Okay as many of you know, I am a foodie. Yes I admit it. I am a gormandizer and love to experience new tastes that can send me into an eye rolling in the back of my head euphoric high. Now I found my Shangri-La in the Philippines. The food here isn’t one for the salubrious kind. Chin dripping grease with state fair ground like appetizing fried food is what you get here. You can practically have any part of the animal fried from intestines, to stomach, to skin….and yes it is all eye popping delicious. On top of that there is sugary love for sweets. Sweet breads, cakes, cupcakes, donuts, and every imaginable dessert concoction that you can think of. Travel has seemingly turned into a food tour for me. And this country has salivated my Texas tastebuds. One nice thing about spending a bit longer here is that I have learned so much, made great new friends, and really had an opportunity to taste some wild and crazy things. So this part of my exploration has taken me on a Filipino culinary adventure and has been exactly what I was looking for. Now I admit, I still have a lot of exploring to do still but…..nom nom nom nom…..this has been really exciting to my gustatory cortex.
Filipinos really love their food in the highest foodie sense. Talk to any Filipino about food and their eyes will light up like a christmas tree and they will simultaneously start drooling while telling you all about their favorite local delicacies. They will be happy to show you these dishes just to watch the expression on your face with each masticating chew. And when your eyes roll to the back of your head, they will jump out of their seat with joyous excitement. I love it. I feed off their love and passion for food. It is that common love for food that makes me feel like I have a little Filipino in me. I have actually tried more foods than what I can show you but my salivating eagerness to take the first bite gets the best of me before I can take a photo….all I can say is, “sssssoooooooooorrrryyyyy!”
Disclaimer: When writing this blog entry I realized I missed a lot of dishes and that there are a lot of Filipino foods. I have posted pics and blurbs about things I have tried but seriously there is a lot more that I’m not mentioning here. Milk fish, the dessert Halo Halo, Rice Porridge, Fried Pork Belly (Lechon Kawali – this is absolutely amazing!) Corned beef, lots of different breads, and numerous others. Well here you go and a somewhat incomplete list of Filipino food. enjoy!
Filipino breakfast can consist of items that would be considered lunch in the western world such as fried chicken and even french fries but here are some truly breakfast foods. There are food carts that line the streets where people starting their day or perhaps ending their day (Manila has a lot of night shift workers) eat elbow to elbow on counters. For the sake of the blog, I will write about the uniquely breakfast items. There’s pork, beef, chicken and seafood usually accompanied with rice, an egg sunny side up, and some pickled vegetables. There is also rice porridge with chicken and plenty of varieties of sweet pancakes.
A little lesson in Filipino breakfast vocabulary, “silog” means with fried garlic fried rice and egg. So on many breakfast menus there will by longsilog or cornsilog which is meat plus egg and fried rice. Here’s a few examples…but there are literally tons of them.
- Longsilog = Longanisa + Silog (fried rice and egg)
- Adosilog = Adobo + Silog
- Cornsilog = Corned beef + Silog
Longanisa or Longsilog
Okay this is my go to. It is a chorizo like sausage but different. I absolutely love this savory and incredibly addictive sausage. It varies from region to region. There is Vigan longanisa not to be confused with anything healthy. Vigan is an area in Northern Luzon which is the island that Manila is located on. Vigan longanisa is has a garlic taste but there are some that are very sweet to spicy.
Sugar cured pork and very tasty. I’m not sure how to describe this other than pork awesomeness!
