It has almost been a year since we traveled to Philippines. And I still haven’t written all the posts I wanted. Philippines is a huge country with a lot of different influences, so I won’t even try to sum its food up, I will just tell you what was food like for us.
One thing that ties most of Filipino meals is rice. It was nicely summed up by a conversation I’ve heard.
A Filipino woman, we met during island hopping in El Nido talked to a Swedish twenty something guy.
Woman: So do you eat as much rice in Sweden as we do eat here?
Swede: No, we don’t eat that much rice.
Woman: So you eat it only once a day…?
Swede (laughing): No, more likely once a week or even less.
So yes, there is a lot of rice.
For an European it’s hard to accept eating rice for breakfast first. But then I guess if you try to re-imagine Irish breakfast and you just add rice to it, it’s almost the same thing. It was more psychological barrier than flavour issue, as breakfast was really good, so very quickly we just embraced it.
It was good filling meal that kept us full for long. There were a few variants to choose from: big dried fish, small fish or meat – longganisa (sausage) or tocino (bacon).
Tomek’s favourite was longganisa, mine – tocino (it didn’t taste like bacon to me!).
We tried fish as well, but it was just not right.
What and where we ate
Just before our trip, David got in touch with me through my blog. He was looking for some tips for visiting Krakow, but he was Filipino living in Germany. And we’ve got a list of the most popular dishes and restaurants from him.
Fast food is huge in Philippines, at least in big cities. Not all fast food is bad, especially when you replace fries with rice. In Manila, it was our saviour. We struggled to spot places to eat while we were walking here and there. Fast foods make sure you spot them.
Jollibee is the most popular fast food chain in the country. There is one at every corner and it’s much more popular than McDonald’s. We tried it, but it wasn’t too good, the chicken was dry and tasteless, but maybe we were unlucky.
Kamayan is a Filipino buffet. You pay set price and can eat as much as you want. There were plenty dishes to eat, also lechon, mentioned by Anthony Bourdain as the best pig ever. A good place to try many different dishes.
Aristocrat was the first restaurant we visited in Manila and it stayed our favourite. It’s a chain restaurant, but their grill food is really good. They are known their barbecues.
The fanciest restaurant
Our most fancy meal was in KaLui in Puerto Princesa. It was a proper restaurant. At the entrance we were asked to take our shoes off! They were put in their own compartment and we could be seated. The ambiance is amazing. I love natural materials and it was built mostly with bamboo, there were pieces of art and small pond and atmospheric lights. It is very touristy, but well managed. The food was very good.
In El Nido we ate falafel. It was hot afternoon and we were craving some food and wi-fi. The place where we stayed was further from the town and internet connection was really crap. When we went in it was still during everyday power outage. It was hot, but the interior was really nice and in the middle of our meal the power was back and we could enjoy fans and wi-fi. Food was nice and Tomek finally ordered himself fries.
In Batad and Banaue the food choices were limited, but as anywhere in Philippines we ate well.
Here are just a few dishes from a place called Las Vegas in Banaue. I wonder what an owner had on mind when he picked the name. We took a soup as a break from all the rice.
All meat lovers will love Philippines, meat is another staple after rice.
When we were leaving the restaurant the staff was eating almost green mango with soy sauce and chilli. They encouraged as to try. It was good.
After a hike in Batad, we ate at Simon’s Viewpoint Inn. We were starving, so maybe the food tasted tad more better than usual.
The tomato pancit was the only dish I didn’t like during our trip. I can eat tomatoes and fried noodles separately, but together they didn’t taste good.
Egg soup didn’t look too inviting, but it was good.
This fried rice was amazing! I actually become a fan of fried rice. I love this kind of mishmash dishes you can eat with a spoon. And just so you know, Filipino usually don’t use knife, you eat with spoon and fork only. As you see on the photo the rice is slightly reddish, that’s local rice, that is barely exported outside of Philippines.
Simplest food is always the best
A few people mentioned to me they are not big fan of Filipino food. We couldn’t complain, the food we ate was fresh, local, seasonal and simple, but you probably shouldn’t try to compare to Thai food.
During our island hopping trip we ate one of our best meals. Everything was prepared on the boat and later on a beach. That food wasn’t missing anything. Fruits were ripe and juicy, meat and fish perfectly grilled. It’s enough for me.
Do you see small citrus in the bottom right corner? That was my discovery of the trip – calamansi. I wish they were easy to buy in Ireland.
Grilling doesn’t need too many tools as you can see.
Another great meal I had in El Nido. We ate the beach restaurant with water almost touching our feet. I ordered tuna. I usually see tuna in small cans on the shelf, sometimes at a fishmonger. I was expecting a slice of it, but what I’ve got was huge, there was probably like a half a kilo of delicious, fresh, well grilled tuna. So delicious!
Filipino food is super sweet. If you order a smoothie you may ask if if they plan to add any sugar. The fruits are super sweet, but it doesn’t stop them from adding more sugar. Even savoury food like tocino mentioned before is sweet. So during that trip I haven’t craved for sugar, quite opposite. In most places desserts were simple – seasonal fruits.
I should probably mention halo-halo. Famous Filipino dessert, that is a mix of shaved ice, evaporated milk and jellies. It’s interesting, very colourful dessert. It didn’t steal my heart, but it’s something you should definitely try. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos of it.
Instead there is other jelly drink, that we ordered in Manila’s China Town. We didn’t have a clue what we ordered. Later on we checked that it was seaweed jelly. Again it wasn’t our cup of tea, it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t even overly sweet, but it missed something.
All in all we liked food. I’ve learnt I can live without potatoes and that I can eat even rice for breakfast.
If you don’t expect super elaborated food in Philippines, you will for sure eat well.