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Filipino Food History

Philippine food has evolved over several centuries from its Malayo-Polynesian origins to a varied cuisine with many Hispanic cultural influences, due to the many Latin American and Spanish dishes brought to the Philippines during the Spanish colonial period. It has also received varying degrees of influence from Chinese, American, and other Asian cuisine.  Filipinos eat three time a day which is breakfast, lunch and dinner plus additional meal in the after which is meryenda or snacks.

Filipino cooking reflects the history of the islands. On a Malayan base, Chinese, Hindu, Spanish and American ingredients have been added through centuries of foreign influence and surprisingly, a blend with a distinctiveness of its own has emerged. In city of Manila, this mixture is most in evidence. Far from the capital city, however, one can still sample the simple dishes that native Filipinos eat Many of these dishes are remarkably close to native fares still found in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and other Asian countries.  As with most Asian countries, the staple food in the Philippines is rice although foreign recipes have become a regular practice in food preparation.  Coconut milk or gata is often used as an ingredient on popular dishes such as lumpia (rolls) and pancit (noodles).

The most famous dish is lechon (roast pig) and because of its vast coastlines, the Philippines also has an abundance of excellent seafood. Most restaurants offer seafood cooked one way or another, the most popular being the broiled (inihaw/inasal). Other dishes include shrimp, rock lobster, crab, oysters, squid and fish.



Malayo-Polynesians during the pre-Hispanic era in the Philippines prepared food by boiling, steaming, or roasting. They use their usual live stocks like water buffalo,  chicken, fish and some uses monitor lizard and snakes. Filipino was introduce to in cultivating rice and corn when the Austronesian people from Southern China Yunnan Plateau and Taiwan came to Philippines.

The Chinese who came to trade stayed on the Philippines.  They taught their Filipino wives their dishes, and thus Filipino-Chinese food came to be.  Example are noodles, lumpia , siopao and siomai .
When restaurants were established in the 19th century, Chinese food became a staple of the pansiterias, with the food given Spanish names for the ease of the clientele; this comida China includes arroz caldo and morisqueta tostada.
When the Spaniards came, the food influences they brought were from both Spain and Mexico, as it was through the vice-royalty of Mexico that the Philippines were governed. This meant the production of food for an elite, nonfood-producing class, and a food for which many ingredients were not locally available. Today, Philippine cuisine continues to evolve as new techniques and styles of cooking find their way into one of the most active melting pots of Asia.

Native Filipino cooking is not too spicy despite the fact that spices are plentiful and readily available in the islands. The basic staple is rice of which hundreds of varieties are cultivated. Main source of protein is fish which abound in oceans, lakes, rivers, streams and ponds. Meat, especially pork and poultry, is also commonly eaten. Beef is readily available but is more expensive; the cattle industry not being well developed in the country. Veal and lamb are not too popular but goat meat is considered a delicacy in some parts of the country as are frogs, rabbits and deer.

It is often when sampling native Filipino dishes that one appreciates the regional variations in the country. For while it is true that Filipino culture is homogeneous, there are specific differences in cooking and food preferences that readily identify the regional origin of many dishes. Although these differences are not as pronounced as in the regional variations of Chinese cooking, for instance, they are widely recognized in the country where regionalism plays an important role because of its geographical division into many island-groups.


There are many dishes and recipes that Filipino prepares on their meals. Each of the Filipino cuisine has its influences from different country.  This is due to the fact that traders and colonizers have visited the Philippines for centuries.  The American and Spanish colonizers, and the Chinese and other Southeast Asian traders influenced and brought a twist on the Filipino cuisine.

Chinese is one of the contributors of the Filipino cuisine. Chinese influences the Filipino on making noodles or what we call pancit. For many years Chinese people interact with the Filipinos and some of them stay and live in the Philippines. They teach their wife on how to cook some Chinese delicacy but using ingredients found in the Philippines.

When the Spaniards came to Philippines, they introduced the Spanish culture. The  Spanish colonies often influenced the Philippines in many different ways. As much as 80 percent of Filipino food originates from Spain. Tomatoes and garlic, for instance, both staple Filipino foods, were introduced from Spain, as was the cooking method of sautéing using olive oil. For example, Adobo, Adobo means marinated sauce for pork.  Spain can also lay claim to the delicious range of Filipino desserts and pastries. Baked goodies such as pan de sal and ensaymada are of Spanish origin.

