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Eating all the foods: Philippines edition

Published February 25th, 2016

After karaoke, eating is practically the national pastime in the Philippines. The haters may say Filo flavours don't stack up to Thai or Vietnamese fare, but Filipino food is a league of its own. It's intensely savoury and salty; unabashedly sweet and sticky. There aren't enough meals in the day to try it all, but I urge you, foodie friends, go forth and devour as much as you can, starting with these favourites.

LUMPIA

The Filipino answer to the spring roll, lumpia is not your ordinary frozen party food. This wrap-like snack is filled with julienned vegies and pork. But the best part of these rolls is the condiments. Load up your lumpia with a sugary peanut sprinkle and plenty of sticky soy and hot sauce.

Where to get it:

Po Heng Lumpia Center

531 Quintin Parades Street, Binondo, Manila

GRILLED PORK

Unassuming Toho is a Binondo institution. It's one of the oldest restaurants in the area and hungry folk flock far and wide for its grilled pork. The sweet, juicy pork belly is best accompanied with a drizzle of soy sauce and squeeze of calamansi juice (citrus fruit similar to a cumquat).

Where to get it:

Panciteria Toho Antigua (Toho Restaurant)

422 Tomas Pinpin Street, Binondo, Manila

LECHON

If Anthony Bourdain declares lechon as the "best pig...ever" you know you're in for a treat. Lechon is similar to suckling pig in all its juicy, tender, crackly glory. It's so good that people ship it whole from Cebu to Manila by air.

Where to get it:

Zubuchon

One Mango Mall, General Maxilom Ave, Cebu City, Cebu

SISIG

Texture can make or break a dish. But when you're a few beers down, perhaps texture doesn't matter so much. Sisig is a cheap, greasy accompaniment to a drinking sesh. It's er, chopped pig's head and ears with chicken liver, in a umami-heavy sauce. There's also a raw egg involved. It's tasty, if you can stomach the gristly bits...

Where to get it:

Pretty much anywhere that serves drinks and food

KINILAW

Filipino food is not all deep fried delicacies and pork. Kinilaw is the Philippines' answer to ceviche. This table staple is whipped up using only the freshest fish, 'cooked' in a vinegary marinade and served with chilli, onion and capsicum.

Where to get it:

From any Filipino joint worth its soy sauce, but try it from one of the restaurants alongside the dampa market in Manila.

Dampa Macapagal Avenue, Pasay City, Manila

SINIGANG

If you're familiar with Vietnam's canh chua, you'll love sinigang. This tamarind-based soup stewed with onion, tomato and okra can be made with any kind of protein, including fish and of course, pork.

Where to get it:

Cafe Juanita

19 West Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City, Manila

1st, Forbes Town Center, Burgos Cir, Fort Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila

HALO HALO

Similar to Malaysia's ais kacang, halo halo is happiness in a tall glass. That's if your definition of happiness is shaved ice topped with condensed milk, sweet beans, jelly, fruit, ube (purple yam) ice cream and dulce de leche. I'm calling it: halo halo will soon oust the doughnut as the new 'it' food.

Where to get it:

Peninsula Hotel Manila – The Lobby

Corner of Ayala and Makati Avenues, Makati City, Metro Manila

TSOKOLATE

Not your ordinary hot chocolate, this devilishly, velvety hot drink is made from pure, ground cacao. Tablea, to be exact. A stint in Cebu is incomplete without visiting the Queen of Chocolate herself, Rachel Choa, at one of her famed chocolate shops, to feast on an array of cacao goods, including the above chocolate cake – made with no eggs or milk!

Where to get it:

Ralfe Gourmet – 3349 Topaz St, Cebu City, 6000 Cebu,

The Chocolate Chamber – 22 Pres. Quirino Street, Villa Aurora, Cebu City, Cebu

Anna Howard

I thrive on discovering hidden gems and local haunts wherever I travel, from hole-in-the-wall cafes and dive bars, to antique stores and eclectic markets. I feel just as content in a cosy cabin in the wilderness as I do lost in the crowd of a buzzing city.