One of the best destinations for foodies in the Philippines is the province of Pampanga. It is known as the “Culinary Capital of the Philippines” and is cited in Conde Nast’s Unsung Food Destinations to Travel For Now in 2022. Pampanga offers a wide range of unique and delicious dishes that has made its way into the national food scene, including everyone’s favorite pulutan — sisig.
To help you make the most of your trip in Pampanga, we’ve listed the best Pampanga delicacies and dishes that you need to try.
Did you know that Pampanga is the birthplace of sisig? Not many people know that one of the best Filipino dishes we like to serve for meals and pulutans are actually invented by Kapampangans.
A sisig is a flavorful dish typically made from chopped pig’s face (or mascara), ears, and liver. It is seasoned with calamansi, onions, and chili peppers. What makes the original Kapampangan sisig different is that, unlike its variations in the metro, it is not dressed with mayo or served with egg on top. It is served as is in a hot plate, and really that’s what you need for a good food meal!
When in Pampanga, one of the first Pampanga dishes that you need to try is sisig.
Bringhe is another item in our list of best Pampanga food to try. It is a local version of the Spanish paella. It is made with glutinous rice, chicken, and chorizo (sausage), cooked with coconut milk and turmeric, which results in a rich and aromatic dish.
This dish is often cooked in a wide pot because, like paella, it is made for sharing with other other people. Bringhe is often served during special occasions or fiestas.
Pindang is the Kapampangan’s version of tocino (cured meat). Unlike tocino though, pindang is marinated and fermented for days to achieve that distinct sweet and sour flavor. You can find pindang babi (pork) or pindang damulag (carabeef or meat from a carabao/water buffalo) served during breakfast, along with steamed rice, salted egg salted, and a dip of spicy vinegar.
So far, the ones we’ve listed in this guide may already be familiar to you. But have you tried burong kampanganan yet?
Burong kapampangan is fermented rice mixed with either fish (tilapia, dalag, hito, or other available fishes) or shrimp. Buro with fish is called tag-ilo, while buro with shrimp is called balo-balo.
A buro has a distinctive sour taste and pungent smell from the fermentation process. It is often served with green vegetables, such as mustasa, okra, and amplaya. It’s a staple in households in Pampanga and also commonly served in local eateries and Pampanga buffets.
5. Bulanglang Kapampanganhttps://www.instagram.com/p/CmvT6m1vpuB/
One of the best food in Pampanga, bulanglang kapampangan is a staple dish that is served throughout the year. It is similar to sinigang (a popular Philippine stew with sour broth), except that, instead of tamarind, guava is used to give the broth the delicious sour taste. Sometimes, the guava is crushed to make the soup thicker. It is usually cooked with pork, milkfish, or shrimp and native vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, gabi (taro), okra, kangkong, and green chillies.
As with sinigang, bulanglang kapampangan is best served with hot steamed rice and a fish sauce dip.
6. Betute Tugak
If you’re feeling adventurous, make sure you try one of the most exotic foods in Pampanga cuisine: betute tugak (or stuffed frog). Betute tugak is basically frog stuffed with minced frog meat or pork and other finely chopped ingredients and then deep-fried until crispy.
Betute tugak has a rich history, dating back on the old days when the children would catch frogs in the farmlands while the adults were busy planting or cultivating the land. The frogs were prepared using local ingredients and different recipes where thus developed, including betute tugak, tinolang tugak, adobong tugak, lelot, and almondegas.
This dish is often served as appetizer or pulutan but also makes for a good viand with rice.
Ready to try one of the most exciting Pampanga delicacies? Kamaru (or mole crickets) is an exotic dish prepared adobo-style and then deep-fried. It has a spicy flavor and crunchy texture. If you consider yourself an adventurous foodie, you have to try this dish at least once.
Kapampangan morcon is a beloved dish in Pampanga cuisine and is usually served in gatherings. It is prepared differently from the Tagalog version of morcon: instead of using beef slices, it uses ground beef, chorizo, eggs, cheese, and other ingredients such as onions and raisins wrapped in a thin caul fat of a pig. This preparation method gives it a rich, savory taste. The dish is then steamed until fully cooked and then served with the dripping sauce.
9. Sipo Egg
Sipo Egg is another popular dish that originated in Pampanga. It is made of quail eggs and mixed vegetables dressed in a rich, creamy sauce. It is typically served as a side dish, but many can agree that it’s good on its own!
It’s also easy to make and budget-friendly, which is why it was easily adopted in other regions in the Philippines over time.
This mouthwatering dish is one of the best Pampanga food you need to try. Also known as kilawin of Kapampangan, it is made from pork and liver stew cooked in vinegar and various spices. It is best served with steamed rice.
Tidtad is the Kapampangan version of dinuguan. This dish uses less blood, with some recipes even using chunks of coagulated blood instead of the liquid form, similar to the street food betamax. The result is a rich, savory stew that is best eaten with rice.
Pistu is a traditional breakfast item in Pampanga cuisine. It is similar to an omelet, but with more ingredients including a picadillo mixture, chorizo, and parmesan cheese. It is often paired with rice and enjoyed with a hot cup of tsokolate batirol. Yum!
Kapampangan tamales is a delicious delicacy often served as snack, breakfast, or dinner. It is also sold in food stalls after the evening mass (or Simbang Gabi) during the Christmas holidays.
In Pampanga, it is also known as “bobotu,” based on local stories about how women would gather and cook tamales while waiting for the men to vote (or “bumoto” in Tagalog).
So what exactly is this dish? Tamales is a rice cake packed with flavors. It is made of ground rice and coconut milk combined into a paste and then topped with palabok sauce, shredded chicken, and salted or boiled egg, and then sprinkled with fried garlic and nuts. It is wrapped in banana leaves and then steamed, giving it a delicious aroma.
For those who love dessert, you will want to try tikbok-tibok, the Kapampangan version of maja blanca. It’s a smooth, creamy pudding flavored with grated corn and coconut. It is made with carabao’s milk, sugar, and corn starch which is then steamed until done.
Tibok-tibok literally means “heartbeat.” It describes the bubbles formed in the surface of the pudding when being cooked, which looks similar to a pulsating heart beat. The bubbles is a sign that the dish is done.
This is a popular dessert and one of the best Pampanga delicacies that you have to try on your visit.
15. San Nicolas Cookies
The next time you’re in Pampanga, make sure to buy a batch of San Nicolas Cookies. These sweet desserts are perfect for those with a sweet tooth.
It also has an interesting history. Also known as Panecillos de San Nicholas, these cookies were originally made using a wooden mold with the image of San Nicolas. They were baked on the feast day of San Nicolas. Today, it is considered one of the best desserts in Pampanga.
These are just some of the delicious Kapampangan dishes that you can enjoy on your trip. Since Pampanga has a thriving culinary scene, you are likely to discover more variations of home-cooking methods and flavors than the ones listed here.
Do you over other Pampanga delicacies to recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!
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Katherine Cortes is a long-time backpacker and a freelance writer/editor. She likes beaches, snorkeling trips, and relaxing staycations (preferably with bath tubs!).