Adobo Connection: Traditional Adobo (a la carte PHP 109 / with iced tea and soup PHP 119)
Adobo Connection: Traditional Adobo (a la carte PHP 109 / with iced tea and soup PHP 119)

Adobo Connection (SM North EDSA branch)
SM City Annex
North Avenue cor. EDSA, Quezon City
http://www.adoboconnection.com/

A few weeks ago, I had this idea of going on a “tour” around the Philippines and sampling local dishes from each region. As it stands, I can’t travel as much as I want to right now, since I resigned from my job two months ago (it’s a long – and I mean loooong – story) and am mainly doing freelance work so budget is a little tight these days.

Instead of trying to hop on buses and planes, I went around Metro Manila to try and find restaurants and other dining establishments serving local fares from all over the Philippines. This involved a lot of googling and asking around for recommendations until I finally got a compilation of 17 dishes that I believe represent each of the Philippines’ administrative regions.

Pancit Ng taga Malabon: Pancit Malabon (Small PHP 250)
Pancit ng Taga Malabon: Pancit Malabon (Small PHP 250)

As the country’s capital, Metro Manila has been receiving migrants, and thus, the region’s dishes are but a hodgepodge of influences from other provinces, as well as other countries. One dish that traces its origin from the region itself is the pancit Malabon, born in the eponymous city in northern Metro Manila. The dish is prepared using stir-fried rice noodles mixed with fish sauce and crab fat and, owing to Malabon’s coastal position, contains toppings that draw heavily from the sea – shrimp, squid, and oysters. Hard-boiled eggs, as well as pork are often added.

Pancit ng Taga Malabon (Trinoma branch)
G/F Trinoma Mall
North EDSA, 
Quezon City
(02) 741-4141
http://www.pancitngtagamalabon.com/

Baguio Paradise: Strawberry Crinkles and Peanut Brittle (Price varies)
Baguio Paradise: Strawberry Crinkles (PHP 35) and Peanut Brittle (PHP 130)

The Cordillera is defined by rugged terrains and indigenous tribes collectively known as the Igorot. The region’s mountainous topography has resulted in a temperate-like climate, which provides favorable conditions for produce which wouldn’t grow otherwise in the harsh heat of the lowlands. Perhaps the best example is the strawberry, which is typically sold in Baguio’s markets – either fresh or in some processed incarnation. It always makes for great pasalubong, along with peanut brittle.

Baguio Paradise
Products available at Market! Market!
G/F Market! Market!
Carlos P. Garcia Ave
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig

Fariñas Ilocos Empanada: Pinakbet w/ Bagnet (PHP 170)
Fariñas Ilocos Empanada: Pinakbet w/ Bagnet (PHP 170)

Perhaps no dish is associated with the Ilocos region as much as pinakbet, a stew of lowland vegetables with fermented fish as seasoning. The original Ilocano doesn’t use squash (kalabasa), which is often added outside the region. Fariñas Ilocos Empanada serves authentic pinakbet, among other Ilocano specialties, with bagnet (Ilocos-style roasted pork belly) added for heft and flavor.

Fariñas Ilocos Empanada (Visayas Ave branch)
56 Visayas Ave
Project 6, Quezon City
0917-8173146
http://www.farinasilocosempanada.com/

Pancit Center: Batil Patung (Junior PHP 145)
Pancit Center: Batil Patong (Junior PHP 145)

Cagayan Valley occupies the northeastern part of Luzon and is mainly known for adventure tourism, with wide swathes of forests and unspoilt coastlines defining its topography. It’s not known as a gourmet destination, though there are some dishes worth going here for, like the batil patong of Cagayan province.  The dish is prepared using egg noodles similar to that used in pancit Malabon, mixed with carabao meat, and finally served with eggs on top (hence the Tagalog word patong, which means “to put on top”). Pancit Center serves this dish, along with some other regional noodle dishes.

Pancit Center
Pioneer St cor Shaw Blvd
Kapitolyo, Pasig
(02) 634-2727
http://www.pancitcenter.com/

Razon's of Guagua: Sizzling Sisig Meal (PHP 140)
Razon’s of Guagua: Sizzling Sisig Meal (PHP 140)

Central Luzon is generally considered as the food mecca of the Philippines, with Pampanga as the standard-bearer. It’s here where the popular sisig originated, with locals resourcefully using unwanted pig parts to come up with a dish that would eventually become a staple in the local dining scene. Almost all Filipino restaurants now serve sisig, which refers to the method of preparing the dish, namely marinating pork in vinegar or kalamansi juice, then seasoned with salt, pepper and other spices. Razon’s of Guagua may be known more for its halo-halo and pancit luglug but it also has some of the best sisig in Metro Manila.

