A Food Lovers Guide to Filipino Cuisine – The Visayas and Mindanao
Heading south from Luzon, you’ll come to the central and southern regions of the Philippines. These are the islands of the Visayas and Mindanao and they offer up some internationally acclaimed taste sensations.
Photo by 2rokbotoy
Starting off with one of the most famous and one of my personal favourites, in the Visayas on the island of Cebu you’ll find the super succulent Lechon Cebu. Recently Anthony Bourdain of Travel Channel show No Reservations fame commented on his love of Lechon Cebu, “It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.” And I would have to whole heartedly agree with him. Slowly roasted and turned for hours the meat is so succulent and the skin is super crispy. Be warned that the skin is the part favoured by many so be sure you get a piece before it’s all gone.
Heading over from Cebu to the Island of Negros a number of local delicacies await. First of all is the Famous Piaya which can be found at Bongbong’s Pasalubong Center in Bacolod City. It’s made with flakey wheat flour dough and stuffed with muscovado, and is kind of like the ultimate pop-tart. Another favourite which can be found all over the Philippines but originated in Negros is Chicken Inasal. It’s basically chicken marinated in a mix of vinegar, calamansi, garlic and annatto seeds. The chicken is put onto skewers and grilled and the smell that wafts from this delicious grilled chicken dish is amazing.
Still in the Visayas but over in the Island of Panay in the city of Iloilo, make sure you stop by Ted’s La Paz Batchoy. While you can find branches of Ted’s in other locations around the Philippines, but the branch in Iloilo is the original and was started over 60 years ago in the La Paz market, Iloilo by Federico Guillergan, Sr. La Paz Batchoy is a noodle soup made with different variations of ingredients including: pork organs, crushed pork cracklings, shrimp, vegetables, chicken stock, chicken breast, beef loin and round noodles. It’s a really great meal for any time of the day and offers some really unique tastes.
Photo by Dave Ryan
Going south to Mindanao you will come across the island of Camiguin. While Camiguin is more famous for its lanzones fruit (which I didn’t like until I tried Camiguin Lanzones which were delicious), I fell in love with their pastel bread. This sweet bread with a gooey candied milk centre will win over any sweet tooth. Even though I do like my sweets, I could only eat a maximum of three in one sitting before my stomach was overwhelmed by the sugar in Pastel bread. They come in a variety of flavours but the original is a must have for any Camiguin visitor. While you can pick a box from the Benoni port or the Cagayan De Oro airport, you can also go right to the source and get a box in Mambajao, Camiguin.
Photo by Scott M. Allford
Finally in the province of Lanao Del Norte you can pick up a drink that you’ll never forget. In the city of Iligan you can pick up a delightfully sweet and flavourful Durian Shake from Iliganon. While many people have a hard time getting past the smell of durian (and it really does stink), the fruit itself is really tasty. It also seems that in Mindanao durian tastes better than anywhere else in the Philippines. The Durian shake is so sweet and super thick and Iliganon is a really good place to sit back, relax and enjoy.
Photo by Dave Ryan Buaron
For other famous foods in Mindanao you should make a trip into Bukidnon and the Del Monte Pineapple plantation. Here you will find some of the tastiest pineapples on the planet. At the Del Monte Golf Club in Manolo Fortich you can pick up a reasonably priced three course meal with a tasty pineapple shake. Also famous for food in Mindanao is the city of General Santos in the southern province of Sarangani. General Santos is known as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines and every September they have a Tuna Festival with a Tuna Culinary Contest where delicious tuna treats can be tasted by all.
While this is only a small sample of all the different foods you will encounter while travelling around the Philippines, they’re my favourites. I’m sure that on my future travels around these regions, new taste sensations which will truly delight the senses await. But in the end a great thing about the Philippines is that at the end of a long days travel, it’s really good to know that you can sit down to a truly delicious meal which is familiar yet exotic at the same time.
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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