Generally, the closer a restaurant is to the sea, the better the seafood. It’s no surprise then that the Philippines, a country consisting of about 7,641 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, has absolutely excellent seafood dishes. Filipino cuisine is a mix of traditional dishes and those influenced by the various occupations by other countries over the years. These include Indian, Chinese, Spanish and American influences. Since the Philippines has absorbed the cuisine of so many countries worldwide, it is considered the country to best represent the blend between Eastern and Western countries.

One marker of Filipino cuisine is the use of a souring agent. While Western food, especially comfort food, leans towards softer flavors, the Philippines goes for bold, strong flavors like garlic, vinegar and pickled onions. Many dishes use a souring agent like tamarind, a type of bitter fruit native to the Philippines. Many Filipino seafood dishes are very simple: a combination of fish, rice and a sauce. Fancier dishes tend to have the same elements but include every type of seafood, more ingredients and more difficult cooking techniques. No matter the type of seafood dish though, the Filipinos have perfected their craft.

Filipino cuisine includes several staple dishes. Each of these have many variations, which depend on meat or seafood as the meat, the spices and herbs and what is used for any sauce. For reference, here’s a quick list of some of the most common Filipino words used in reference to cuisine.

  • Adobo: Adobo is any kind of seafood cooked in stock. This can be vegetable, beef, chicken or any other type of stock. Usually adobos are thin soups as there is not any cream added to the stock. The type of seafood can be anything, from fish to squid!

  • Ginataang: Ginataang means with coconut milk! Since coconut palms are native to the Philippines, it makes sense that coconut milk would be a popular ingredient in many dishes. When cooked slowly, coconut milk makes a perfect creamy sauce that mellows out any bitter dish.

  • Pulutan: Pulutan isn’t an ingredient, it’s a way of eating. Pulutan is finger food! Just like french fries or chips and salsa in the United States, if you eat some dishes with a spoon or fork in the Philippines, you’ll get some pretty funny looks! Pay attention to how the locals are eating and remember that if you’re served a dish without any utensils, it might not be an accident!

  • Sinigang: Just like “broiling” or “marinading,” sinigang is a way of cooking meat. Sinigang means to cook meat or seafood in a stew or soup with a blend of herbs and spices that give the meat a sweet and sour taste.

  • Tinolang: Tinolang means soup! Just like soup in any other culture, tinolang can be made with many different type of meat or seafood. It’s very popular in the Philippines since it is not only easy to cook but also healthy!

Here are fourteen of the dishes you should definitely try if you visit the Philippines or go to a Filippino restaurant! We’ve also included some local restaurants around the Philippines where you can find these dishes!

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