While travelers often take interest in visiting the Philippines to explore some of its stunning idyllic islands and world-renowned beaches, the country's 7000+ islands also offer its visitors an incredibly varied gastronomic experience.
Each dish in Filipino cuisine is a reflection of the people, history, and culture of a region, city, or island. Part of the Philippine travel experience is trying famous dishes or going on Philippine food tours.
Not only will you excite your taste buds, but this will also help you have a better understanding of the Filipino culture. Every region in the country has its own trademark dishes. Some of them have similarities but the regions often come up with their own versions and twists!
To help you plan your culinary adventure in the Philippines, here's a list of the best foodie destinations in the country that you should add to your itinerary:
A prominent province in the country’s Calabarzon region, Laguna is widely known for its delicious snack delicacies.
Laguna towns and municipalities have their own specialty dish or delicacy. Santa Cruz, for example, is proud of its kesong puti (white cheese). In Los Baños, you can find the famous buko pie (coconut pie) and the chocolate flavored Mer-nel’s cake.
The traditional rice cake called bibingka is well-loved in Pagsanjan, while Narcarlan specializes in espasol, a soft and chewy rice cake made from glutinous rice flour and grated green coconut. If you’re in San Pablo, look for cakes, chips, and other snack variants made from ube (yam).
Cagayan de Oro is the capital city of the Misamis Oriental province in Northern Mindanao. The city, fondly called CDO, is one of the heavily urbanized cities in the country and is known for its whitewater rafting tours. It’s also a culinary tourism destination!
When in Cagayan de Oro, you need to try the city’s pride, the chicken surol. This local favorite features juicy native chicken cooked in coconut milk.
Hit up local eateries and ask for CDO’s version of humba, a pork stew that offers a beautiful marriage of sweet, sour, and salty flavors. Don’t leave CDO without tasting sinuglaw, a dish that combines fish ceviche and grilled pork belly.
The local snack binaki may also tickle your fancy. This Filipino version of corn tamale is a blend of milk, butter, sugar, and corn. This mixture is then wrapped in corn husk and steamed. It’s a real treat!
Binondo, the Chinatown district of Manila, has its origins dating back to the early 1590s. This makes it one of the oldest Chinatowns in the world.
Over the years, Binondo has become a food hub, showcasing a diverse cuisine that infuses its rich Filipino, Spanish and Chinese heritage.
While exploring the quaint streets during Binondo tours, check out its most famous snacks like pork dumplings, fried pancakes, and hopia, a thin flaky pastry filled with sweet yam or mung bean paste.
Keep an eye for lumpia (spring rolls), misua guisado (sauteed thin white noodles), guisado and beef mami (beef soup noodles).
Binondo also has some of the best siopaos in the country. “Siopao” refers to a white steamed bun stuffed with sweet pork meat called asado.
The glutinous rice dish kiampong is another must-try traditional Filipino Chinese delicacy. This dish comes with sliced pork and sausages, combined with vinegar, garlic, black pepper, and soy sauce.
The coastal city of Roxas is the capital of the Capiz province, located on Panay Island. Referred to as the “Seafood Capital of the Philippines”, Roxas is a certified Filipino food destination that deserves to be in the list.
Simple, cheap, and incredibly fresh seafood dishes are the stars of the dining scene in Roxas tours. While here, go seafood restaurant hopping and make sure to order baked oysters, butter garlic scallops, and grilled fish, among others.
Kare-Kare is a popular Filipino stew that’s usually cooked with meat and thick peanut sauce. In Roxas, you can try it with seafood.
Another local specialty is the coco loco prawn, which showcases prawns cooked in coconut milk, chilies, and lemongrass.
If you want something other than seafood, look for eateries serving crispy pork binagoongan (fried pork with shrimp paste) and inasal na talakitok (local roasted chicken).
Photo by Asiong Caviteño Restaurant
Just a one or two-hour drive from Metro Manila, Cavite is a convenient destination to begin your Filipino gastronomic journey.
The province, whose capital bears the same name, holds an important place in the country’s history as this is where the 1898 Philippine Independence was declared.
Because Cavite was the port for the Manila Galleon trade, it’s heavily influenced by Spanish culture. You can see this reflected in their dialect (Chavacano) and food.
Pansit pusit is one of the Spanish inspired dishes to look out for when doing Cavite tours. This dish consists of noodles coated with black squid ink sauce. Another traditional Caviteño dish is the pancit puso, which is sotanghon (thin noodles) sauteed and topped with puso ng saging (banana blossoms)
Cavite also has a version of the Portuguese dish bacalao, which is codfish sauteed in butter and seasoned in salt. If you’re a meat lover, make sure to taste the savory meat roll dish called morcon or the tamarind-laced chicken soup, sinampalukang manok.
