12 Must-Try Flavorful Regional Dishes in the Philippines

Describing Filipino food is similar to discussing the film Inception – because of the varying layers that comprises it. When you think you figured out the overall character of Filipino cuisine, venturing into another province will once again introduce you to another strata of taste, texture and smell – essential food traits that exist distinctly in each regions of the Philippines. To give you an idea of the diversity of Filipino cuisine, here are some appetizing provincial gastronomies being prepared and served all over the country – to which I and these foodies whom I asked for recommendation, echoes a must-try endorsement.

1. Tiniim na Manok (General Tinio, Nueva Ecija)

Tiniim na Manok is shrouded with a mysterious yet scrumptious sauce. Photo courtesy:Martin San Diego
Bathed in mysterious sauce at first glance, Tiniim na Manok can be prepared in different ways, but this one from Nueva Ecija was served with a thick peanut-flavored paste and a whole chicken slowly simmered and marinated with pineapple juice. Shallots, ginger, pepper, garlic, salt and other spices are then added to create a wonderful fusion of opulent taste.

2. Curacha in Alavar Sauce (Zamboanga City)

                                                 A perfect combo: Curacha crabs and Alavar sauce.
While I have feasted on Curacha – a spanner crab, before in other places such as Calayan Island, Zamboanga’s version of this sumptuous seafood is elevated with the addition of the city’s famed Alavar sauce – composed of a secret generational recipe served in the iconic Alavar restaurant in the city. Simmered in coconut milk and minced with garlic and ginger, the curacha is then served with dripping Alavar sauce. Eating it with your bare hands make up for an unforgettable dining experience.

3. Pancit Batil-Patong (Tuguegarao, Cagayan)

         A beautiful riot of ingredients comprises a plateful of Pancit batil-patong.
Swarming with colorful ingredients, Pancit Batil-Patong delivers a knockout blend of savory flavor enough to fill and satisfy your appetite to the brim. Composed of pansit miki, it is highlighted by minced carabao meat toppings and other vegetables. Because ‘Batil patong’ means ‘beating the egg’ in local language, egg and chicharon are then added on top of the already loaded pancit toppings. Sounds like a frenzied combination on a plate, but once you taste it – you will definitely thank the food Gods for it.

4. Betute (Pampanga)

A plate of Betute is a picture of crispy fried tastefulness. Photo courtesy of Pinoy Adventurista
As a traveler who has ticked-off all 81 Philippine provinces, Mervin Marasigan isn’t new to trying out the vast assortment of Pinoy cuisines. He fondly remembers a Kapampangan specialty called Betute that brims with an exotic taste.

Betute are deep fried farm frogs stuffed with minced pork, garlic and spices. It tastes like chicken, smells clean and the stuffing is quite flavorful. This is definitely a must-try when dining in Pampanga. You really have to try it,” he shares.

5. Tago Angkan (Bantayan Island, Cebu)

Tago-Angkan is skewed from the start – as a flavorful dish. Photo courtesy of Four-eyed Laagan
Always with an eye for new sumptuous local food, Christoeffer John Estrada discovered an interesting barbecue with a twist in the island of Bantayan in Cebu.

“Tago-Angkan is a womb of a chicken and it is grilled like a barbecue. The internal organs were skewed in a barbecue stick and smeared with savory sauce. One can also taste the eggs forming inside the bigger part of the womb or the uterus. It tastes like egg while uterine walls felt like “isaw” or small intestines. It is comparable to chorizo with egg filling.”

6. Pigar-Pigar (Alaminos, Pangasinan)

Pigar-Pigar is a blend of meat and veggies. Photo courtesy of Mica Rodriguez
When not busy mapping the Philippines, Maptivist Ervin Malicdem searches the many provinces of the country for interesting local flavors. In the Province of Pangasinan, he experienced how Pigar-pigar satisfied his taste buds.

