The Philippines waits to be discovered and rediscovered again: an archipelago of 7,107 islands with an abundance of natural resources, from the sea, the mountains to the plains. Unsurprisingly, the country’s food culture is as diverse as its resources and its people.
When it comes to food that represents the country, the Philippines offers a menu that goes far beyond just a few dishes. The list goes on to more than 50 items because every region in the Philippines has its own culinary expertise.
Let us rediscover the Philippines through our food – one plate at a time.
The Plates and Palates of Luzon: Pampanga
The cuisine of Pampanga has been making waves in the global culinary scene. Chefs like Andrew Zimmern (host of Bizarre Foods) and Anthony Bourdain have called it the “next global food trend,” saying that it is becoming more and more popular in the United States and other countries.
Bourdain, in particular, mentions the Kapampangan dish, sisig, as one of his favorites. He describes it as a dish that is “casual” and “accessible” and perfect after a few beers.
To get your sisig fix, zero in on the place that started it all: Aling Lucing’s Sisig in Angeles City, where the late Lucia Cunanan first made sisig from rejected parts donated by the nearby American military bases.
Another dish you should try is Morcon, a roulade of beef flank steak filled with hard-boiled eggs, sausages, carrots and pickles. Some restaurants have tweaked the recipe a bit, using ground beef or pork and making it into a meatloaf. It is usually cooked for hours as it produces juicy drippings that turn into a gravy, often used as pan sauce. Everybody’s Cafe in San Fernando, Pampanga serves up some of the best morcons in the province, as well as other famous exotic dishes that Pampanga serves.
For your carbohydrates, fill up with Pampanga’s version of paella, the Bringhe, which uses glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and turmeric, with chicken, chorizo de bilbao, bell peppers, green peas, raisins and carrots. It is also known as the Poor Man’s Paella, which uses more affordable ingredients like chicken and ready-made sausages instead of seafood.
Adulation from international chefs, as well as the continuing creativity of Pampanga chefs, has helped push Kapampangan cuisine to the top. By holding the Kapampangan Festival in 2017, the province’s people celebrated their region’s food in the grandest way possible.
For an authentic taste of Pampanga’s unparalleled cuisine, check out Alviz Farm in Sta. Rita, Pampanga. They offer a Culinary and Heritage Tour for groups of 10 or more.
The Plates and Palates of Luzon: the Ilocos
From Central Luzon, we move up to the northern part of Luzon, the Ilocos region which is composed of the provinces of Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur. Ilocano food generally reflects the way of life of the people in the region. Ilocanos are known to be frugal and practical, and in cooking, this means using whatever resources are readily available and abundant. Pork meat is a main ingredient, as well as Ilocano vegetables.
The Ilocano plate starts off with a main dish of crispy Bagnet, which is pork belly that goes through the process of deep frying and air drying several times until it becomes crispy. While Vigan and Laoag may be the most popular places to get your bagnet fix, you can also venture to the town of Narvacan, Ilocos Sur for some of the best-tasting bagnet in the region.
The town’s bagnet producers pride themselves on using only fresh pork meat, preferably from backyard-raised pigs to maintain the quality of their product. You can enjoy bagnet anytime of the year, but the best time is during the annual Bagnet Festival held on the third week of December.
The Plates and Palates of Luzon: Cagayan Valley
Cagayan Valley offers up a different plate from the Ilocos region. In the city of Tuguegarao for example, the carabao is front and center when it comes to local food delicacies. Our national animal is revered so much in this region not only as a useful farm animal but also as a delicious source of food.
You can get fresh carabao milk in Barangay Namabbalan, especially in the early morning. Local cooperative Dairy East produces bottles of pasteurized cara milk which locals love. The cara milk is described as creamy and sweet and is preferred to be drunk when warm. For your sweet tooth, try the carabao milk candy, a drier version of the pastillas.
Cara-beef tapa is another homemade treat you can get in Tuguegarao. You must boil the tapa in a mixture of oil and water first because it is firmer than the ordinary beef meat. A good marinade that balances the gamey taste of the meat makes the best-tasting tapa.
You have never really been to Tuguegarao if you don’t try pancit batil patung. Ground cara-beef is one of the main ingredients of this noodle dish. Typically pancit batil patung’s noodles are sauteed in a dark sauce with onions and other vegetables and served with an egg on top and a cup of broth on the side. The city has lots of panciterias where you can partake of this delicious dish.
Take a Trip With Your Taste Buds
Perhaps it’s high time to rediscover the Philippines through our food. The dining experience is not just about gaining sustenance. It is also about trying out new tastes and getting to know the local culture of the place you are visiting.
If you want easier access to these culinary regions, why not consider living closer? Choose from any of Avida Land properties and developments in North Luzon, like Alviera in Pampanga, Parkfield Settings and Madera Grove in Bulacan and Avida Settings Tuguegarao.