14 Filipino Dishes Everyone Should Know About

by Kristine Cannon
Apr 18, 2018 at 5:00 p.m. ET
Filipino pork adobo
Image: Getty Images/Design: Kenzie Mastroe/SheKnows

Did you hear? Filipino food is all the rage — and has been a growing culinary trend for years. According to Bloomberg, Google searches for "Filipino food" have doubled since 2012, and searches for "lumpia near me" skyrocketed over 3,000 percent. Clearly, Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern knew what he was talking about when he predicted five years ago that Filipino cuisine would become the "next big thing." 

While plenty of Filipino restaurants have popped up, largely in Los Angeles, New York City and Washington, D.C., the question still remains: What exactly is Filipino food?

It's a fair question considering the cuisine is complex in taste and heavily influenced by Spanish, Indian, Taiwanese, Chinese, Western and Japanese flavors. Case in point: Arguably the most popular Filipino dish, chicken adobo, is actually Mexican in origin. But virtually all Filipino dishes do have one thing in common: They all burst with flavor — and it's all thanks to the wide assortment and generous usage of spices and herbs. 

It's true: You can spot — and taste — an authentic Filipino dish by its usage of garlic and onions, ginger, bagoong (fermented seafood paste), bay and pandan leaves and lemongrass, to name a few. Oh, and let's not forget the calamansi limes! The juice from these limes is used extensively in Filipino cuisine, from adding it to marinades and sauces to squirting it onto pancit noodles (another popular Filipino dish) as the final touch.

Now that we've given a bit of background on what makes Filipino so unique and so flavorful — and touched on a couple of popular Filipino dishes — let's dig even deeper. Here are the Filipino dishes everyone should know about — and try for themselves.

1 /15: Lumpia

1/15 :Lumpia

I bring this tasty treat to literally every potluck and holiday party I attend: lumpia. The conversation goes a little bit like this:

"What is this?"
*Stares blankly at me, then looks back down at the rolls questioningly*
"They're basically Filipino egg rolls."
"Ohhhh, cool." 
*Eats five*

These Filipino egg rolls are made a little bit different in every Filipino household. The rolls are packed with savory meat (some use pork, others use ground beef) and chopped vegetables (again, this varies, but they usually include carrots, cabbage, water chestnuts and scallions). Once they're rolled up, they're fried and served. You can serve them with or without a dipping sauce. (I use sweet-and-sour sauce.)

2 /15: Chicken Adobo

2/15 :Chicken Adobo

Considered the unofficial dish of the Philippines, adobo is a savory marinated dish in which meat, seafood or vegetables simmer in a blend of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black peppercorns. You can throw in bay leaves, potatoes, sliced onions and carrots to make it a more well-rounded main course.

3 /15: Pancit

3/15 :Pancit

This comfort food is a noodle dish typically made with chicken, cabbage, carrots and plenty of soy sauce. 

What's really fascinating about this quick and easy dish, though, is the food lore behind it: Handed down from the Chinese, this dish is supposed to be eaten on one's birthday in place of cake. And according to Nancy Reyes Lumen of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, the noodles represent long life and good health and must never be cut, as it would "corrupt the symbolism."

4 /15: Sisig

4/15 :Sisig

What's not to love about chopped-up fried pork served with chili peppers, calamansi, eggs, onion and sometimes mayo? Nothing! That's exactly what the popular dish sisig is. Even chef Anthony Bourdain is a fan.

"I think sisig is perfectly positioned to win the hearts and minds of the world as a whole," Bourdain told CNN in June 2017. "I think it's the most likely to convince people abroad who have had no exposure to Filipino food to maybe look further and investigate further beyond sisig. I think that's the one that's gonna hook them."

5 /15: Chicken Tinola

5/15 :Chicken Tinola

It's about time we introduced you to a staple sauce in any Filipino's pantry: fish sauce. And this recipe has just enough of it.

This soup-based dish, chicken tinola, is typically cooked with chicken (though, some substitute it with fish or pork), green papaya and chili pepper. In the broth, you'll find ginger, onions and fish sauce.

6 /15: Kinilaw

6/15 :Kinilaw

Tired of poke? Try kinilaw, a raw seafood dish similar to ceviche. If you're a fan of Top Chef, you likely saw chef Sheldon Simeon make this dish on Season 10. 

Essentially, you take raw cubed fish and mix it with vinegar and calamansi. The added flavor comes from salt and various popular Filipino spices, including ginger, onions, chili peppers and black pepper.

7 /15: Dinuguan

7/15 :Dinuguan

Would you call yourself a bold foodie? If so, here's your challenge: Try dinuguan, which essentially means "blood." (I'll be honest with you; it took me years to eat this, but when I eventually did, I actually loved it.)

This is a savory stew of pork offal (lungs, kidneys, intestines, ears, heart, snout) or a meat of your choice if pork's not your thing. The meat is simmered in thick pig's blood (hence the name) as well as garlic, chili and vinegar.

8 /15: Lechon Kawali

8/15 :Lechon Kawali

Have you caught on yet that Filipinos love pork? And you can't go wrong with lechon kawali, a Filipino-style boiled and deep-fried pork belly. (I'm salivating just typing this.) Once the pork belly is fried and perfectly crunchy on the outside (and mouthwateringly tender on the inside), it's served with vinegar for dipping.

9 /15: Chicken Inasal

9/15 :Chicken Inasal

Chicken inasal is basically Filipino barbecue chicken. The chicken is marinated in a unique blend of spices, including lime, pepper, vinegar and annatto seeds (another popular and commonly used Filipino spice) and grilled until done. It's truly delicious.

10 /15: Longganisa

10/15 :Longganisa

Think of longganisa as chorizo — because it's just that: the Filipino version of Spanish chorizo. This sweet sausage is typically served at breakfast, but I personally love to eat this for dinner alongside a scoop of steamed jasmine rice.

11 /15: Pinakbet

11/15 :Pinakbet

Let's take a break from all that pork already and talk about pinakbet

This colorful, stunning bowl of vegetable stew is comprised of fresh veggies, fish and shrimp paste. (But, yes, you can substitute the shrimp with pork!) As for the veggies most commonly used in this dish, they include eggplant, tomato, okra, string beans and chili peppers, among others. The point of this dish was to grab easily accessible veggies and throw them into the dish. So, whatever is in season, you use.

12 /15: Crispy Pata

12/15 :Crispy Pata

More deep-fried pork goodness coming right up! Crispy pata is a whole pork leg boiled until tender and then deep-fried until it's golden and crispy. This is typically brought to potlucks or served as a party dish. Oh, and don't forget to dip the pata into a soy-vinegar dip.

13 /15: Kare-Kare

13/15 :Kare-Kare

If you've never tried a stew made with a thick, savory peanut sauce, then please grab yourself (or whip up!) a bowl of kare-kare. You can make it with various pig parts (like feet, oxtail, hocks) or seafood (like prawns or squid) or even veggies (like eggplants or cabbage) if you'd like. The peanut sauce is made with ground roasted peanuts, onions and garlic — and colored with annatto seed. It's heaven in a bowl, especially on a rainy day.

14 /15: Pork Hamonado

14/15 :Pork Hamonado

If longganisa sounded good to you, then so will hamonado. It's basically an even-sweeter version of longganisa, but made with pork belly instead. The pork is cooked in pineapple juice until tender and served with a side of steamed white rice.

15 /15: Pin It!

Bowl of chicken adobo
Image: Getty Images/Design: Ashley Britton/SheKnows

15/15 :Pin It!

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