“It is like beef jerky but made up of both the meat and liver, then fried and mixed with vegetables primarily with cabbage and onions. Pigar-pigar’s meat can either be from a cow or a carabao. Originally from Alaminos, Pangasinan, it is now cooked and served in the whole province.”

7. Sinantol (Quezon Province)

Sinantol packs a variety of taste, colors and textures. Photo courtesy of The Travelling Pinoys
Another travel blogger Christine Rogador, recommends an interesting dish in Quezon. “Sinantol is a delicacy from Quezon province. It is made of Santol meat (wild mangosteen) and seafood in coconut milk. In some areas, people use pork or fish as a replacement for crabs and shrimps. The dish has the right combination of sour, salty, spicy and creamy flavors which makes it unique and appetizing. It is usually paired with fried fish or ginangang isda which is what Quezonians call “paksiw”.” Rogador says.

8. Pastil (Maguindanao)

Pastil is definitely one dish wrapped in goodness.n Photo courtesy of The Little Lai
Self-described ‘desultory traveler’, Lai Ariel Samangka highly suggests this Mindanaoan food; “Pastil is the most popular Maguindanaon delicacy in Esperanza, Sultan Kudarat.  It is made of cooked rice, crowned with sauteed shredded meat of chicken, beef, or fish and perfectly wrapped with a heated banana leaf.”

This writer fondly remembers one of the cheapest and satisfying breakfast he ever had after devouring two orders of Pastil at ten pesos each, one morning in Cotabato City a few years ago.

9. Minaluto (Angono, Rizal)

Minaluto dishes a colorful blend of rich palate. Photo courtesy of Celineism
Wordsmith Celine Reyes’ tongue circles in delight as she recollects a time when a plate of Minaluto was served at their dining table in Angono, Rizal.

“In the lakeside town of Angono, the Philippines’ Art Capital, the culture of creativity extends up to the local gastronomy. Minaluto, a local take on the Spanish paella, is a blend of rice, and popular Filipino viands. Along with the variety of seafood and meat, the dish puts a highlight on Angono’s prized kanduli – a fish with a tasty and versatile meat, caught in the Laguna Lake. It’s definitely a hearty must-try dish!”

10. Sinanglao (Ilocos Region)

Sinanglao meat swimming in a delicious soup. Photo courtesy of Wanderlen
Lawyer slash food blogger Stacy Liong raves about the twin-dishes of Sinanglao and Insarabasab, which are found primarily in the Ilocos region.

“Sinanglao is a soup dish with beef innards such as tripe, pancreas, kidney, bile, intestine, lungs, heart and blood cubes.  It is usually mixed with kamias, onion, garlic, ginger, siling labuyo and fish sauce.

It is predominantly sour because of the kamias with a slight bitter flavor from the bile.  It is said to originate from the town of Vigan Ilocos Sur and you can find them at the food stalls near the Vigan City Post Office.”

11. Adobong Dilaw (Taal, Batangas)

Looks like curry but it is in fact, a different version of adobo. Photo credit: Follow Your Road
Adobo is typically brown in color because soy sauce is used as a main ingredient. But in the town of Taal in Batangas, they have their own version called the adobong dilaw because of the use of turmeric. It looks like it’s curry because of its color but it is in fact, a different version of adobo.

12. Calamay (Bohol)

Fellow travel blogger Claire Madarang trying out the finished sticky calamay. Photo credit: Traveling Light
Rappler writer and Travel blogger Claire Madarang recommends an island sweet surprise "Bohol’s calamay is a delicious delicacy that needs some appreciation. Like many dishes, each province or town has their own version of it. In the town of Jagna in Bohol, calamay is made out of glutinous rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. Peanut is sometimes added in some versions of this delicacy. It takes several hours of laborious stirring for it to turn into the sweet and sticky Jagna calamay"

These are just a few of the many mouthwatering regional dishes found all over the Philippines. We hope this primer will inspire you to expand your gastronomic adventures in the country. Stay tuned for the next part as we continue our food exploration of the amazing Philippine cuisine.