The province of Batangas sits on the Calabarzon Region of Luzon Island. Many travelers do Batangas tours to visits its natural sites like the Taal Lake and Volcano, but this huge province can also provide its visitors a satisfying “foodie” experience.
The ultimate comfort food in Batangas is lomi, a noodle soup with fried pork rinds (chicharon), pork innards, spring onions and fried garlic. Its broth is made of cassava flour to create a gooey texture.
Another soup-based Batangas favorite is goto. This savory beef soup features beef innards and tripe, blended with ginger, garlic, onion, oil, water, vinegar, salt, and the plant-based food color called atsuete.
If you’re in Taal Town, check out Tapang Taal. While the usual Filipino tapa is made with beef, the Taal version is made with pork, marinated in soy sauce, garlic and calamansi.
Top your culinary experience in Batangas by drinking their famous kapeng barako, a strong Philippine coffee variety grown and blended in the region.
Located in the country’s Western Mindanao region, the coastal city of Zamboanga City offers its visitors a truly unique culinary experience.
The cuisine that you can try in Zamboanga tours is distinguishable from the rest of the country because it comprises of Tausug dishes that are more similar to neighboring Muslim-dominated countries like Malaysia and Brunei.
Zamboanga’s close ties and proximity to Muslim-dominated Philippine islands like Tawi-Tawi, and countries like Malaysia and Brunei have made its cuisine quite distinct from the rest of the Philippines.
Perhaps the most popular of these unique dishes is tiyula itum, a spicy beef and/or goat soup cooked with ginger, turmeric, and lemongrass. Tiyula itum’s deep black broth is derived from burnt coconut meat.
Another well-liked dish in Zamboanga is the kurma, a type of spicy curry dish that uses braised beef, coconut milk, and spices. Other popular delicacies are lato (sea grapes), satti (thinly sliced beef or chicken in red sauce), and coconut curacha (a rare crab specie)
Pangasinan is a prime manufacturer of bagoong, a fermented fish-based paste used to complement dishes. In fact, it is in this province where the lechon bagoong was invented. This dish features grilled whole pig stuffed with bagoong.
Many Pampanga towns have their own beloved homegrown dish. If you head over to the province’s Dagupan City, you can sample some of the best bangus (milkfish) dishes.
When you make your way to Alaminos, you will find the orange-colored and garlicky Alaminos Longganisa (sausage).
Another must-try Pangasinan food is pigar-pigar, which consists of beef slices sauteed in cabbage and onions and paired with hot rice. If you’re looking for a quick bite, consider the local cakes called tupig and puto calasiao.
Davao, a city in South Mindanao, is widely known as the “Durian Capital of the Philippines”. So naturally, this is where you can taste the best varieties of the durian fruit, dubbed as the “King of Fruits”.
The Davaoeños have managed to create a range of products derived from their most famous fruit. While in this urban center, you can find durian candies, durian cake, and durian flavored coffee among others.
Davao is also recognized as the Chocolate Capital of the Philippines since it produces at least 81% of the Philippines' total cacao production. A trip to Davao isn't complete without sampling and learning about Philippine chocolates in cacao tourist spots like Malagos Chocolate Museum.
The city is a great place to sample seafood like prawns, mussels, and crabs. Tuna dishes like tuna kinilaw (tuna ceviche), tuna eye sour soup, and grilled tuna belly are especially popular among locals and tourists.
If your cravings go beyond seafood, then try out the Davao version of chicken inato. This often juicy grilled chicken dish showcases smoky tones coupled with sweet and salty flavors.
Bulcachong is a quintessential street food that you shouldn't miss when doing Davao tours. This rich soup dish uses carabao meat chunks that are simmered for hours until tender. The soup is then mixed in with spices, ginger and atsuete.
Situated on the northwestern coast of Negros Island, Bacolod City is the home of chicken inasal, the greatly adored Filipino charcoal-grilled chicken dish.
These days, chicken inasal is available all across the country but it’s still in Bacolod where you can find its most authentic version and shouldn't be missed when doing Bacolod tours.
The original inasal is actually marinated in sinamak, a special vinegar that originated in the Negros region. While in Bacolod, you will discover that hardly any part of the chicken is gone to waste.
Try out the Bacoleño version of isaw, (chicken intestine on a stick), Locally called tina-e, this version is cleaned inside out, barbecued, and then eaten with vinegar dip.
Another classic Bacolod dish is kansi. This beef bone marrow soup makes use of the local batuan fruit that gives it a unique sour flavor. Finally, satisfy your sweet with piaya, a sweet pressed pastry filled with muscovado, a sugar product that originated in Negros Occidental.
Sitting on the northwestern coast of Luzon island, Ilocos Sur is renowned for its valuable historical sites. The region’s history is rich and highly celebrated, and so are its culinary traditions that you can experience in Ilocos tours.
One popular Ilocano specialty you should not miss is the dinardaraan (Ilocano dinuguan), a dish that combines pig’s meat, pig’s blood, and spices.
