Filipino reunions are as much about the food as it is about reconnecting and bonding with one’s family and relatives. Wherever we hail from, we crave for that hometown dish whenever we head out to the provinces for holidays or reunions.
While every province has its hero dish, there are some that have become so popular that they’ve found their way to plates and kitchens all over the country. They’ve become inextricably linked to their places of origin, even as they serve as the ambassadors for it. In this post, we put together a list of some of those iconic dishes, including the provinces where they come from.
Lucia Cunanan of Angeles City first cooked up the sisig as we know it today in 1974. Fondly called “Aling Lucing” by Filipino foodies, she invented the dish of boiled and chopped pig ears and cheeks. She took those parts and seasoned them with vinegar, calamansi juice, onions, and chicken liver, before serving it on a sizzling plate. The dish became so popular that she also earned the title of “Sisig Queen”.
But did you know that sisig wasn’t always pork? Sisig was a salad made of green papaya or green guava before Aling Lucing reinvented it. You ate it with a dressing of salt, pepper, garlic, and vinegar. Augustinian friar Diego Bergaño first documented this version in 1732 in his Vocabulary of the Kapampangan Language in Spanish and Dictionary of the Spanish Language in Kapampangan.
Palawan is known for the Puerto Princesa Underground River, Coron’s lagoons, and this particular delicacy. The tamilok is prepared as kinilaw — marinaded in vinegar or lime juice, and chopped chili peppers and onions. There’s a variety of places where you can get it, too. You can have it during the Underground River tour, at Baker’s Hill, or even at the Kinabuch Grill and Bar at Puerto Princesa.
You know a dish has really made it when people from outside the country travel here to get a taste of it. Anthony Bourdain came here for Cebu‘s lechon, and he wasn’t disappointed. He’s said that the “best pig ever” that he tasted was the lechon made for him in Cebu.
If you ever make it down to Cebu to taste that famous lechon, don’t limit yourself to just one store. Shop around the many choices that dot the place until you find one that you love. Also, prepare to get multiple recommendations from locals as they’re bound to have personal favorites.
If you haven’t heard of inasal by now, you’ve probably been living under a rock. Numerous restaurants now serve inasal all over the country because of its popularity.
Of course, inasal’s home is the Negros Island region, with Bacolod being the city best known for it. The dish is a roasted chicken marinated in a mixture of lime, pepper, vinegar, and achuete. The chicken is then grilled over hot coals while being basted in the marinade. Aside from rice, it’s also served with sinamak vinegar and soy sauce.
It’s a Spanish dish, but if you mention empanada to a Filipino, the Ilocos region is probably the first thing that comes to mind. The difference between the two is the filing. Seafood is the usual content of Spanish empanada. Meanwhile, green papaya, mung beans, and chopped Ilocano chorizo make up the Ilocano variety.
The Ilocano empanada also distinguishes itself by its covering. While other empanadas in the Philippines use a soft, sweet dough for its covering, Ilocanos use a thin and crisp dough colored orange by achuete. They also deep-fry their empanadas rather than bake them.
This noodle dish made with pork, garlic, shallots, soup stock, egg, and various toppings is so popular in Batangas that numerous restaurants offer the dish. As such, there are as many variations on the dish as there are restaurants that serve it.
But if you’re looking for a recommendation, try out Lipa City’s Lomi King. Prices are usually below P100, which is a steal considering how big their servings are. From there, you can go on a lomi crawl and visit Batangas’ other lomi hauses and panciterias.
Of course, you couldn’t make a list like this while leaving out this iconic Filipino dessert. Halo-halo is everywhere — from fastfood chains to high-end restaurants. Halo-halo appeared in episodes of “Top Chef” and “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown”.
While variations exist all over the country, Metro Manila is the place to try out all of that variety. A lot of the restaurants offering their takes on halo-halo have branches in the country’s capital, so you can pick and choose what kind you want to eat.
Taho by itself is a Filipino favorite. The snack made of soft tofu, arnibal, and sago is a common comfort food. It’s difficult to find a Filipino who hasn’t tried it at least once.
Baguio, however, has put a spin on taho that is distinctly its own. Strawberry taho, where arnibal is replaced with strawberry syrup, was born in Baguio. Strawberries, after all, are Baguio’s signature fruit. Just like the normal taho, you can buy strawberry taho from your friendly neighborhood magtataho.
When it comes to warming up on a cold day, eating La Paz batchoy is a delicious way to do it. Best served hot, this noodle soup is made with pork organs, crushed chicharon, chicken stock, beef loin, and round noodles.
It isn’t named La Paz batchoy by accident, either. Federico Guillergan, Sr first made the dish in Iloilo City’s La Paz market back in 1938. In 1945, Teodorico Lepura opened the first batchoy shop at the La Paz market as well.
You wouldn’t think it, but it turns out that kinilaw and sinugba are two great tastes that are great together. The proof is Davao‘s Sinuglaw na tuna. Singulaw is a marriage of the two cooking methods, and results in a dish that is an explosion of flavors. Why wouldn’t it be? The ingredients are enough to make one’s mouth water. Sinuglaw involve fresh tuna, pork belly, vinegar, onion, cucumber, ginger, siling labuyo, and calamansi.
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