The Philippines may be a small country but don’t be fooled, it has so much to offer. With its setting as an archipelago, you can expect so much diversity in people, cultures and resources in such a small island. Apart from enjoying the scenery, you’ll want to include the best fresh foods to try in your bucket list. They may be common to you but these ones have a distinct taste so they are worth a try. Here is an insider’s guide on what to look out for in certain regions.
Lechon is a roasted whole pig that’s always present in every Filipino party. Although different regions have different takes on how to make it, Cebu’s version has my top vote. It is not too oily, has the crispiest skin and its savory flavor is so well-distributed, you don’t need an additional sauce to dip it in. It’s best enjoyed with puso (hanging rice). The best restaurants are CNT Lechon, Rico’s Lechon, and House of Lechon. You’ll never want another kind of Lechon again once you try to taste it. Worried you can’t finish the whole pig? You may get them in restaurants on small servings. Got leftovers? Take them home and remake them into Lechon paksiw for the next day.
Philippine mangoes or carabao mangoes are a delicacy by themselves. Once you’ve tried them, you’ll never look for another type of mango ever again. But the best of them, the carabao mangoes from Guimaras are really something else. They are the sweetest, juiciest mangoes with a taste comparable to that of candy but without an artificial flavor. Other regions have tried to grow the seeds in their own lands only to get the average carabao mangoes, so agriculturists think that Guimaras’s secret is in their soil. An insider tip is that mangoes usually thrive in really hot weather so if you want your mangoes at a cheaper price, the Philippine has a surplus of them during the summer (March to May).
Durian remains a super controversial fruit especially to non-Asians. To some, it’s hearty and delicious while to others, it’s a spiky stink bomb, but it doesn’t change the fact that Davao has the best Durians. They got big farms and Durian is popular to a lot of people in Davao and they are greatly offered for a try to visitors. You’ll never get to fully appreciate the taste if all you think about is the smell, so try to taste it and find out for yourself why it’s such a big deal in the Philippines. Tasting its savory, sweet and creamy taste is something you’ll want to add to your bucket list. If you can’t get enough or want another alternative to durian, Davao’s durian candies and ice cream are just as good.
Tuna: General Santos City
The Philippines may be surrounded by water but there’s no fish (especially tuna) that’s as fresh and cheap than in General Santos City. They are surrounded by the sea and the catch of the day is always the freshest. They sell different kinds of tuna: whole, sashimi, panga (tuna cheek), and canned tuna. It’s your healthy protein fix at a great price. In fact, they have many canning factories that distribute canned tuna to other parts of the Philippines. Bonus fact: an hour drive away is Sarangani, the hometown of the boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao.
The Philippines is a tropical country so it nearly seems impossible for strawberries to grow. The Summer Capital of the Philippines, Baguio City, with its high altitude, beautiful scenery, and cold weather, is known for its strawberries and strawberry products. The weather in Baguio is optimal for strawberry growth and for cooling off. They sell fresh strawberries that you can pick and buy by weight, strawberry jam, and even strawberry crinkles. Baguio is the place to be if you plan to take a break from the hot weather, just chill and enjoy the strawberries, of course.
Overall, every part of the Philippines has something unique to offer and it’s up to you to explore it. After all, a list as simple as this one cannot fully cover the variety of experiences you can try in this country. Next time you plan your trip or if you have some extra time to spare, give some of these places a visit for a gastronomic adventure you’ll never forget.