Filipinos share food as a way of maintaining social harmony; the kitchen is an important part of the house, and friends are always welcome at the Filipino table.

Filipino cuisine is a blend of Malay, Chinese, Arabic, American and especially Spanish elements. Rice, the staple food, is the basis of a typical meal and eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner; rice also features in many desserts. Rice may be served with salted or smoked fish and vegetables, and is often spiced with garlic, vinegar, soy sauce and patis, a salty liquid made from fish. In certain areas, people cook rice with coconut milk, chili peppers and ginger.

Chinese-influenced food includes noodle dishes, which are collectively called pancit. Panciterias are popular restaurants. A favourite dish is lumpia shanghai, which are spring rolls filled with minced meat and accompanied by sweet dipping sauce.

A special feature of Filipino food is the use of different meats and/or seafood in a single dish. For example, vinegar or soy sauce adobo is often a mixture of stewed pork and chicken cooked in bay leaves, peppercorns, garlic and sometimes coconut milk. Muslims, however, do not eat pork or pork products.

Meriendas, served at midmorning and midafternoon, are another Philippine tradition. They include rice cakes, buko (flesh of young coconut), ginataan (a fruit mixture cooked in coconut milk) and halo-halo, a dessert based on layers of fruit, diced gelatin and caramel custard topped with shaved ice and coconut milk or ice-cream. Filipinos make a huge variety of ice cream, which is often sold by the scoop by street vendors. Popular drinks include fruit juices and shakes. Green lemons (calamansi) are used to make hot and cold beverages.

  Chicken Adobo

1,350 g skinless chicken breasts
60 ml vinegar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
8 whole peppercorns, crushed
Garlic, to taste


Wash the chicken and cut into serving pieces. Place in a deep saucepan and add the vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and peppercorns. Without stirring, bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the chicken is tender, approximately 30 to 45 minutes, adding water if necessary to prevent sticking. Remove the chicken, reserving its liquid separately.

In the same saucepan melt the butter. Add some garlic (to taste) and fry until browned. Return the chicken to the pot without any liquid and fry until browned. Add the reserved liquid and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve hot over rice.

  Did you know?
Language reflects the importance of rice to Filipinos: Tagalog has several words for rice, including palay (rice that is harvested but not cleaned), sinaing (rice that is still cooking in a pot) and kanin (rice that is ready to eat).