When you head over to Batac City, the oldest town in the region, locals will recommend their traditional orange-colored Batac empanadas, fried pastry filled with sausage, green papaya, and onions.
The bagnet, which is deep-fried pork belly meat, is also a must-try. If you're a vegetable lover, don’t miss trying the mixed vegetable stew called pinakbet or dinegdeg, a plethora of various vegetables like bitter melon leaves, jute leaves, squash, gourds, sweet potatoes, banana blossoms, and yams.
The Bicol Region is located in the southern section of the Philippine’s Luzon Island. Aside from being home to the perfectly-shaped Mayon Volcano, Bicol has earned culinary fame across the country because of its distinct use of coconut and chilies in its Filipino dishes.
The most popular dish associated with Bicol is the Bicol Express (although it was actually popularized in Malate, Manila). This coconut-based stew is made of pork chunks or sauteed shrimp, chili, and shrimp paste.
During your Bicol tours, don’t miss the opportunity of trying out laing or natong. This vegetable dish is a blend of coconut milk, dried gabi leaves, chilies and meat.
Kinunot is another treasured coconut-based dish that is made of malunggay leaves, stingray, and shark meat.
If you want to take a break from coconut, then try out the Spanish inspired kandingga, which is made with pork heart and lungs, onions, vinegar, garlic, and peppers.
Don’t forget to munch some pili nuts or its variants. This nut, which came from a tree of the same name, is the quintessential snack that Bicolanos simply adore.
Iloilo City sits on Panay Island, in the Philippines’ Western Visayas region. The widely popular La Paz Batchoy is the city’s highly prized invention and is a must-try during Iloilo tours. This savory egg noodle dish consists of pork liver, bone marrow, pork intestines, scallions and shrimp paste.
Numerous restaurants in the city serve this savory egg noodle dish. But if you must go to where it all began, then head over to the La Paz Public Market and dine at the iconic Netong's.
The charcoal-roasted native chicken called darag is also a must-try. This one is marinated in vinegar and calamansi and stuffed with sampalok leaves and lemongrass to enhance flavor and aroma.
Another iconic Ilonggo dish is the pancit molo, a variation of the Chinese wonton soup. Preparing molo involves stuffing wonton wrappers with ground pork and chicken bits and then resting them in a broth seasoned with spring onions and fried garlic.
Binakol is another local favorite that features chicken and vegetables slow-cooked in coconut water, and seasoned with garlic, coconut water, and lemongrass.
Cebu is the Visayas region’s vibrant commercial center. The province, including its capital city of the same name, has made quite a name for itself in the culinary scene.
The quintessential Cebuano food is definitely the lechon (whole pig roasted on an open fire pit). Although you can find lechon all over the country, Cebu's version is a must-try when doing Cebu tours.
Being an island, Cebu is abundant with seafood. One popular dining experience is sutukil which stands for “sugba” (grill), “tula” (stew), and “kilawin” (soaked in vinegar). A sutukil experience involves choosing fresh seafood and deciding whether you want it stewed, grilled, or soaked in vinegar. Sutukil eateries are all over the province.
Other must-try Cebuano dishes include the pochero (beef soup similar to bulalo), kinilaw (fish ceviche), and utan (leafy green and root vegetables cooked in salted water).
Situated in the Central Luzon Region, Pampanga is just a few hours’ drive away from Metro Manila. It’s not just a province blessed with rich heritage, culture, and fertile soil; it’s also the proud home of some of the best culinary Filipino legends and the tasty local dishes that have helped it earned the title of Culinary Capital of the Philippines.
Most family and community gatherings in Pampanga will have morcon. This particular dish is made of ground beef and pork, chorizo sausages, onions, eggs, raisins and cheese, wrapped in a pig’s caul fat.
Sisig is another original Pampanga dish that has found countrywide fame and a must-try in Pampanga tours. It’s said to have been invented by a certain Luciana Cunanan from Angeles, Pampanga. Sisig is made with crispy pig head and liver, served on a hot sizzling plate.
Another party favorite is the bringhe, a rice dish similar to the Spanish Paella. This dish involves glutinous rice cooked in turmeric and coconut milk and topped with chicken legs, carrots, and bell peppers.
Pampanga is also home to a simpler but tasty version of halo-halo, a Filipino dessert made with crushed iced and sweetened fruits with milk.
Discover the Food Culture of the Philippines
These Philippine destinations will captivate the palate and imagination of the food lover in you. If you’re still not sure about how to organize your own Philippines food experience; you can easily sign up for food tours in the Philippines. These organized tours give you the opportunity to taste Filipino dishes and immerse yourself in the local culture.
But whether you do it on your own or let an expert guide you, don’t miss the chance to appreciate the Philippines through its cuisine. Doing this will make your travel experience much more meaningful and inspiring!