When American defeated the Spaniards and colonies the Philippines, they introduce a little American cuisine. Although Americans didn’t make that much of an influence in Philippine cuisine, they certainly changed the way Filipinos dine. They introduce the fast-food chain that and can goods which is until now available everywhere.

Popular dishes

  • Adobo
    Adobo is made from chicken, pork, squid (pusit) or vegetables stewed in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf. It is believed that this dish was derived, and then, Filipinized from the Spanish adobado, a more complicated preparation soaked in garlic and oil.
  • Lumpia
    Lumpia or better known as spring rolls in English is filled with vegetables and meat. This dish tastes great when served with soy sauce, vinegar or a slightly sweet sauce.
  • Sinigang
    The lightly boiled, slightly sour soup known as sinigang makes a delightful dish when served with rice. This soup is cooked using souring agents like unripe guavas, tamarind leaves and flowers, kamias and tomatoes. There are different varieties of sinigang such as sinigang na isda (sour vegetable soup with fish) and sinigang na baboy (sour vegetable soup with pork).
  • Bistek
    Another popular national cuisine of the Philippines is the bistek or beef and onion rings braised in soy sauce. This dish is what one would call beef steak, Filipino-style – reinvented with an Asian touch of soy sauce.
  • Lechon
    Finally, there’s lechon (litson), an important dish at many fiesta occasions. Lechon is a suckling pig, slowly roasted over live coals to make it crispy and tasty. This dish is often served with a thick liver sauce, simmered with vinegar, sugar and herbs.
  • Pinakbet
    Pinakbet or pakbet is a popular Ilocano food, from the north of the Philippines, although it has become popular throughout the Philippines.The word is the contracted form of the Ilocano word “pinakebbet”, meaning shrunk or shrivelled.The original Ilocano pinakbet uses baggoong, of fermented monamon or other fish, while further south, bagoong alamang is used.
  • Bicol Express
    Bicol Express is a Philippine food made with pork and coconut cream that will have you expressing how much you adore the taste. Bicol Express is the name given to a popular dish which originated in the Bicol Region of the Philippines. It is a stew made from long chilies (siling labuyo), coconut milk, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork, and garlic.
  • Kare-kare
    Kare-kare is a Philippine stew. Kare-kare is a Philippine food made from peanut sauce with a variety of vegetables, stewed oxtail, beef, and occasionally offal or tripe. Meat variants may include goat meat or (rarely) chicken. It is often eaten with bagoong (shrimp paste), sometimes spiced with chili, and sprinkled with calamansi lime juice.
  • Tuyo Isda
    Tuyo is a dried salted fish (tuyo actually meaning dried) in the Philippines. Tuyo has been tagged as a poor man’s kind of dish as can be procured quite cheaply. Poor man or no, tuyo has many fans from all walks of life, so I want to say that Tuyo is an everyman’s kind of dish.
  • Dinuguan
    Dinuguan, or “pork blood stew” in English, is a Philippine food which is a very savory stew of blood and meat simmered in a rich, spicy gravy of pig blood, garlic, chili and vinegar. The term dinuguan comes from the word dugo meaning “blood”.
  • Laing
    Bicolanos are famous for being chili ( sili )lovers. Almost Bicolano foods are hot and spicy. Laing is a favorite Philippine food from Bicol, fiery hot and absolutely delicious though it and it can an acquired taste to the Western palate.
  • Bibingka
    Puddings are big in the Philippines. Bibingka, a popular dessert of pudding is made of ground rice, sugar and coconut milk. This pudding is baked in a clay oven and topped with fresh, salted duck eggs.
  • Guinatan
    Another popular pudding found on this island nation appears in the form of guinatan or cocoa pudding, served with lashings of deliciously sinful coconut cream.
  • Halo-halo
    Halo-halo or literally mix-mix is actually an exotic fruit mix that is similar to Malaysia’s ‘ice kacang’. This delightful fare, featuring exotic fruits and vegetables come colorfully stacked under shaved ice. Due to its popularity in the country, this dish is known as the ‘Queen of Desserts’.
  • Sago at Nata de Coco
    Sago at Nata de Coco is yet another traditional dessert favored by many Filipinos. This dessert is actually a colorful blend of sago and coconut gelatin or nata de coco served cold in a glass.
  • Kutsinta
    Kutsinta or brown rice cake is a favorite snack among the locals. This rice cake made of rice flour and brown sugar is delicious, especially when served with freshly grated coconut.


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