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Filipino Cuisine - an overview

Updated on November 13, 2015

The Filipino Cuisine has a humble beginnings. The early Filipinos used simple ways of cooking like broiling on an open fire, boiling and roasting. But with the frequent visit of Asian neighbours like the Indonesians, Arabs, Indians, The Malays and the Chinese who used to come to the Philippine shores to barter their goods and produce, the Filipinos were introduce to their use of spices and herbs to enhance the flavour of the food they eat.

Suman and Halayang Ube - best for dessert or merienda.
Suman and Halayang Ube - best for dessert or merienda. | Source
Leche Flan
Leche Flan

Spanish Influence

When the Spaniards arrived in the Philippine shores in 1521, the Filipinos were introduced to a different style of cooking, The Spaniards have a big influence in the present Filipino dishes that is serve in every homes of the Filipinos today because the Philippines have been a Spanish colony for almost 400 years.

History tells us that the First Governor General, Miguel de Leaspi who lived in Manila for several years have taught his helpers how to cook his favourite Spanish dishes who in turn passed the recipe to family and friends. When the Spaniards migrated and intermarried in the Philippines, the popularity of Spanish cooking increase.

  • The Spaniards introduced tomatoes and garlic along with the technique of sauteing them with onions in olive oil.
  • Popular baked good and desserts like Pan de Sal (dinner roll), Leche Flan (egg custard), Ensaymada (cheese buns) are from the Spanish influence.
  • Favourite Filipino dishes served for special occasions like Pochero, Morcon, Mechado, Cocid. Paella, estofado, Callos, Calderaeta, Menudo can be traced to Spanish cooking, they .are generally considered fiesta food and most often found on the dining tables of the upper classes during the Spanish era.

Food historians claim that 80 % of Filipino dishes are of Spanish origin.

Combined Pancit Canton - Bihon
Combined Pancit Canton - Bihon | Source

Chinese Influence

The Chinese migrants and traders have also added a different taste to the way Filipinos cook. Chinese migrants introduce the use of noodles known as "Mi" as in Lo-Mi, Mi-Ki, Ma-Mi, Mi-Sua. Now we have our own version of noodles called Pansit/Pancit. Pancit is a noodle dishes sauteed with pork, shrimp and vegetables.

Other Chinese-inspired dishes, are Lumpia Shanghai (spring roll) fried and served with soy sauce and chopped garlic, kikiam, siopao, and siomai, have been a favourite and become a part of Filipino way of life.

The Filipino Cuisine Today

The so called traditional Filipino cuisine is the result of various cultural influences from the different foreign settlers and invaders who have come to the Philippines. The Filipinos who have their own way of adjusting to new settlers have adopt to foreign ways without discarding their own way and thus become the Filipino cuisine of today

Most traditional dishes have survived over the centuries and recipes have been handed down from one generation to another. Although most popular dishes in the Philippines are of Spanish origin, several factors proved influential in the cooking methods of the Filipinos. New ingredients cooking techniques and easy to use ready made sauces and mixes became more popular which suited the present fast-paced lifestyle of Filipinos today.

Different regions in the Philipines have developed their own dishes, depending on the availability of ingredients found in that region. In the Bicol Region because of the abundance of coconuts, "gata" or coconut milk is a common ingredients in Bicolano cooking.

Popular and favorite Ilocano dish-Pakbet
Popular and favorite Ilocano dish-Pakbet | Source

In the Philippines cooking is a tradition and extravagant fiestas, birthday, weddings, family reunions, Christmas and New Year are still causes for lavish celebrations among Filipinos.

Fiestas showcase Filipino cooking signature dishes. No matter how humble a family is, each member look forward to a happy gathering during these occasions because their favourite Filipino dishes will always be on the table.

Filipino Cuisine can be best described as a mixture of the eastern and western influences it provides an array of rich flavours, colour and spices which made the Filipino cuisine unique, delicious and irresistible.

GELATIN | Source
Favourite Filipino Merienda- Ginataang bilo-bilo.
Favourite Filipino Merienda- Ginataang bilo-bilo.

From Adobo to Ukoy

  • LIST OF FILIPINO DISHES - A handy reference list. Descriptive list of the different and popular dishes from the Philippines that every Filipino family have enjoyed cooking and serving on their dinner table.

Feel like Cooking --- Why not try these easy Filipino Recipes

Nilaga | Source


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    • profile image

      Johannes Gilo 

      9 years ago

      I am very happy to learn more and more new things about our tradtional cuisine because I am presently getting ready to open a Philippine restaurant here in my hometown of Panama city, FL. It is very importantfor my staff to become familiar and acquainted with Philippine cuisine. Thank you for posting this very informative page.

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      11 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Hi Careel,

      I published this article on the 15 October 2007.


      MM del Rosario

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      hi! i would like to ask the author, when did you post this article? i just need it for my research paper

      thank you! Ü

    • Jack Burton profile image

      Jack Burton 

      11 years ago from The Midwest

      My lovely wife is from the Philippines, and this old farm boy from southern Illinois had to learn to eat a lot of strange food that I had never dreamed existed. Some of it I don't even want to think about. :)

      You’re welcome to mouse over to my hub and take a look at how a traditional Filipino recipe is looked at through American eyes.

    • MM Del Rosario profile imageAUTHOR

      MM Del Rosario 

      12 years ago from NSW, Australia

      Hi Tina,

      I like lumpiang shanghai and lumpiang ubod, it is just a time consuming job to make it, daming sahog...

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      for me Lumpia is the best, i like dip it soy sauce with lots of garlic.... my kids love it too...


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