Razon’s of Guagua (SM North EDSA branch)
SM City Annex
North Avenue cor. EDSA, Quezon City
http://www.razonsofguagua.com/

Buddy's: Pancit Lucban (Serving for 2-3 persons PHP 175)
Buddy’s: Pancit Lucban (Serving for 2-3 persons PHP 175)

What was once the Southern Tagalog region was divided into two during the early part of the last decade, and the split resulted in the creation of the CALABARZON and MIMAROPA regions. The former, also known as Southern Tagalog Mainland, is comprised of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon. The proximity of these provinces to Metro Manila has allowed the industries here to flourish, and also to benefit from the cash of vacationing city-dwellers during weekends and short holidays. People flock in Lucban, Quezon, especially during the Pahiyas Festival held every May 15. Residents deck their houses with colorful rice wafers and fresh produce in honor of San isidro de Labrador. During this day, visitors get to sample local food, such as the pancit habhab, which is similar to pancit canton but uses a local variation of the egg noodles. Pancit habhab is usually served over a piece of banana leaf and is eaten without any utensils.

Buddy’s Pancit Lucban at Longganisang Lucban (Market! Market! branch)
G/F Market! Market!
Carlos P. Garcia Ave
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
(02) 886-7711
http://www.buddyspancitlucban.com.ph/

Exotic Delicacies of Palawan: Cashew Nuts (PHP 100)
Exotic Delicacies of Palawan: Cashew Nuts (PHP 100)

MIMAROPA, or Southern Tagalog Islands, is composed of the island provinces of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan. With hundreds of kilometers of coastline encircling the region, much of the cuisine here unsurprisingly revolves around seafood. The lands, especially in Palawan, are covered with forests and are mostly unsuitable for farming. Hence, crops are often imported from other provinces and are more expensive here. A few of the produce that grow includes the cashew nuts, which are sold in many roadside stalls.

Exotic Delicacies of Palawan
Products available at Market! Market!
G/F Market! Market!
Carlos P. Garcia Ave
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig

Max's: Bicol Express (PHP 375)
Max’s: Bicol Express (PHP 375)

Bicolano cuisine, long overlooked but increasingly gaining fame in recent years, is a culinary adventurer’s treat. Luzon island’s southernmost region is known as one of the Philippines’ first line of defense against the numerous typhoons that make landfall on the country every year, and this perhaps has to do with the locals’ penchant for chili peppers (for warmth) and coconut milk (coconut trees being able to withstand strong winds). Curiously, though, it’s rare to find Bicolano dishes in Metro Manila, let alone good ones. Bicolano dishes in this side of the Philippines are either canned or packed, though these are often pedestrian versions of the real thing. Max’s Bicol Express is a delicious, if a much tamer, rendition of the regional fare.

Max’s Restaurant
Puregold Supermarket
McArthur Hwy
Dalandan, Valenzuela
(02) 7-9000
http://www.maxschicken.com/

JT's Manukan: Chicken Inasal (Pecho PHP 110 / Garlic Rice PHP 30)
JT’s Manukan: Chicken Inasal (Pecho PHP 110 / Garlic Rice PHP 30)

From a culinary perspective, the Western Visayas region is perhaps the most popular in the Visayas. Ilo-ilo has the famous batchoy while Negros Occidental has numerous sweet delicacies, such as piyaya and napoleones. Arguably the most popular is the now-ubiquitous chicken inasal. The dish is prepared by marinating chicken in a mixture of lime, pepper, vinegar and annato then grilled over hot coals. Ever since Mang Inasal introduced it to residents of Metro Manila, restaurants serving this deceptively simple dish litter the region, but some of the most authentic can be found in JT’s Manukan, owned by acclaimed actor Joel Torre.

JT’s Manukan (San Juan branch)
Granada Street
New Manila, San Juan
(02) 721-9025

Yobob: Cebu Lechon Liempo (1/4 kilo PHP 200)
Yobob: Cebu Lechon Liempo (1/4 kilo PHP 200)

Not to be outdone, the Central Visayas region has also gained fame among food fans after a lechon stall in Cebu wowed Anthony Bourdain so much to the point as claiming that the stall’s pig was the best he has ever tasted. This has led to a resurgence of interest in the province’s roasted pigs, and soon enough, restaurants serving Cebu-style lechon sprouted in Metro Manila. One such is the Yobob in Tomas Morato, co-owned by actor Paul Jake Castillo.

Yobob Lechon de Cebu
Tomas Morato cor Sct Fernandez
Laging Handa, Quezon City
0916-4438000

Rufo's: Pork Humba (PHP 98)
Rufo’s: Pork Humba (PHP 98)

Quite possibly, nothing more typifies Eastern Visayas cuisine than humba, which originated in the island of Leyte. The dish resembles adobo in appearance, though it’s prepared with pork belly, pork ham and pork hocks, and slowly simmered in a mixture of tausi, brown sugar, vinegar, onions, garlic, oregano and peppercorns. While it’s commonly served in southern Philippines, it’s a challenge finding a restaurant in Metro Manila with humba in its menu. Rufo’s cooks this dish, though sometimes it’s unavailable in some branches.