Haha…okay I must warn you on this…if you have a weak stomach…stop here. This uniquely Filipino delicacy is hard for most westerners to comprehend eating. Duck fetus! You think ,”What the BLEEP?!!!” “Why would anybody eat such a thing?” So what is a Balut? It is a duck embryo that has been allowed to age to a fetus state. This formation of the bird is visible side the egg. It is hard boiled but I would say more like soft boiled because they don’t want to cook all the juices. As I was saying before, Filipinos love to watch westerners eat their dishes. Most westerners pass on this…even some Filipinos pass on this dish. Though there are plenty that absolutely love this! So my tasting experience is similar to probably every other gringo trying it. Hanging out with Filipinos and you will inevitably try this at some point. It is a rite of passage into becoming Filipino. So as I was hanging out with Filipinos, a guy walks past selling these nauseating soft boiled duck fetuses. Oh they couldn’t pass it up…”Hey lets get the white guy to puke on himself and laugh at him.” Now I don’t mind being the butt of any joke as I have stated many times but I responded….”uh uh…I don’t know about this.” “I had a lot of coffee today, this might not be the day for me to try this.” I was picturing a formaldehyde taste while choking of feathers as I tried to chew through a crunchy beak. “Guys I…..” But it was too late at that point. It was already ordered and a crowd of Filipinos and restaurant workers were gathering around to watch the white guy puke all over himself. Don’t get me wrong I wanted to try this but you are never ready for your first time to eat duck fetus. My friends were very instructive and helpful on how to eat this as well. “You have to punch a hole in the egg first and drink the juice. That is the best part.” “There’s a best part?? huh okay…I don’t know want to miss out on that,” I thought. My helpful friends took the liberty to punch a hole in the top for me so that I could drink the juice. They took a chopstick and drilled a perfect drinking hole. I then took the egg and took a deep breath as I was getting prepared to spew all over over myself. I held the egg up and cheers’d with a nervous smile. As I took a swig of the “best part” fetus juice, I was actually shocked. “Hey that wasn’t that bad. Definitely not formaldahyde.” After getting through the first puke test, I was pretty proud. Okay now the egg. I was still receiving orders from my Filipino companions at this point. “You have to peel back the egg!” Still nervous….”Ugg….I am not sure about this”….but I was doing this. I wasn’t going to back out. I wanted to prove that I could do this. I wanted try it! I needed to try it! For myself and my love of the full Filipino experience. Then I looked up and of course I see a camera phone recording the whole escapade. Great I will puke all over myself in a humiliating and embarrassing moment and it will be caught on camera. I could just see myself starring in a Filipino viral “white guy pukes on himself” video in which every Filipino would recognize me from. I guess you need to record this moment anyways. “Okay here we go”…..as I peeled back the egg, I saw the appetizing fetus show its newly formed body. Oh my…..That’s a bird! That doesn’t really look too good. Just sight caused a gag reflex. I peeled off more egg which was similar to peeling a hard boiled egg. I shook my head trying to build my nerve up as I peeled. I was thinking, “okay Jeff, do not puke. DO NOT PUKE!” Okay…here is the first bite. I took a chomp. As the juices and flavors swirled around my mouth, I was utterly shocked. “Hey this isn’t that bad.” I couldn’t believe I was actually doing it. I couldn’t help but to be excited. “I am eating duck fetus!” Hey everyone look at me… I am eating duck fetus and not puking.” As I started enjoying it they were like “dip it in salt.” “Yes, yes I want to eat this correctly.” I dipped in salt…and finished the egg. So yes my name is Jeff and I eat duck fetuses in the Philippines! With the feeling of one of those guys from the travel channel who will eat anything, I was truly proud of experiencing the Balut. Yes, I will try anything….anything!
The best way to describe this is fat man’s bliss. This roasted buttery and “honey boo boo” like plump whole pig is fantastic. Slow roasted over charcoals in a way that only someone who has cooked a lot of these can master. Celebrity Chef and world traveler Anthony Bourdaine has stated the best pig in the world is in Cebu, Philippines and I have to say I agree with him. It is delicious. I’m not sure who in the rest of the world makes this dish but in the Philippines the outside is crisped in a way that savors the juices inside. As it cooks, the fat just renders and melts inside so each bit needs only minimal chewing. The gelatinous goodness dissolves in your mouth and slathers down your throat in an “oh my gaawwwwdd” moment. These guys really know how to cook pig here!!! In typical Filipino style, locals will order what seemingly looks like pounds of pig stacked on a plate for the table. Then they make a beautiful sauce to go with it. As in most places in Asia, they give you the ingredients and leave it up to you to mix to your own liking. I had to get the waitress to make my first few batches. Now the thing Filipinos brag about it is that Cebu Lechon is so juicy that it doesn’t need any sauce. It’s like putting steak sauce on a fine steak….kind of a taboo. But the sauce goes like “a little soy sauce, vinegar, a squeeze of miniature local lime (calamansi), then add some chili pepper”….and wah-laaa you have a perfect little side sauce.
