More than seven thousand islands, with multiple cultures and scattered geographies, make up the Philippines. Simple, tropical cuisine is the backdrop for a series of native dishes, adapted to suit the country's varied geography. Seafood (mainly fish) comprises the basic food group for indigenous Filipino cuisine, as well as chicken, pork, citrus fruits, garlic, onion and tomatoes, with rice as a staple.
12 Jul 2011 - 3:33 PM  UPDATED 31 Mar 2021 - 10:12 AM

Over time, foreign influences have shaped Filipino food, with a blend of Chinese, Spanish, Mexican, American and Malay cuisines. Signature ingredients of South-East Asian neighbours are also present, including coconuts and a pungent fish sauce called patis; however Filipinos aren’t as liberal with their use of chillies.

Several dishes represent the native cuisine, including adobo, which can be made with a mix of chicken, pork, squid, or vegetables; stewed in vinegar, with garlic, peppercorns and bay leaves. Adobo is enjoyed countrywide, often soupy with soy sauce and garlic; some regions use annatto, produced from the reddish pulp of the tropical achiote tree, for colouring; and southern regions use coconut cream as a flavour variation. It is believed that the name was borrowed from the Spanish dish adobo, a garlic and oil based marinade, following the Spaniards invasion of the Philippines in the late 16th century.

Day to day, sinigang, a slightly sour broth, is served in households across the Philippines with a tart flavour derived from unripe guavas, tamarind leaves/flowers, kamias (firm sour fruit) or tomatoes. Variations include sinigang na isda, a sour vegetable soup with fish, or sinigang na baboy, which is served with pork and vegetables.

But one of the most popular native dishes is lechon, spit roasted pig, which may be Chinese in influence but bears a Spanish name. A whole roast pig (or piglet) is slowly roasted over live coals, basted regularly and served with a sauce made from the pig’s liver, simmered with vinegar, sugar and herbs.


View our Filipino recipe collection here.

Filipino Food Safari recipes
Mixed vegetables (pinakbet)

This Fillipino recipe is a fantastic one-pot meal. The vegetables in the recipe are layered in the pot, so don't be tempted to stir it – just shake the pan occassionally as it cooks to keep the shape of the vegetables.

Rice noodles with prawns (pancit palabok)

Pancit palabok combines the quintessential flavours of the Phillipines in one succulent stir-fried seafood and noodle dish. Here, the addition of tsitsaron (crisp fried pork rinds) adds a wonderful flavour and texture and tells of the Spanish influence on the cuisine.

Oxtail stew (kare kare)

This slow-cooked Filipino oxtail stew is enriched with peanut butter. The recipe calls for annatto powder, which is derived from plant seeds, is used to add flavour and vibrant yellow-orange colour. Take care when handling, as it can stain skin and fabrics.

Food Safari's halo-halo

This widely popular, ultra sweet and refreshing Filipino dessert is typically made with shaved ice, evaporated milk and a host of other ingredients depending on your taste. This one includes macapuno preserve which is made from a variety of coconut that contains only flesh and no water.

Filipino chicken adobo

The word "adobo" is derived from the Spanish word meaning "sauce" or "marinade" and the key ingredients in any authentic recipe for Filipino chicken adobo are vinegar and soy sauce.

Filipino essentials
Featured businesses: Filipino
Contact the businesses featured in the Filipino episode of Food Safari.
Tips: Filipino
These expert tips will help you achieve the perfect balance of flavours.
Utensils: Filipino
Find out which special utensils you’ll need on hand during cooking.
Key ingredients: Filipino
Make sure your kitchen is stocked with these essential ingredients.