Food is about fusion in The Philippines. A fusion of European and Asian flavours. A fusion of traditional and modern, of sun and land and sea. The Family Adventure Project ate their way around two of the central islands…
Simple fare, freshly prepared
Food in The Philippines has been influenced by countries around the world, especially other Asian countries. It varies from island to island, region to region and family to family. But the main dishes are unmistakably Filipino. Dishes are mildly spiced; soy sauce, vinegar, oil, garlic and the miniature limes that grow abundantly on the islands are the traditional ingredients. “We have a very simple way of cooking,” says Filipino Melanie Calvo who lives in Cebu.
Chicken, pork and rice are staples; kids will love the fried chicken that populates almost every menu, including fast food restaurants. They’ll probably also enjoy the popular chicken and/or pork Adobo which is cooked in a light gravy. At Tanie’s Fried Chicken House in Carmel, soy sauce, garlic and vinegar are used to flavour lean native chickens before they are fried in huge chunks. The restaurant, and the recipe, has been passed from mother to daughter.
But wherever you eat, don’t expect a knife. “Our food is soft already and comes prepared in small pieces. It only requires a fork and spoon,” says Grace Tachado, who works as a guide on Bohol.
However a large knife is necessary for the Lechon- a hog roast that’s cooked up for a birthday or family celebration. “It’s our national dish,” laugh the guests at the Batuan town Fiesta, shortly before they tuck in. This fiesta introduces us to delicious savoury dishes like Menudo, Kaldereta, Lumpia, Bola-Bola and Humba.
You will often find fish on the menu. Tilapia is harvested at Loboc River Resort and delivered to our table later on dressed with vegetables and black beans. Seafood is common on the coast; we try everything from clams to crabs to Lapu-Lapu fish while bobbing about on a floating restaurant near Olango Island. Another local fish dish is Kinilaw – a raw fish salad.
If you want to splash out on a special seafood meal, try Lantaw Floating Restaurant on Mactan Island. Meanwhile The Golden Cowrie, with branches on Cebu and Bohol is popular for authentic Filipino food.
Learning about food
In the interior of Bohol we pass rice fields in various stages of production; from irrigated new shoots to verdant green plots. The rice grown on Bohol feeds people on many of the islands. Rice, sweetcorn and coconut are laid out to dry in the sun at the roadside. Meanwhile In cities the roadside is filled with bright street food. Try the fried hardboiled eggs, coated in bright orange batter, or the skewered fried banana. At festival time in Cebu a popular street dish is a soup called ‘Binignit.’
Fruit is the main ingredient of many Filipino desserts. Try the frozen Mango Float or Banana Turon – fried bananas in a filo pastry. Rice is popular too – budbud is sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf and biko is a rice cake.
For a pudding that could defeat a sweet toothed army, Halo-halo is a riot of jelly, sweets, ice cream and ice. (The key is to mix it all up!) And if you like this then try a Zagu – a kind of drink version. And you can’t come to The Philippines without having a fresh juice or shake. Full of ice and colourful as local life. Relax and enjoy.
For every flight and hotel trip that you book to the Philippines for 7 nights or more from now until the 31st of December, Expedia will donate £100 to Habitat for Humanity to help rebuild homes, schools and livelihoods.
Find out more about the work of Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines.