Cultured Palate: International Dishes from the Philippines

Filipino cuisine has developed over hundreds of years, influenced by the country’s many trading partners (like China and Malaysia), and colonizers like the Spanish. The influence of all these different cultures is evidenced in their food.

No matter where you go in the country, you’ll be exposed to culinary traditions that focus on taking great ingredients and pairing them with fresh spices, herbs, and vegetables to create unexpected flavors. All great Filipino cuisine strives to balance sweet, sour, and salty.

Here are some of the classic dishes in Filipino cuisine. The next time you’re traveling, be sure to check these out.

Champorado

One popular breakfast food in the Philippines is champorado, a sweet rice pudding flavored with cocoa powder or even coffee in some regions. It’s made by boiling sticky rice with cocoa powder, and after it comes together, milk and sugar are added to give it sweetness.

There are powdered mixes you can bring home that will make a bowl of champorado in a flash, but you’re better off asking around for a great recipe since it’s easy to make at home. Champorado is often served with salted and dried fish to achieve that classic Filipino combination of a treat that’s both sweet and salty.

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Chicharon

Chicharon is a popular snack all over the Philippines. Essentially, they’re pieces of deep-fried pork skin. However, Filipinos have elevated the humble chicharon to an art form. There are tons of different variations all over the country — from chicharon laman (which still has pieces of meat attached, making it a thick and savory treat) to chicharon manok (which is actually made of chicken skin). Eat them plain, or dipped in vinegar and spices.

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Lumpia

One of the most basic snacks in the Philippines is lumpia – a spring roll made with shredded veggies like carrot, cabbage, and bamboo shoots mixed with minced meat. They most likely originated in China, and came over to the Philippines with Chinese immigrants and travelers. The most common variant is lumpiang prito, which are deep-fried so the wrapper turns shatteringly crisp. They’re often served for celebrations as finger-food. Don’t miss the sweet version, known as turon, which is filled with banana and fried until sticky-sweet.

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