What are the best Filipino dishes you can serve for foreigners visiting in the Philippines? For sure, this is a difficult question to answer since there are so many delectable flavors in so many iconic dishes all over the country.
To give your guest a great summary of the most well-known dishes on almost every Filipino table, here’s a rundown of 12 Pinoy classics. By serving them any one of these dishes, hopefully you’ll be able to give your guest a taste of what our country has to offer — and more importantly — have them craving more!
Start your meal by introducing your guest to the Philippines’ beloved hot and sour soup, sinigang. You can let them try the traditional sinigang na baboy, which is made with pork — or variations made with shrimp, salmon, or even corned beef! They’ll understand the appeal of such a refreshingly sour soup given the Philippines’ hot climate.
Another appetizer worth introducing is kinilaw. Like the Latin American fish dish ceviche, kinilaw is made with hunks of fresh fish marinated in vinegar. Calamansi juice, ginger, salt, chili peppers, and sometimes even creamy ingredients like coconut milk and mayonnaise are added to the mix. Kinilaw will be great as a starter, as a dish eaten to stave off oilier foods, or as a companion to ice-cold beer.
A hearty and impressive main dish you can serve to your guests is kare-kare. Though the dish traditionally calls for oxtail, you can just as easily make a beef kare-kare recipe. What’s important is that the atsuete-colored and peanut–flavored sauce is rich and thick, that there are ample vegetables to go with the meat, and there’s plenty of rice and bagoong to go around.
Filipino cuisine is not for the faint of heart, and some dishes are high in salt and cholesterol. That said, if your guest still wants to sample the best of it with you, one dish you definitely should offer them is pork sisig. The ideal sisig marries a number of different textures, from the crunchiness of the pork bits to the softness of the egg often mixed into it. For best results, serve on a hot plate, as the sound of sisig sizzling away should be enough to make anyone’s mouth water.
The humble adobo, which involves pork, chicken, or a mix of both stewed in vinegar and soy sauce, is comfort food to most Pinoys. It seems just about right to introduce a guest from overseas to this dish, accompanied by steaming hot rice, in order to make them feel perfectly at home.
No Filipino festivity is complete without noodles, which traditionally signify long life. To make a true celebration out of your guest’s arrival, serve them a noodle dish like pancit palabok. With its distinctive bright orange atsuete sauce and toppings like hard-boiled egg, shrimp, and chicharon, this dish is sure to please.
In Filipino cuisine, veggie dishes are just as hearty and satisfying as meat dishes. One great example that you can let your guest try is ginataang gulay, or vegetables like squash, string beans, and eggplant stewed in coconut milk. Along with the dish, introduce the idea of adding many seasonings, like patis and bagoong, to get one’s dish to taste exactly to one’s liking.
Lumpiang shanghai, or fried spring rolls, may already be well-known to your guests if they have a variation of it in their home cuisine (or if they’ve ever been to a Filipino potluck abroad!). Additionally, it’s a great idea to introduce this other kind of lumpia to them, made crunchy and slightly sweet with the inclusion of ubod or heart of palm. Whether you offer your guest the deep-fried or fresh version, follow it up with generous servings of either sweet brown sauce or garlic vinegar!
Does your guest have a penchant for spicy foods? If they do, you can serve them the Bicolano classic laing or pinangat, whose main ingredient is gabi or taro leaves. Tell them not to misjudge this dish by the creamy, savory flavor of the coconut milk. The taste of heat often comes last, and boy will it pack a punch!
If your guest happens to come along during the rainy season, make them feel cozy with a bowl or two of arroz caldo or lugaw. This nourishing rice porridge can be served as a heavy appetizer or taken as a one-dish meal by itself, at practically any time of the day. You and your guest can also have fun choosing toppings, like fried garlic bits, hard-boiled egg, calamansi juice, and pork floss.
You can also surprise your guest with a dessert version of rice porridge, i.e., the chocolatey champorado. Try preparing a variety made with dark cocoa or tablea, so that the champorado has an added bitterness and nuttiness to it. Invite your guest to offset that rich, bitter flavor with condensed milk or evaporated milk and, if they dare, a strip of salty tuyo (salted fish) or two.
Lastly, consider serving your guest the iconic shaved ice dessert of halo-halo, whose delightful mix of colors, textures, and tastes are sure to enchant. Don’t hesitate to answer their questions about what’s in it, what makes it similar to other Southeast Asian desserts, and what the best ingredient is. Perhaps they’ll be fans of the ube ice cream, the creamy leche flan, or even an outlier like the chewy kaong or nata de coco.
Don’t forget, it isn’t just the food that makes a visit to the Philippines the experience of a lifetime. It’s also the warmth, hospitality, and happiness to share something as special as a meal. Make sure your guest from overseas gets a sense of that, and that when they leave, they’ll be dreaming of the next time they can feast with you in the Philippines!
What other dishes do you recommend preparing for foreigners visiting the Philippines? Let us know in the comments section below!
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