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Photo: Travel Triangle

Filipino cuisine is the ultimate fusion food! It is the melting pot of so many different cultures leaving their mark here over the last few thousand years. Nonetheless, make tasting these best traditional Filipino food dishes a part of your top things to do in the Philippines, and savor every moment of your culinary journey. Take a look at 10 of the best Philippines foods that you must try!

1. Adobo

It’s the Filipino dish everybody knows — the mighty adobo. It is made by stewing meat (usually chicken, pork, or a combination of both) in soy sauce and vinegar, adding peppercorns and bay leaves for that special flavor. Bonus leftovers tip: pull the meat from the bone and fry ’til crispy for some tasty adobo flakes.

2. Kinilaw

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Photo: The Culture Trip

The regular availability of fresh fish is one of the best things about visiting the Philippines' beaches and adjoining cities. Their locals have raised cooking fish into an art form, and one might argue that nothing comes close to the vinegar-cooked ceviche known locally as kinilaw.

Kinilaw can be as simple as a vinegar dressing over raw fish, nothing more, but it lends itself to experiment and extravagance: you can find restaurants serving kinilaw with soy sauce, calamansi juice, bits of pork belly, onions, shrimp and salted egg, among others.

Kinilaw is not cooked over a fire – instead, the vinegar denatures the fish meat, doing the "cooking" as well as any open flame.

3. Balut

Eating duck embryo - balut - has become a rite of passage for backpackers traveling to the Philippines. Many backpacker joints in Manila make balut-eating part of its introduction to Filipino drinking culture.

But what is balut, exactly? It's nothing simpler than a fertilized duck egg; the embryo has been permitted to develop in the shell for at least 16 days before cooking. Ask the balut seller for balut no older than 18 days for the tastiest results.

“The embryo is so soft and fluffy at 18 days, and when you suck it, it's gone in a second!” Manila cultural expert Ivan Man Dy tells us. “And it doesn't come to us with eyes!”

4. Inasal

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Photo: Foxy Folksy

Roast chicken (lechon manok in the local lingo) can be found on every corner of every city in the Philippines – but only the locals of the Visayas islands (the central archipelago of the Philippines) have raised the craft of roasting chicken into an art form.

Chicken inasal is a staple in the city of Bacolod: chicken marinated in calamansi juice, lemongrass and ginger, basted with annatto oil as it roasts over a fire, then served with rice along with a dip of soy sauce and (sometimes) liquid chicken fat.

5. Lechon

One of the top contenders among the best Filipino dishes (alongside adobo) is perhaps the famous lechon. After all, it is hard to top a tasty, fully-roasted pig with perfectly crisp skin and juicy meat. Find the best of this sinful treat on the island of Cebu, but this is almost always served at any grand Pinoy gathering or fiesta.

6. Crispy Pata

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Photo:

If you can’t get your hands on an entire lechon, a scrumptious crispy pata is an equally sinful alternative. It’s a dish that takes the entire pig leg and deep fries it to perfection. Serve with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce on the side with some chopped up garlic and chilli, and you’re on the road to your next favourite guilty pleasure.

7. Sisig

Served sizzling on a hot stone plate, sisig is a favorite pulutan (beer chow) among Filipinos. The meat is primarily chopped up parts of the pigs’ face — in the Philippines, no cut of the animal goes to waste. Some recipes use either mayonnaise or raw egg (to be mixed in while hot) to give it a creamier texture but the classic way is to incorporate pig’s brain into the dish.

8. Pancit Guisado

One of the more popular Filipino dishes among foreigners with Pinoy friends (due to its customary presence in Filipino birthday parties) is pancit (noodles), of which pancit guisado is perhaps the most well-known variant. This noodle dish is served as a symbol for long life, hence an essential at birthday feasts. The sautéed noodles are complemented by sliced vegetables and meat (all cooked in broth, soy sauce, and fish sauce) and kalamansi is squeezed over upon serving.

9. Pork Barbecue

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Photo: Panlasang Pinoy

A merienda (snack in between meals) favourite in the Philippines is Pinoy pork barbecue. While this skewered sweet meat goes wonderfully well with the ubiquitous plain rice during meals, there’s also nothing like catching yourself hungry in the middle of the afternoon and conveniently walking down the street over to the vendors grilling them road-side for only PHP15 ($0.30) a stick.

10. Filipino Breakfast Dishes (‘silog’)

A hearty Filipino breakfast typically consists of meat, sinangag (garlic fried rice), and itlog (egg). Each dish name varies slightly depending on the meat that goes with the rice and egg. So for example, a plate of tapa (cured beef), sinangag, and itlog, is called tapsilog. A plate including tocino (sweet cured pork) instead of tapa is called tocilog. While one that uses longganisa (sausages) is known as longsilog. These generous breakfast servings are a great way to kickstart a day.

Balut isn't over in one bite

For those with a desire to try balut, the full experience is actually a bit of a process. Nicole Ponseca is the owner of Maharlika, a Filippino restaurant in Manhattan's East Village, who gives quite a detailed breakdown of how someone would go about trying balut.

The process starts with the egg and spoon. While holding the egg in one hand you'll give the shell a few hard hits with the bottom of the spoon until it cracks open. Once cracked, the top of the shell is removed and the broth that fills the egg is sipped to reveal two separate parts of the egg. On one side you'll see the yolk and the other the duck. Ponseca saves the duck for last, eating the whipped yolk first and taking the remainder down in one last bite. The whole process takes about a minute for someone who seemingly has done this many times before, but we're willing to bet it may take a bit longer for those trying it for the first time.

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