Many people I’ve spoken to about food in the Philippines have told me how atrocious the food is, and yes if you were a vegetarian this may be the case as pork is pretty much considered a vegetable on these tropical islands. But every time I set foot out of the airport in Manila my nostrils begin to flare and my mouth salivate for the copious amounts of fatty barbecue magic that awaits.
For sunny afternoons on the islands or even in downtown Manila, Filipino style barbecue washed down with an ice cold San Miguel is one of my favourite things about this country. Chicken and pork belly are both marinated with a flood of soy sauce, vinegar, chilli, lime and onions and is chargrilled to perfection. This simple but marinaded meat is served with rice (dressed with fried garlic) and sour pickles on the side. Now this won’t win any Michelin stars or any healthy ticks of approval from anti-obesity campaigns, but I can guarantee if you find a good barbecue place you will be back time and time again.
Pork in general is clearly the staple of the Philippines. Not rice, not noodles, but pork. This is proven in the dish ‘Lechon Kawali’ (crispy pork crackling). Those crispy bits we so crave in the UK and Australia on our Sunday roast dinners are everywhere in the Philippines. Served with a local gravy and rice on the streets till all hours of the morning, it puts kebabs to shame as the best drunk food.
‘Sizling sisig’ made from bits of pig face, onion, chilli and liver is also a dish not to miss and has even received accolades from international celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain. Sisig is served in a shallow iron skillet which comes out still sizzling (hence the name) with a crispy bottom that also melts in your mouth. Outrageous.
To top off the list would have to be ‘adobo’. Adobo is a slow cooked pork (or chicken) stew, made with vinegar, soy sauce, sugar then cooked till sticky and tender. There are hundreds if not thousands of versions of the wonder and all should be tried throughout the Philippines. If you get the chance to eat with a local Filipino family and they make this for you then you have most likely been a saint in a previous life because nothing beats homemade adobo. Fact.
Now if none of these have even spurred your interest then I’m not sure what would. Indeed, the idea of sitting on a sunny beach gorging myself on barbecue pork all the while downing it with a cold beer doesn’t sound too bad for me. If you are in the Philippines and have yet to discover the beauty of Filipino ‘inasal’ then when in doubt, ask the locals.
If you would like to tour around the Philippines and sample all kinds of local booze and food with an amazing tour company then GNT is your place to go, offering island hopping and even private island adventures throughout this glorious archipelago.