Last Updated on March 4, 2019 by Lamudi
A country with cuisine as many and and diverse as its islands, the Philippines has something for everyone in terms of landscape, climate, and, of course, food
Whether through indigenous ingredients, homegrown cooking methods, or recipes with Spanish or American influence, Philippine cuisine is, indeed, a highlight of culture. With the country composed of 7,107 islands, Filipino food features numerous identities, leaving both locals and visitors with the welcome challenge of discovering which areas have the finest fare.
In no way a definitive guide or ranking, Lamudi puts into perspective some of the best food town and cities the Philippines has to offer. There is, after all, more with each area than just offices to work in and residences to occupy.
The Culinary Center of the Philippines
Pampanga is the home of many Filipino dishes being enjoyed all over the country today. Some of the most famous Kapampangan dishes include pansit luglug or pansit palabok, tamales, suman bulagta, and sisig. Not surprisingly, a large concentration of establishments serving the region’s best dishes is in the capital city of San Fernando.
Exotic fare such as betute or frog meat, tidtad babi or Kapampangan dinuguan, and camaru are standard items on menus of some restaurants in the heart of the city. Bakeries and home-style factories that produce popular pasalubong like puto seko, mamon tostado, turrones de casuy, and plantanillas are also abundant in San Fernando and in other towns.
Like Dining in the Spanish Era
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its well-preserved Spanish architecture, Vigan gives an idea of how it would’ve felt to dine during the Spanish colonial era. The experience is not limited to the ambiance, as the city is also one the most popular food destinations in the country. Among its food exports is bagoong or fish sauce, a common ingredient in Ilocano versions of dishes like dinengdeng and pinakbet.
The discussion of the best foods in the Philippines is not complete without mentioning Vigan longganisa and bagnet. These two pork-based dishes are available all over the Philippines but still best made and eaten in the city. Another famous food in the Philippines found in this place is the Ilocos empanada, arguably the region’s most popular dish. While smaller than Cebu or Manila, Vigan still has typical fast-food chains and big-name restaurants but is housed in buildings with Spanish-styled architecture.
Chow Down in the World’s Oldest Chinatown
With Metro Manila being the Philippines’ most cosmopolitan region and a cultural melting pot, it is a lost cause to narrow down the absolutely best places for food. But if push came to shove, the best bet would be Binondo in Manila. The site of the world’s oldest Chinatown, Binondo offers a great sampling of regional Chinese food (Cantonese or Fujianese), and Filipino-Chinese combinations.
Visiting Binondo’s shops and restaurants is also a unique culinary experience, which is why Manila was part of “Asia’s 10 Greatest Food Cities” by CNN. The street food options alone are enough for a full menu, with staples like silog, taho, balut, banana cue, and their different variants; and a host of other delicacies that are sold through kiosks and by mobile vendors all over the city.
Of Chilies and Coconut Milk
It is said that spices are added to dishes to raise the appetite of the diner. This happens in Albay since chilies are a staple in most Bicolano dishes. Often combined with coconut milk, it is the key component in regional favorites and famous foods in the Philippines like Laing, which includes meat and gabi (taro) leaves, and Bicol express, also known as gulay na lada or ginataang sili.
Legazpi City is the best place to look for the best Bicolano dishes. Numerous establishments in the Albay capital serve different variants of the favorite laing and Bicol express. Some also specialize in intriguing concoctions, such as shakes featuring indigenous chilies and coconut milk combined with pili nuts, mangoes, and other Philippine staples.
Milkfish and More
Since the Philippines is an archipelago and surrounded by sea, fish is a staple in the Filipino diet. Dagupan City in Pangasinan is one of the largest producers of bangus, or milkfish, in the country, and is also the common bagsakan (trading center) of other producers in the province. The city is the home of the annual Bangus Festival.
The city’s Bonuan District is where bangus is considered best served, but there is more to the city’s fare than just fish. Among these are the best Filipino meat dishes like pigar pigar and kaleskes, the finest of which are served on the city’s Galvan Street. A slew of known food brands and establishments also have roots in Dagupan, like the Plato Wraps food carts and Pedrito’s bakeries and restaurants.
The Queen (Food) City of the South
The first thing that comes to mind about food from Cebu is lechon Cebu. The highly regarded Visayan rendition of the Philippine roast pig has gained popularity outside of the country that culinary icon Anthony Bourdain called it “the best pig ever” on both his “No Reservations” television show and “Hierarchy of Pork,” his definitive guide to pork-based dishes from all over the world.
While establishments serving the roasted favorite can be found all over Cebu, it offers more than lechon. Fresh lobsters, prawns, lapu-lapu (sea bass), scallops, crabs, squid, and numerous types of fish are abundant in the region and are served in various ways in several of Cebu’s best food places. Danggit, along with dried mangoes and puree, on the other hand, are the city’s top take-home treats.
The Organic Food Bowl of the Philippines
With the proliferation of organic and probiotic farms in Negros Island, it is now recognized as the “Organic Food Bowl of the Philippines.” Thousands of farmer-practitioners in the region are certified in organic farming, while several businesses are similarly certified for manufacturing and processing of various organic products.
Farm-to-table cuisine comes from some Negros’ best organic farms, such as Penalosa Farms, May’s Organic Farm, and Rapha Valley Farm. On the other hand, Bacolod City is the common venue for the Annual Organic Farmers Festival. It is the main marketplace for Negrense dishes and delicacies for the rest of the year. These include piaya, sweet bod-bod, and Bacolod’s famous inasal (roasted) chicken.
Exemplifying of the Richness of Filipino Fare
Ilonggo food typifies how some things never go out of style, as many are known for having hardly gone through any changes to keep up with the tastes of the market. From La Paz batchoy and pancit molo to barquillos or biscocho, the best foods in Iloilo continue to stand the test of time. Chinese influence is evident in the city’s fare, the result of successful Ilonggo-Chinese trading in the pre-Hispanic era.
This is most apparent in La Paz batchoy and pancit molo, developed by the ethnic Chinese in Iloilo and modified to suit the Filipino taste better and use more indigenous ingredients. From carinderias by the road to swanky hotel restaurants, the two are a staple in many of Iloilo’s food establishments.
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