Rufo’s Famous Tapa (Katipunan branch)
318A Katipunan Ave
Loyola Heights
Quezon City
(02) 294-8941
http://www.rufos.com.ph/

Sharifa Halal: Satti (PHP 95)
Sharifa Halal: Satti (PHP 95)

Due to its proximity to Borneo and the strong presence of Tausug communities, some of the dishes in Zamboanga Peninsula have hints of Malaysian and Indonesian cuisine, evident in the use of spices and curries. The satti, for instance, closely resembles the Indonesian chicken satay, though this one’s drowning in curry sauce and served with rice triangles instead of the usual peanut sauce. It’s a popular breakfast among Muslim Zamboangueños. Where do you get satti in Metro Manila? Greenhills has a significant Muslim population so there are establishments here serving fares from Mindanao, such as Sharifa Halal.

Sharifa Halal Food
3/F V-Mall Foodcourt
Greenhills, San Juan

VjAndep: Pastel Buns (1 dozen PHP 180)
VjAndep: Pastel Buns (1 dozen PHP 180)

Northern Mindanao, with Camiguin and Cagayan de Oro in its fold, is a popular adventure tourism destination. It’s also famous for lanzones and those pastel buns, which always make for great pasalubong.  The latter in particular are addictive, with sweet yema filling stuffed inside soft yellow bread. The pastry has become so popular that it’s now also available in Metro Manila.

VjAndep
Products available at Market! Market!
G/F Market! Market!
Carlos P. Garcia Ave
Fort Bonifacio, Taguig
http://www.vjandep.com/

Frozen Durian
Frozen Durian (price per pack varies)

Davao is one of the most competitive regions in the country, with the cosmopolitan Davao City as the center, lands surrounding it rich in mineral and agricultural resources, and no-nonsense local officials ruling with iron fists. As far as food is concerned, perhaps nothing more defines the region than the durian. Love it or hate it, durian has a smell that is hard to miss. But you can’t deny that the odorous fruit is also versatile, as it can be turned into candy, ice cream, and even chips. Frozen durian is widely available in the region, though some supermarkets in Metro Manila have stocks as well.

Available in some large supermarkets

F.I.S.H.: Grilled Tuna Steak (PHP 365)
F.I.S.H.: Grilled Tuna Steak (PHP 365)

Controversies regarding its status as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” aside, SOCCSKARGEN (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City) is synonymous with the fish. The waters surrounding the region is teeming with yellowfin tuna, though unsustainable fishing practices have reportedly depleted much of the tuna population in recent years. Still, the region, General Santos City in particular, is popular for its various tuna dishes and festivals that pay tribute to the fish. In Metro Manila, tuna dishes are usually found in Filipino grill restaurants, such as F.I.S.H.

Fiesta Island Seafood Hub (F.I.S.H.) (SM North EDSA branch)
Sky Garden, SM City North EDSA,
North Ave cor EDSA
, Quezon City

Gerry's Grill: Sugba Kinilaw (PHP 275)
Gerry’s Grill: Sugba Kinilaw (PHP 275)

Less known for its cuisine than its surfing opportunities, the Caraga region doesn’t have a cuisine per se to speak of and much of what fills the tables are “borrowed” from neighboring regions, particularly from Central Visayas and Davao. A quick Google search, however, reveals that a lot of restaurants in the region serve dishes that are popular “beach” foods. A common item, especially in Siargao and Butuan, is the Visayan dish sinuglaw. The term is a portmanteu of sinugba (grilled) and kinilaw (ceviche) and refers to the combination of grilled pork belly and tanigue marinated in lime juice.

Gerry’s Grill (SM North EDSA branch)
Sky Garden, SM City North EDSA,
North Ave cor EDSA
, Quezon City
http://www.gerrysgrill.com/

Sharifa Halal: Tiyula Itum (w/ rice PHP 99)
Sharifa Halal: Tiyula Itum (w/ rice PHP 99)

The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which will probably be called Bangsamoro in the near future, is the only region in the Philippines that has its own government, and was created in large part to promote peace in the area of Mindanao dominated by Muslims. The culture of the region, including its food, revolves around Muslim traditions and have obvious Malay influences. For example, the tiyulah itum is beef marinated with burnt coconut paste, which gives the dish its dark color. The soup tastes like tinolang manok, though the addition of, turmeric and lemongrass gives it a distinct flavor. Again, Sharifa Halal does a fine job of providing Tausug dishes for Greenhills’ Muslim community.

Sharifa Halal Food
3/F V-Mall Foodcourt
Greenhills, San Juan

Advertisements

7 thoughts

  1. Hi Jay, this is an impressive array of regional dishes and interesting information as well, thank you for sharing them with us. a little nugget of inspiration, just remember that everything happens for a reason, and always God works them for our good. have a blessed day — April

  2. I am always looking for Filipino bloggers! I love yours and I am now following. Hope you can get to mine as well 🙂 Btw, I was able to try batil patung in Tuguegarao when I was there last month. Sarap!!

    1. Thanks! I’m now following your blog, too. Yeah, I’ve been to Tuguegarao before but it’s only recently that I’ve learned about this dish, so I’m planning on having it when I’m able to return. Agree about it being delicious!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s