Bone marrow soup. Worth an hour drive just to taste….or perhaps a flight across the globe to the Philippines! YES!!!!! Really really really really really really really good!!!! So they take beef shanks with bone and throw it in a big soup with corn and potatoes. The buttery bone marrow melts into the soup giving a really succulent and fatty meaty taste in the mouth.
This comes in pork, chicken, fish, or beef..and is essential any kind of meat marinated in soy sauce, garlic, and vinegar…It is a very popular dish and Filipinos will tell you it is very easy to make. The dish is amazing and I love it. It’s typically pretty cheap on the menu too. I think it is more about than the sauce though. I love the sauce and could probably just order a glass of it to drink. It is that good. The pork adobo here doesn’t have the fat trimmed off which I love….they leave it on…and it gives that culinary explosion in the mouth with each flavor able chew.
Another fine Filipino dish…This sizzling dish of pork consists of pig head and liver seasoned with chili peppers and lime. Yes it is good but again I say that about most Filipino dishes. I think it is considered an appetizer or snack.
Think gyro or kebab…Filipino style. Really good…and if you like spicy then incredibly awesome. The meat is meticulously shaved off into the frying pan and then a tortilla is toasted on the back burner…Meat is then scooped up and thrown in a tortilla, then squirted with a generous serving of mayo and spicy sauce on top. Then “KA-POW!!” in the mouth. It is typically served at food cart style vendors and is considered a snack but geez, I am tempted to order them like tacos…”uh…yes, I will take a 6 pack please.” Vendor: “You want six sir?” Me: “Yes 6 shawarmas please…don’t judge me…I want six for my big fat american belly…thank you.”
Fried Chicken Skin
Okay this is genius…Who cares about that white meat inside fried chicken, everyone knows that best part is the fried skin. So in usual Filipino style, they have taken off the best part of the chicken and fried it. I wonder how this started…perhaps a special order…“Yes, I will take fried chicken….but can you hold the chicken, I just want the fried crunchy outer part only.” Because in this service oriented country, it is okay to ask for special orders. AWESOME!!!!! So “One fried chicken hold the meat..coming up.!!!..”“And can you give me a side of gravy?” Like I said Philippines can make any Texas State Fair food stand in the US jealous.
Paa and spicy Paa. BBQ juicy chicken lathered with spices and cooked to perfection. There are plenty of restaurants that specialize in this and they know what they are doing. You will see the Inasal sign lit up as bright as the McDonald Arches and no doubt a long line of drooling Filipinos waiting for their chance to order.. Normally this mouth watering party in your mouth chicken comes with rice. Now I want to clarify that rice in Asia is different than the rice in the US. There are literally 1000s of varieties of rice here so as you can imagine it’s really good and fresh. I think in Asia they eat all the best rice and ship whatever is deemed barely edible rice by Asian standards to the US. Seriously, I have never tasted awesome rice until my Asian adventure. So for a few pesos more at these establishments, you can get unlimited rice…some places don’t even make you pay for unlimited rice. Part of eating local dishes is knowing how to eat them for the full effect. So I was advised…”you must ask for chicken oil.” Okay what is that…well, it is chicken fat drippings that they serve with the chicken and rice. You must poor this beautiful tasty goodness all over your rice and eat with chicken. Again…this is the Texas in me that loves this unhealthy eating!
Here is another Filipino favorite. When spoken by a Filipino…it’s really said with serious enthusiasm..”Kaaaarrrrrreeee kaaaarrreeee!” My feeble attempt at speaking Filipino has me sounding more like the godfather though. I will admit this wasn’t my favorite but I figured I should at least blog it on here since it so loved. It is stewed oxtail and to me tasted like grassy barnyard hay but I guess there are people that desire the flavors of earthiness. I am certainly not judging all the Filipinos that love it. They have a wonderful palate and have introduced me to plenty of savory dishes. I just can’t be a fan of EVERY dish after all.
