A balikbayan’s guide to an awesome food experience in the Philippines

So you haven’t been back to the Philippines in a while huh? As a balikbayan you are probably spoiled by the gastronomic delights of different cuisines abroad. You have most likely dined in gastro pubs, two star Michelin restaurants and even the latest chi chi eatery in town. So naturally your criteria for pleasing your sophisticated and worldly palette is set high.

However,  when it comes to Filipino food you know that an awesome experience in the motherland would constitute of the following well executed dishes or treats:

1. Classic Filipino dishes done right

Rule of thumb is to load up your plate with a sampling of food. 1. White rice- the foundation of any Filipino plate 2. Lechon- roast pork 3. Binagoongan- pork in shrimp paste with steamed vegetables 4. Sago’t Gulaman- caramelized sugar drink with gelatin 5. Kaldereta- goat in tomato and liver paste 6. Dinuguan – blood pudding stew 7. Lumpia- pork or vegetable spring rolls

 Where to eat

At a Philippine province during fiesta or at a handaan/salu-salu (get together) on your honor. You will be sure to get homemade dishes made from scratch.

2. Modern Filipino dishes…with or without a twist

L- Corned beef sinigang from Sentro 1771 R- Aligue (crab meat & fat) pasta from Dalauyong Beach Resort Sabang, Palawan

Where to eat

Sentro 1771 delivers solid tasting modern Filipino cuisine. Their corned beef sinigang is a bestseller. That sour salty broth is a great compliment to a melange of tender beef and local vegetables. Believe me when I tell you that balikbayans in the U.S. have this dish on top of their list of things to eat when in Manila. You can find them at Level 2 of Greenbelt 3 in Ayala Center Makati City.

3. Filipino-ized Chinese Food

Every country has their bastardized version of Chinese food. I happen to think Filipinos have perfected theirs. P.S. being part Chinese lends credibility to this statement =p

Where to eat

Le Ching Tea House is at the Ground Level, Shoppesville, Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan. This affordable Chinese restaurant is the place to be after walking around to shop for those great retail bargains. Le Ching has been around for ages and I still think about their yummy rice toppings. For Php 128 ($2.98) you can get a hot meal along with a pot of house tea. I recommend the Steam Chicken with Mushroom rice. Don’t forget to squeeze calamansi over that chili garlic sauce and mix in some soy sauce. Hands down their chili garlic sauce is one of the best in the world (I tried to make them sell me a jar to take back to California but it was a no go)!

4. Some trendy cold drink or an ingenious snack

L- Happy Lemon’s Addicting Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese R- The best ever tasting no meat bacon crisps sold at local groceries. Marty’s also sells vegeterian chicharon. It’s like thin crispy chicharon strips. I’m not vegetarian but it hits the spot!

Where to eat

You know you are Asian when you can’t go a month without drinking bobba/pearl iced tea. My mom took me to Happy Lemon one day when I was visiting Manila and from that point onward I was hooked. I made them take me multiple times after that. Happy Lemon is an international franchise which specializes in delicious tea drinks. You have to get the Green Tea with Rock Salt and Cheese. It sounds like a weird concoction but your doubts will be laid to rest once you take a sip. That frothy top made of cream cheese and whipped milk along with flecks of salt will take you to flavor heaven.

5. Seafood…lots of fresh seafood

On the photo is a type of cray fish in Palawan. Our bankero (boatman) boiled it in part sea water, tap water and Sprite. In my opinion, tasted better than lobster!

Where to eat

Let’s face it, balikbayans don’t get to eat proper seafood abroad. So make the most of it when in the Philippines. The best way to approach this is to head to the nearest seaside town or island paradise like Palawan (or you can also go to a Dampa). One can rent a boat to go island hopping which usually includes lunch. The boatmen, if they also fish, can acquire the main ingredients from the sea or you can go to the local wet market early in the morning to buy fresh catch. I suggest a market list of local fish, lobster or cray fish, squid, lato (seaweed), tomatoes, onions, soy sauce, calamansi, rice and tropical fruits (our mangoes are the best in the world!). You’ll have an unforgettable rustic seafood feast right on the beach.

6. Sweet treats

Halo Halo translated into English means mix mix. One can argue that this dessert is symbolic of our melting pot culture…and cuisine- Malay, Chinese, Spanish and American.

Where to eat

We Filipinos have a sweet tooth. Rightly so since most of our main entrees are salty and well seasoned. Max’s Restaurant known for their perfectly fried chicken surprisingly has really good halo halo. They are generous with the ingredients: preserved fruits, ube, ice cream, leche flan, red beans and evaporated milk. Why spend a hundred plus pesos on Manila Pen’s bourgeois version of a halo halo when you can get this for less than Php 50 ($1)? You can find Max’s at almost any corner in the Philippines.

7. Your momma’s cooking Where to eat

Total no brainer- at home! No trip back to the motherland would be complete unless you taste you mother’s cooking. Whether it’s adobo or tinolang manok, nanay has the perfect recipe that will melt those balikbayan blues away. Nothing beats good homemade cooking.

A balikbayan’s guide to an awesome food experience in the Philippines is my 3rd entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers Blog Carnival with the theme Awesome Food Experience While Traveling in the Philippines hosted by Anton Diaz  of Our Awesome Planet.

16 Comments A balikbayan’s guide to an awesome food experience in the Philippines

  1. Sherry

    I think you know by now how I love food and all this food information is one that got me very excited! You did an awesome job writing this comprehensive post about Filipino food in the Philippines. I am going to make sure to refer back when I finally land in Manila. I can’t wait to taste the corned beef sinigang and the green tea with rock salt & cheese.

    Reply
  2. Pingback: Best of Travel 2011

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