10 Dishes to Include in Your Local Food Bucket List

November 27, 2018

Like any certified P.G. (Pinoy Guy), I live for classic Filipino dishes that never get old no matter how many times I encounter them in cafeterias, fiestas, or Sunday lunches at home with the family. But with over 7,100 islands worth of history and culture to draw from, it’s a shame that some of us have never tried anything apart from the usual Adobo, Sinigang, or Kare-Kare. There are dozens of authentic, pre-colonial dishes in the Philippines that are being prepared and served on the other side of the archipelago (or your neighborhood) as you read this. Here are ten that we think you should include in your local food bucket list.

1. Kinilnat

kinilnat

Where It Comes From

Ilocos

What’s in It

An all-vegetable dish of different greens, like edible fern (pako), eggplant, and winged beans (sigarilyas). The ingredients are dressed—or more accurately, bathed—in vinegar, calamansi, or other souring agents, such as tomatoes.

What It Tastes Like

Kinilnat is our very own green salad, complete with dressing, except that it is more of a side dish than an appetizer. Its acidity is meant to complement plain fried food and steamed rice. Think of it as the vegetarian version of Kinilaw or the Pinoy equivalent of ensalada or kimchi.

2. Pinikpikan

pinikpikan

Where It Comes From

The Cordilleras

What’s in It

Barbecued chicken in a broth of chayote, ginger, and pepper. This dish by the Igorots, however, is no Tinola. The chicken is prepared by plucking its feathers and beating it up with a stick—alive and literally kicking. The bird is battered until most of its blood clots, which natives say heightens the meat’s flavors. Yum.

What It Tastes Like

Sour-ish like Tinola but with some bittersweet bits of charred meat leftover from the grilling. But really, how could you savor the earthy goodness of the Pinikpikan, knowing what the poor bird had to go through just to feed you lunch?

3. Dinengdeng

dinengdeng

Where It Comes From

Ilocos

What’s in It

Also known as Inabraw, Dinengdeng is a variant of Pinakbet—a mix of vegetables commonly found in a typical Ilocano backyard, such as jute (saluyot), malunggay, bitter melon, squash, string beans, and okra in a base of fish bagoong and rice-washed water (hugas-bigas). But unlike Pinakbet, Dinengdeng is soupier and uses grilled milkfish for its protein instead of your boyfriend’s rival.

What It Tastes Like

It’s sweet because of the squash and greens but also salty due to the fishy flavors. It then leaves your mouth with an aftertaste from the bitter melon, so you have to get a little bit of everything in each bite to appreciate the dish’s unique marriage of flavors combined with the richness of the fatty milkfish.

4. Linagpang

linagpang

Where It Comes From

Iloilo

What’s in It

Traditionally, milkfish, tilapia, or turagsoy is barbecued then placed together with the most basic spices—onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, and calamansi. The perfect Linagpang is complete when boiling water is finally added into the mix of solid ingredients. Except for grilling the meat, no cooking is involved.

What It Tastes Like

The flavors in your Linagpang depend primarily on your choice of seasoning or marinade for the grilled meat, so opt for a mix that would complement an acidic broth.

5. Sinanglaw

sinanglaw

Where It Comes From

Ilocos

What’s in It

Sinanglaw uses all parts of the cow, including the beef, entrails, tripe, tendons, coagulated blood, and testicles. (Okay, the testicles are optional, and only if you’re looking to put you and your partner in the mood.) The meat is served in a broth of kamias, ginger, garlic, onion, fish sauce, and—as if there wasn’t enough of the cow—beef bile.

What It Tastes Like

The soup’s unique sourness (less pronounced than that in Sinigang) and slight bitterness due to the bile, offset the fishy odor and taste (lansa) of the beef innards. Like Nilaga, it has a rich, milky beef flavor, slightly oily and has just the right amount of saltiness to match the sweetness of the proteins.

The cow balls? Slightly rubbery and inherently acidic and salty. Just try not to think about what the cow used to do with each body part whenever you take a bite.

6. Pinapaitan

papaitan

Where It Comes From

Ilocos/Nueva Ecija

What’s in It

The beta version of Sinanglaw, Papaitan is cow or goat innards in a broth of beef bile. The proteins include tripe, small intestine, heart, and thinly sliced meat.

What It Tastes Like

It’s more bitter than not winning the UAAP since 2007. As its names suggests (“pait” means bitter in Filipino), Papaitan is profoundly bitter, unlike Sinanglaw, which just has a mild hint of the bile. To counteract the bitter taste, locals add finger chilis (siling haba) and squeeze calamansi over the dish upon serving.

Ilocanos say that there is a sweet flavor they enjoy that comes after the sharp bitterness of their food, explaining the prevalence of bile in the dishes from their region.

