Food & Drink

Regional Dishes of the Philippines

Written by Patrick

Do you know the regional origin of popular dishes in the Philippines?

The Philippines is an archipelago of more than 7,000 islands grouped into regions.  Each region has their own dishes based on their ethnic traditions and making use of whatever ingredients available in the area.  Over the years, Filipino cuisine evolved from traditional into what it is now due to the influences of Chinese traders and foreign colonizers including Spanish, American, and Japanese.

While these regional dishes are most authentic when cooked using the original ingredients, many of these dishes have become so popular and are now being served all over the country, albeit with modifications to replace the ingredients that are not readily-available.

Here are the regional dishes now popular all over the Philippines.

Luzon

Sisig

Caption:  Sisig | Image Source

The biggest island in the Philippines, Luzon is a haven for foodies who want to indulge their taste buds with the best the country has to offer.  Pampanga in Central Luzon dubbed as the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines” is home to the famous sisig, a dish made of chopped pig’s face and belly and chicken liver.  It is best eaten with a cup of warm rice or as a “pulutan” to accompany your ice cold beer.  Cured meat such as tocino and longganisa are also a specialty of Pampanga.

Ilocos Region is credited as the home of pinakbet although the region is also known for other foods such as Vigan longganisa, empanada, and bagnet (popularly called chicharon).  Bicol Region, on the other hand, is best known for its spicy hot dishes.  Popular all over the Philippines is Bicol express, a stew made from either long chili peppers or small chili peppers, coconut milk, shrimp paste, and pork with ginger, onion, and garlic.  

Other Filipino foods said to have originated from the island of Luzon are halo-halo, ube halaya, kaldereta, laing, and pares.

Visayas

Lechon

Caption:  Lechon | Image Source

Located in the central part of the Philippines, Visayas is a treasure trove of tasty dishes that have become staple in the dining table of every Filipino family especially during special occasions.  First on the list is lechon Cebu, a whole roasted pig known for its crispy outer skin and moist juicy meat.  While it doesn’t pinpoint Cebu as the origin, Cebu’s lechon is in demand all over the country and is dubbed as the “best pig… ever” by Anthony Bourdain.  Foods originated from this part of Visayas are rosquillos and otap.

In Western Visayas, there’s Bacolod chicken inasal and piaya while Iloilo‘s batchoy, pancit Molo, and KBL (kadios baboy langka).  Biscocho, a twice-baked bread known for being crunchy, is popularly associated with Iloilo and is one of the most popular pasalubong to take to your loved ones back home.

Humba, a braised pork dish with a slightly sweet taste is said to have originated from the province of Leyte in Eastern Visayas.

Mindanao

Satti

Caption:  Satti | Image Source

Mindanaoan cuisine is known for its rich flavor similar to the flavors of Bicol Region as well as its Asian neighbors such as Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand.  Satti (also spelled satay), is the most popular dish coming from this part of the country.  It is a grilled or skewered meat marinated in garlic and soy sauce mixture.  Rendang is also popularly associated with Mindanao although the original version originated from an ethnic group in West Sumatra.

Not all dishes in the country are associated with a region.  There are several dishes cooked all over the Philippines but come in different regional versions.  One is adobo which is commonly cooked in vinegar and soy sauce but there is a version in which soy sauce is omitted and instead uses salt to taste.  There is also a version called adobong dilaw (yellow adobo) where tumeric or annatto seed is used to give that distinct yellow color.  The version is prevalent in the Visayas and Mindanao.  Kinilaw or kilawin (ceviche), torta (fritters), and ginisang monggo are also nationwide dishes with different versions.

READ MORE: Popular Main Dishes in the Philippines

What's your favorite Filipino dish?

About the Author

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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