Okay they sell Krispy Kreme and Duncan Donuts here but they don’t have anything on JCO. JCO might even be a Korean chain but they are everywhere here. I always see Filipinos in these places so I had to try. Definitely had to try…I kind of a like donuts! :). This is one of those things when the icing drips on the plate, you look around to see if anybody is watching, then you stick out your tongue and lick every last drop on plate. The donut itself is very lite and fluffy….and the icing isn’t too sweet and sugary…it really is a perfect balance. When I walk in there and order one or two donuts, the person serving looks at me grabs a big box. “No no! not 2 boxes, just 2 donuts.” They then look at me like “are you crazy?” You want only 2 donuts? not 2 boxes?” They always look at me in a quizzical look and can’t understand what is wrong with me. Why would you order 1 or 2 donuts? That doesn’t making sense….These are so good….are you sure you don’t want 24 donuts. I then have to explain myself. I can’t order 24 donuts because I will eat them all here and I can’t have that. Please just give me 2 donuts…. As you can tell from the top of the picture below, people order boxes!.
Okay, my favorite thing in the whole world is peanut butter. Anything with peanut butter, I will inevitably eat. Any restaurant that has any peanut butter concoction, I can’t help but to order. I walk past an ice-cream shop that has peanut butter, I am like…err….must try. I am very predictable when it comes to this. I will account a large portion of my travel weight loss due to not having constant access to peanut butter all the time. At home, I can’t even keep it in my house because I will no doubt finish it at a record pace. I love it so much, I can sit on the couch and eat out of a jar of peanut butter with a spoon like a high school girl emotionally eating and going through a tough breakup..…oh my I love peanut butter! Naturally my favorite candy is Reeses peanut butter cups. I buy one of those halloween bags of Reeses Peanut butter cups and I will munch on the bag like bag of potato chips. So my friend was like, “oh you have to try chocnut!” “You will love it.” Okay…I will try. She brought me some chocnuts. I crunched on the first piece and my taste buds went into hyperactive addictive mode. My brain was like “YESSSSS!!! This is the best thing I have ever eaten my whole life!!!” I immediately started opening up the next piece before I even finished chewing the first piece. I then went for another and another….”Oh my…this is sooooooooo good!!” Then there was a part of me that was mad about learning about this Filipino candy….Oh no! I have a new addiction here. What does this mean? Will I need to join a chocnut support group and need counseling for this addiction? Oh if you like peanut butter and chocolate and in the Philippines, do not try this…you see it…run in the other direction. But if you are curious and brave enough to pickup a new addiction, then please try. I even saw that they had it on Amazon. It is called King Chocnut. Here it is about $.50 for a package of 24 pieces. If you are like me..that is good for one sitting. hahah.
Rice pudding and chocolate served with stinky and very fishy tasting dried fish. The pudding with chocolate reminded me of licking the chocolate out of a mixing bowl when baking a chocolate cake. So good…but I don’t get the fish. Traveling through Asian countrysides for months, I am use this smell of this dried fish. It is pungent…a lot of places they would dry it on the road and it filled the air with a nice steamy smell of putrid and rotten fish. I think Myanmar gets the prize for the most stinky fish but it is all over Asia. So why do they pair it up with delicious rice chocolate pudding, I am not sure…maybe Asians need something to cover up the gag reflex too….actually that is not true…they love it and will eat it by itself. I of course tried it and I think that fishy taste lasted for 3 days in my mouth. Again, I am not judging all the Asians that love it…my palate is just not that refined yet. But the chocolate rice pudding is absolutely amazing!!!!!!!
Hmm…how do I describe these. Buttery crunchy marshmellow cookie? Something like that and they are good. I mean really good. Any guidebook on the Philippines will tell you that this is a must try! They are only located on the island of Negros from what I can tell. You see Filipinos flying back from Cebu to Manila with boxes of them. I mean you will see one person with 20 boxes of these. Actually more like most people carrying 20 boxes back. These come in two flavors…butter and chocolate. Bother are extremely good. According to Wikipedia they are a frozen cookies made from a layer of buttercream sandwiched between two cashew-meringue wafers coated with cookie crumbs. Sounds like a recipe for goodness, eh. Nom nom nom nom!