Seventeen regions, eighty-seven dialects, one national language, and, of course, a diverse collection of Filipino cuisine. This is probably because every region in the Philippines has its own resources. Another reason is that Philippines have been influenced by several cultures, from neighboring Asia, Europe and America.
It’s hard to tell which region has the best Filipino cuisine to offer. There’s just one thing you can do — sample each and tell the difference between the most popular dishes in the country.
Chili and Cocomilky Bicolano Cuisine
Gata (coconut milk) and sili (chili peppers) are the two staple ingredients. Coconut which is abundant in the region can be picked from the backyard and grated manually before squeezing the cocomilk. Every home grows a sili bush which people simply pluck and added to the daily meal. Some would even eat them raw! Meat and vegetable dishes are commonly cooked in coconut milk and spiced with chili.
Laing, or Pinangat the famous Bicolano dish, is made from shredded taro leaves, meat or seafood crumbs, and a variety of spices, wrapped in whole taro leaves. It is slowly cooked in gata (cocomilk). But perhaps the best known outside the region is the Bicol express. This is made from bits of pork and bagoong (shrimp paste), stir-fried in coconut cream with tomato, spices, and a generous dose of green chili.
Another Bicolano pride is the kinunot. Made from stingray meat , and malunggay (horseradish), an edible bitter leaf, it is cooked in coconut cream and with chili and spices added.
Typical of the Ilocano dishes are the vegetables. Grown from the Ilocano’s backyard, every dish is laden with vegetables. Because of its nutritious yet bland taste, commonly added as condiment is the patis or fish sauce .
Ilocano’s most famous dish is pinakbet. It is a combination of vegetables like okra, squash, bitter gourd (ampalaya), eggplant, and string beans cooked in bagoong (shrimp paste). Some varieties of pinakbet is cooking this dish with grilled fish; others also use stir-fried pork and several spices. Dinengdeng is another famous Ilocano dish. It is made from malunggay leaves and fruit boiled with bagoong and commonly eaten with grilled fish.
A carnivore person may like bagnet, a deep-fried pork belly crisped and seasoned with bagoong. A fatty sausage called longanisa is flavored with garlic and vinegar, and a popular breakfast in every Filipino table.
Bulacan and Pampangan Cuisine: So Sweet , So Sour, So Chicken
If you’re looking for Filipino desserts recipes, Central Luzon offers you its staple products of rice and sugar. In Bulacan, the popular meat dishes include pinaupong manok, galantina (chicken rolls), and pot roast.
Pampangan dishes are seasoned with sweet sauces or fermented in sugar. The best example is tocino which is a popular breakfast often eaten together with fried rice and salted fish. Pampangan delicacies consist of meat and seafood preserves specialty. Crabs, milkfish, and shellfish are fermented in buro or rice sauce giving it a strong, smoky flavor.
Exotic foods like fermented frogs and mole crickets, mostly served onpublic occasions, are some of the region’s unusual treat.
Flavory Visayan Cuisine
Visayas ,a group of islands has no one specialty for the whole region. Being a coastline region, common among recipes is seafood.
Kinilaw, which is fish or shellfish marinated in vinegar or sour sauce, can be considered the most famous Visayan dish. Some islands prefer it cooked in different ways— with coconut cream, or chili, or lime and palm wine vinegar.
Pancit molo is an Ilongo dish . It is a popular choice for snacks influenced by Chinese cuisine. Dumplings, pork, chicken, and sometimes flavored with prawns make this dish more inviting. For vegetarians, lumpiang ubod (springrolls) is made with strips of palm heart as filling, with a soft egg wrap. It can be fresh and served with peanut sauce, or fried and dipped in spiced vinegar. Then there’s “La Paz Batchoy” made from pork organs (liver, spleen, kidneys and heart), crushed pork cracklings, vegetables, shrimp, chicken breast or beef loin, shrimp broth, chicken stock and round noodles or miki. The noodles are similar to spaghetti, but are generally a bit finer. The basic ingredients are stir-fried, added with shrimp and chicken stocks. It is added to a bowl of noodles and topped with leeks, pork cracklings (chicharon) and with raw eggs cracked on top.
Chicken inasal is Bacolod’s best known. It is a type of chicken barbecue marinated in calamansi and annatto seed . Another chicken dish, binakol, is cooked in coconut juice and makes a hearty afternoon snack.
Mindanao Cuisine: Nice Spice
Mindanao cuisine is largely influenced by Malay and East Asian food. It is located just a few hours away from Malaysian and Indonesian shores, with the bountiful seas in between. Spices from these countries such as turmeric, curry, and lemongrass can be had, too in Mindanao.
Seafood is basic to Mindanao cuisine. A seafood platter, which includes a mix of raw, fried, and grilled seafood and a variety of local sauces is always found in any restaurant in town.Snacks can be ginger and lemongrass soups. They also have coconut and papaya dishes.
Adobo, maybe a staple food for the Filipinos have an unusual variations from Mindanao. Zamboanga’s abobo, for example, is made with cream coconut for flavor. Other regions in Mindanao serve it with bananas, papaya, or other tropical fruits.