 7. Kinunot

kinunot

Where It Comes From

Bicol

What’s in It

Traditionally, shark or stingray (pagi) meat, but crab or lobster can also be used. The meat is cooked in coconut cream with garlic, onion, vinegar, malunggay (or other greens such as kangkong or spinach), and red chili (siling labuyo). The blanched and flaked meat is added last.

What It Tastes Like

Despite its spiciness, Kinunot is one of the lighter derivatives of Ginataan, which Bicolanos are known for.

8. Tinuktok

tinuktok

Where It Comes From

Bicol

What’s in It

Any kind of meat mixed with ground coconut and red chili, wrapped in taro (gabi) leaves, and cooked in a mixture of boiling water with thin coconut milk (gata). The Bicolanos usually prepare Tinuktok with fish or freshwater shrimp (buyod), but pork or chicken can also be used.

What It Tastes Like

Just like Kinunot and Bicol Express (Sinilihan), Tinuktok is sweet, a bit sour, and necessarily spicy.

There are two theories why chilis are indispensable to Bicolano dishes. Some say that the spicy flavor is perfect for a tropical climate because it causes people to perspire, cooling them off through sweat. Others insist that the real explanation is poverty. A small serving of an extremely spicy viand would go a long way, enough for several platefuls of steamed rice.

9. Binignit

binignit

Where It Comes From

Cebu/Leyte

What’s in It

More commonly known as Ginataang Bilo-Bilo, Binignit is something my lola or aunt usually serves for merienda. A soup that’s pink, purple, or white, Binignit contains cubes of Saba banana, sweet potato, taro (gabi), palm flour jelly balls (bilo-bilo), jackfruit, and pearl sago.

What It Tastes Like

Served warm or cold, Binignit is sweet, milky, and starchy with hints of sourness because of the coco milk, the banana, and the jackfruit. Expect to get nostalgic for the lazy Sunday afternoons of your childhood with every spoonful.

10. Sundot Kulangot

sundot kulangot

Where it Comes From

Baguio and Other Parts of the Body Luzon

What’s in It

Like most authentic Pinoy dishes, the Sundot Kulangot (literally “pick the booger”) got its name from the unique method eating it requires. You use a stick or your finger to extract the dark kalamay or coco jam from inside the halved mini-coconut shells that serve as its packaging, much like the technique used for cleaning your nose.

What It Tastes Like

Viscous and sweet with a tinge of tartness, unlike real kulangot. Wait, how do I know what that tastes like? I don’t. I swear, I don’t.


Have you tried any of these? How was it? What other not-so-common, authentic Filipino dishes do you know? Tell us by dropping a comment below.


Recipes:

Pinikpikan, Dinengdeng, Linagpang, Sinanglaw, Pinapaitan, Kinunot, Tinuktok, Binignit

References:

Fernandez, Doreen. (2000). Palayok: Philippine Food through Time, on Site, in the Pot. Anvil: Pasig.

Fernandez, Doreen. (1994). Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture. Anvil: Pasig.

Originally posted 2013-07-24 00:45:10.

Addi dela Cruz Addi dela Cruz

Addi writes nonfiction that reads like fiction and fiction that isn't meant for children. He lives for breakfasts, getting new stamps on his passport, and perfecting his yoga tree pose. In between episodes of MasterChef and Hannibal, he dreams of owning a café that would serve the best hot chocolate in the South and have 12 tables at most.

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35 comments in this post SHOW

35 responses to “10 Dishes to Include in Your Local Food Bucket List”

  1. tiniwini says:

    my parents are Ilonggo and I grew up eating linagpang, but we use chicken instead of fish. 🙂 other Ilonggo dishes that are worth trying are KBL and pansit molo. 🙂

    • Addi dela Cruz says:

      Yes, grilled chicken in the same sour Linagpang soup sounds more appetizing.

      My mom makes all three (KBL, pancit molo, and laswa), but her province is Bicol and Quezon, so maybe they’re more common than we think?

  2. Nico Goco says:

    ang sarap ng ginataang bilo-bilo lalo na pag tag-ulan, lalo na dati pag suspended ang classes tapos ito merienda mo. 🙂 i love sinanglaw too! this and papaitan make for great dishes to slurp on after a night of drinking.

    • Adrian De Leon says:

      Ugh, yung papaitan sa Aysee naalala ko lang naglalaway na ako. Sino may alam kung saan nakakabili ng tinuktok sa Manila?

      • Nico Goco says:

        sa gerry’s ata may version sila nito. i’ve had this in some karinderyas too, but for the life of me, I can’t remember where exactly.

