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Comparing Healthy Foods in the Philippines

Eliza Cruz-Sazon
March 17, 2024
March 17, 2024

Do you like to explore new culture?  Explore food from the Philippines! Filipino food culture was influenced by many other cultures over the years, so in just one cuisine, you can taste many flavors from around the world!

The Philippines are a Worldwide Cuisine

Filipino cuisine has evolved throughout the years. The Philippines were conquered by Spain for more than 300 years (1521–1898), and then by the US in for nearly 50 years (1898–1946) during Spanish-American war.

So depending on where you go, the main city, Manila, or the provinces around it, you’ll find different influences from around the globe.

Cuisine in Manila

Since Manila is the capital, people visiting the Philippines usually stay here. The cultural cuisine in Manila is quite diverse, and has a reputation for being deliciously rich, flavorful soul and comfort food! This big-city food culture is usually either street food cooked fresh in front of you, or generous meal portions in eateries called “Carinderia”.

Here are some examples of common foods you can find in Manila:

  • Mechado: Beef stewed with tomato sauce and potatoes.
  • Afritada: Similar to Mechado, it is a chicken stew cooked with tomato sauce, hotdogs, potato, carrots and green peas.
  • Adobo: A popular dish that is recognized by a lot of people in different nations.
  • Sisig: Another popular dish that are commonly ordered or cooked. It is a pork made from either pig’s face or belly with onions, chili peppers and lemon or calamansi (Philippines version of lime).
  • Sinegang: A sour soup that contains tamarind powder or fruit, vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, taro and spinach.
  • Many street snacks: “Kwek kwek” are quailed eggs coated with orange color batter and deep fried; fish balls made with fish paste and starch to keep it together; deep fried calamari; barbecued hotdogs.

Cuisine in Manila is usually high in calories, fat, carbohydrates and sodium. Many foods in Manila include some kind of meat and also broth, and also many foods are fried. Manila was a stronghold for the US, so many remnants of American food culture can be found here.

Here in the US, when Americans think of typical Filipino dishes, we mostly imagine food from Manila. But there’s so much more!

The Provinces

There are 81 provinces in the Philippines and each provinces has it’s own style of food. Many provinces are self-sustainable, having their own farms and plenty of vegetables, as well as plenty of fresh, healthy seafood (they are a bunch of islands, after all)! People that lives in the province makes healthier options of Filipino food. Provinces often make dish made out fish or vegetables.

  • Pinangat it is a fish and tomatoes cooked slowly with sour fruits or broth.
  • Pinakbet it has multiple vegetables and fish meat sautéed together.
  • One of the famous dish in the Philippines that are known worldwide is Adobo. In the provinces they would make healthier version of adobo and uses vegetables and fishes. It is called adobong isda(fish) or adobong kangkong(water spinach).
  • Sinigang can also be made healthy and in other provinces they would make sinigang using vegetables and fish such as bangus(milkfish) and hipon (shrimp).

In the provinces, the air is more fresh, the environment is less polluted, and the residents work hard to grow, fish, and prepare their foods. In fact, kitchen equipment is not as high tech or modern as it is in Manila, and some places in the province still cook with the same methods as over 300 years ago! Nevertheless, people from the provinces live simpler, healthier, and more naturally than in the city, and this has been attributed to lower rates of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease!

The Main Things To Remember About Filipino Cuisine

Filipino food culture is the embodiment of fusion food- while the big, industrialized areas have more Spanish and American influence, the more rural areas are rich with traditional Filipino food culture. If you are visiting the Philippines, while Manila offers a variety of delicious foods and multiple cuisines, the typical food culture there is not actually that healthy for you. If you are adventurous enough to visit the provinces, or visit small restaurants in Manila that serve provincial style cuisines, you’ll get much healthier versions of common Filipino dishes.  Stay tune for a quick and easy recipe that you can try on the comfort of your home.

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