA-PALA by Journeying James | BACOLOD ✔
“Since Charmie & Diane are the ‘local experts’ on this particular restaurant, we let them order, except for the Tinolang Talakitok (which I personally chose). Here’s what they got: Sizzling Blue Marlin, Spicy Adobong Pusit, Buttered Shrimps. Plus: 2 cups of rice each (except for me) and 1.5 Mountain Dew…… Every dish has a flavor of its own, you can identify if you are tasting the spices or the main ingredient. I was shouting ‘NAMI! NAMI GID!’ (It’s good, it’s soooooo good!)”
26. ★ OATIEKIN BARS by Edcel Suyo | TSOKOLAT BAKESHOP, DUMAGUETE CITY
“I bought one oatikin bar in order to see why my friends were excited. After the attendant brought one out from the chiller and unwrapped its transparent plastic, I immediately ate it to see what the fuss was all about. At 25Php, it was one of the more expensive desserts from the lot but I could understand why.
The rich, fudgy chocolate softened as I brought it to my mouth. Its cold and moist texture slowly melted while the oatmeal blankets added balance to the pastry’s sweetness. It didn’t remind me of any dessert I’ve already tasted, which made it more delectable because of its unqueness. The chocolate bar didn’t disappoint at all.”
27. LARSIAN by Mhe-anne Ojeda | CEBU
“Larsian and Pungko-Pungko have become…staple food hubs for tourists and holidaymakers in Cebu City and have become part of this City’s identity and culture, expressed in the cuisine and culinary traditions available cheaply and conveniently for big groups like my family.
Larsian is one of Cebu City’s most prominent barbecue havens with tons of barbecue stands offering selections of squid, fish, all parts of chicken and pork cooked as you order.”
28. ★ NGOHIONG by Doi Domasian | CEBU
“Ngohiong is your oversized spring rolls except that it tastes different (but yummy of course), crunchier and a sure hit (with) vegetarians. Average price per piece of Ngohiong is P9.00, and this food is best served with puso or hanging rice while you use your bare hands to satisfy your grumbling tummy.
The real secret to this food’s delectable taste is (in) its sauce. Ngohiong is best enjoyed when you dip it in a sauce rich with chili and other spices that will make you sweat as you gobble up this food. It’s not ngohiong if you don’t get to dip it in that super hot and spicy sauce. Different stores came up with their own versions of this sauce and no matter how different each sauce tastes, you’ll still enjoy your sumptuous ngohiong meal!”
29. ★ CHICHARON by Lloyd Lostboy | CARCAR, CEBU ✔
“Chicharon – Carcar’s pride chicharon tops the other versions I have tasted around the Philippines, and that’s not just an exaggeration. Dried and deep-fried with enough fat and meat, chicharon can be enjoyed by itself or with a cup of rice, like I did as I got home. Several stores sell chicharon in the market, but I was only able to sample two. I highly recommend Bebie’s Chicharon (+63 32 487 5501). Nay Bebie sells them at only 20php per small packet.”
30. ★ MADGE COFFEE by Jennifer Valmonte | ILOILO
“On our first morning in Iloilo, we went out to find this cafe, but most of the locals didn’t seem to know the place, until one vendor at the La Paz Market told us the directions going there. Tucked inside the market is one awesome gem that quickly captured our hearts.
Upon entering the cafe, a familiar face greeted us (I first saw her picture (in) the magazine). She asked us our coffee preferences and provided us with choices: Strong or Mild, with or without milk. We told (her) our choice, and quickly, she worked her wonders. With the advent of instant coffees, coffee makers, and coffee shops here and there, it was really nice to see coffee being prepared this way.”
What is your own Awesome Food Experience while traveling in the Philippines? Please post your experiences in the comments section with a short blurb and a link to your blog post.
Live an Awesome Life,
Full Disclosure: Our Awesome Planet is a member of Pinoy Travel Blogger’s community and this blog post aims to promote the different Pinoy travel bloggers and their awesome food experiences in the country.
P.S. Thanks to the 28 Pinoy Travel Bloggers who participated in this month’s Blog Carnival 🙂
Pinoy Travel Blog Carnival #9 | July 2011 Blog Carnival theme:
“Awesome Food Experience while Traveling in the Philippines“
Each month, the Pinoy Travel Blogger’s Community members agree on a
Blog Carnival theme and contribute a blog post based on the theme. The
aim is to collectively promote the Philippines and promote each other’s
blog. It is one of the coolest communities online with 181 travel bloggers to
date. You need to have a pre-qualified travel blog to be invited to join the
group. For more info, visit Pinoy Travel Blogger’s Blog Carnival Themes.