A food lovers guide to Filipino Cuisine – Luzon
Mostly unknown or unrecognised, cuisine in the Philippines is a welcome delight for the traveller. Although the Philippines can be considered as ‘meat mad’, the combinations of flavours across the archipelago will tantalise the taste buds of any food lover. In most cities across the country you will usually be in sight of somewhere that sells food. All of the world cuisines are available here. However, usually the tastiest of these are the Filipino foods. Certain dishes are available across the nation and some are specific to the provinces from which they originated. This is my top cuisine list of Filipino food in Luzon to help any traveller eat their way from north to south across the Philippine’s largest island.
Photo by Scott Allford
The most common Filipino dish actually has Spanish roots. And every household in the country has its own version. Of course I’m talking about Adobo. This mix of bay leaves, vinegar, and soy sauce comes in so many different varieties and variations it’s impossible to list them all here. Out of the main three (Pork, Chicken, and Squid Adobo) Pork Adobo would have to be my favourite. Every kitchen has its own spin on this dish and you’ll be able to taste them all over the Philippines. In my house we do a gourmet version and add muscovado (raw sugar), Worcestershire Sauce, rosemary and thyme. So delicious!
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron
Heading to Northern Luzon, I had heard about the delicious taste of Empanadas in Ilocos Norte and was not let down. Inside is a mixture of egg, shredded vegetables and longganiza inside deep fried thin pastry pockets. The best thing to complement an Ilocos Norte Empanada is to dip it in a little Sukang Iloco (Ilocos vinegar), the taste is amazing. The best places to get your Empanadas are at Dap-ayan in Laoag City and Glory’s Empanada in Batac City, Ilocos Norte.
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron
While in Ilocos do yourself a favour and pick up some Bagnet. This deep-fried pork is full of artery clogging goodness. It is possible to get bagnet in Manila but as it originates from Ilocos then that’s the most authentic (and cheapest) place to get some.
While still in the far north of Luzon, I would like to mention the delicious Pinikpikan chicken dish you can find in Sagada, Mountain Province. However, for this dish, the chicken is beaten with a stick to bring blood to the surface and apparently improve the flavour. I had already eaten Pinikpikan before I fully understood how the meal was prepared and felt really sorry for eating my delicious lunch.
Photo by lizza22
After enjoying the tastes of Ilocos you can continue south through La Union to the province of Pangasinan. Famous for the Hundred Islands this province is also famous for its food, the best of which has to be Broiled Boneless Bangus. Bangus (Milkfish) is the national fish of the Philippines, it’s not an overpowering fishy taste and not too heavy. In Pangasinan they can fry up some bangus for you that is so delicious that it will be a meal you won’t soon forget. The crispy fish breaks apart and melt in your mouth and is a true delight in every bite. There are many good places to pick up some broiled Boneless Bangus in Pangasinan, but a good place we stumbled across was right by the departure point to the Hundred Islands National Park at Lucap wharf. Before you leave Pangasinan don’t forget to buy the local sticky rice and coconut treat called Tupig. It’s kind of like the Bounty bars we get in Australia without the chocolate.
Photo by d2digital
Heading south-west another famous dish you will find in many places in Central Luzon is Sisig. Sisig is made from parts of a pig’s head and liver, soaked in vinegar and then seasoned with calamansi (native lime) and chilli. This delicious dish in its current style, was invented in Angeles City, Pampanga back in 1974 by Lucia Cunanan. So the best place to get a good taste of this tasty treat is at Aling Lucing’s restaurant in Angeles City, Pampanga. Either that or you can attend the annual Sisig Festival held in Pampanga in December.
Photo by (o.0)
South of Manila in the Province of Laguna you will come across the delicious Buko Pie. Every time I pass through this province I have to pick up at least one. It is buko (coconut meat) strips in a pie. Not overly sweet or too savoury it is the perfect after dinner treat. The best place to get your Buko Pie from is the numerous Collette’s roadside stores. There are other brands but I think Collette’s are the best.
Photo by emilgp
Next to Laguna is the province of Batangas and here you can find the delicious Bulalo. This delicious beef, bone marrow and vegetable soup will satiate any hunger (also good cure for a hangover as I discovered once). You can find Bulalo in many different restaurants and malls across the Philippines but the best place is Leslie’s in Tagaytay, Batangas. There are other branches of Leslie’s where you can also pick up a huge serving of this dish for a good price.
Photo by vancouvergirl
Heading over to Southeast Luzon you’ll come to the Bicol region. And the number one must have meal to have here is Bicol Express. Rumoured to be named from the train journey between Manila and Bicol this dish is made from coconut milk, shrimp paste or stockfish, onion, pork, garlic with a generous portion of spicy chillies and is slightly Malaysian in taste, but better. Sadly, you may have to search far and wide to find a good version of this famous dish. We found a really good one at Mrs. Doyet Garcia’s Lutong Bahay, a small eatery on Mercedes Road in Daet, Camarines Norte. Also while you’re in Bicol don’t forget to pick up some super yum Pili nuts from any of the roadside stalls.
After travelling from North Luzon right down into Southeastern Luzon and eating these delectable dishes along the way you will have gotten a good snapshot of the amazing tastes this island has to offer. Although there are more dishes I could mention this is a good start for any traveler and I don’t want to spoil your surprise when you discover other mouthwatering meals along the way.
Scott M. Allford has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has travelled extensively throughout Asia- Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country.
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