        • Adrian De Leon says:

          Yeah, yung sa Gerry’s pa lang din nata-try ko, so wala akong pang compare. Usually kasi laing lang meron sa carinderia e.

  3. Rio Francisco says:

    Pinapaitan here in Nueva Ecija is tradionally cooked with young tamarind leaves (usbong ng sampalok) or alibangbang (not the defunct beerhouse in Cubao) to give it a sour taste. Not like the bitter version of Pinapaitan of Ilocos and Isabela, the common pinapaitan here in Nueva Ecija is usually sour and spicy. Cow or goat’s innards are first sauteed in minced onion, garlic, ginger, patis, vetsin and siling labuyo! In many occasions such as birthdays, fiestas, etc., pinapaitan are usually served to the lasenggos as pulutan.

    • Addi dela Cruz says:

      Good to know! I’ve only had the Ilocos version, but I’d like to try Nueva Ecija’s soon and see the difference. 🙂

  4. Lars Roxas says:

    ganda ng illustrations!

  5. Jane says:

    Is tinuktok and tinomok the same? the description sounds similar, eh 😮

  6. Mikka Wee says:

    Great article and awesome illustrations, Addi and Mikeel! I want you both to collab more often for Pepper! 🙂

  7. Katrina says:

    At our house, we use left over fried fish (tilapia, galunggong) in our dinengdeng.

    And is it just me or do some of the dish names sound… bastos? Or maybe this is Adee’s influence na. 🙂

    • Adrian De Leon says:

      Hey, I’m not the one who named them! Haha. And dati pa may hints of naughtiness si Addi, it just so happened na mas crass ako kaya di gaano napapansin. 🙂

    • Adrian De Leon says:

      Hey, I’m not the one who named them! Haha. And dati pa may hints of naughtiness si Addi, it just so happened na mas crass ako kaya di gaano napapansin. 🙂

  8. Benjamin Canapi says:

    Ha! I’ve tried EVERY SINGLE ONE of those! Booyah!

  9. ChiquiP says:

    I wish you put actual photos of the dishes for a more appetizing appreciation of the dish

    • Sandy says:

      I agree with this. I appreciate the good work you did with the illustrations but it would have made much more sense to use photos. It may have been harder to compile perhaps but it would definitely be more informative and helpful for those who are not familiar with what they truly look like.

  10. Mira says:

    I think Pinikpikan is a dish that doesn’t take into account animal welfare 🙁 I respect Igorot tradition but I don’t think I can eat this.

    • Addi dela Cruz says:

      I honestly wouldn’t want to try it myself. I hope it’s no longer being prepared regularly.

    • KP says:

      Animal welfare groups have no issue with Igorots doing this, as the dish has long been a part of their culture and chickens aren’t exactly in danger of becoming extinct. That being said, this exception holds as long as only the natives prepare it, and it cannot be prepared outside of their ancestral land.

  11. Guest says:

    I only know one food item from this list- sundot kulangot. 🙁 *ashamed*

  12. Carl Jandusay B. says:

    Shet kinunot and tinuktok! For that sudden kinunot na pagi craving, I resort to buying from that jollijeep along Esteban St., ika nga pwede na din. I miss my lola’s version tuloy (with luyang dilaw and lots of siling labuyo – yung orig ha. Not those fake-ass Taiwan Sili that they pass off as labuyo.)

  13. Mylene Chung says:

    omg! I looove kulangot!!XD I like the smaller pieces better though. The huge ones look like a whole bowl of brown goo.. not very appetizing haha!

  14. anna says:

    no pigar pigar?

  15. […] 10 Dishes to Include in Your Local Food Bucket List […]

  16. cutedoc says:

    i was able to grab and signed a book “Linamnam” by Claude Tayag, it showcase various “must try” food around the philippines =)

    • Carl Tomacruz says:

      Ooh, I have Claude Tayag’s book too! It’s really an essential guide to nearly every local cuisine in the country.

  17. Min says:

    Great article! 🙂 I haven’t tried a few of those listed, so I better include them in my bucket list! It would’ve been great if you guys added restaurants or specific places where we can try them, though. I think for Pinikpikan, Cafe by the Ruins serves it (not sure about the authenticity, but judging from where the restaurant is [Baguio], I’m guessing it should be close enough). Thanks for this!

  18. […] Papaitan  is a stew hailing from the Ilocos region. It is usually made from goat innards like the intestines, tripe, heart, lungs, pancreas, liver, and kidney. What makes it special is the use of apdo or goat/beef bile as the key flavor component of the dish. If I remember my biology correctly, bile is the greenish liquid found in the liver which helps break down fat during digestion. While this all seems a bit too Hannibal Lecter, I swear the result yields an awfully good stew. […]

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