Adobo is one of the most popular Filipino dishes and is considered unofficially by many as the national dish. It usually consists of pork or chicken, sometimes both, stewed or braised in a sauce usually made from vinegar, cooking oil, garlic, bay leaf, peppercorns, and soy sauce. It can also be prepared "dry" by cooking out the liquid and concentrating the flavor. Bistek, also known as "Filipino beef steak," consists of thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi and then fried in a skillet that is typically served with onions.
Some well-known stews are kare-kare and dinuguan. In kare-kare, also known as "peanut stew", oxtail or ox tripe is the main ingredient and is cooked with vegetables in a peanut-based preparation. It is typically served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste). In dinuguan, pig's blood, entrails, and meat are cooked with vinegar and seasoned with chili peppers, usually siling mahaba.
Paksiw refers to different vinegar-based stews that differ greatly from one another based on the type of meat used. Paksiw na isda uses fish and usually includes the addition of ginger, fish sauce, and maybe siling mahaba and vegetables. Paksiw na baboy is a paksiw using pork, usually pork hocks, and often sees the addition of sugar, banana blossoms, and water so that the meat is stewed in a sweet sauce. A similar Visayan dish called humba adds fermented black beans. Both dishes are probably related to pata tim which is of Chinese origin. Paksiw na lechon is made from lechon meat and features the addition of ground liver or liver spread. This adds flavor and thickens the sauce so that it starts to caramelize around the meat by the time dish is finished cooking. Although some versions of paksiw dishes are made using the same basic ingredients as adobo, they are prepared differently, with other ingredients added and the proportions of ingredients and water being different.
In crispy pata, pork knuckles (the pata) are marinated in garlic-flavored vinegar then deep fried until crisp and golden brown, with other parts of the pork leg prepared in the same way. Lechon manok is the Filipino take on rotisserie chicken. Available in many hole-in-the-wall stands or restaurant chains (e.g. Andok's, Baliwag, Toto's, Sr. Pedro's, G.S. Pagtakhan's), it is typically a specially seasoned chicken roasted over a charcoal flame served with "sarsa" or lechon sauce made from mashed pork liver, starch, sugar, and spices.
Mechado, kaldereta, and afritada are Spanish influenced tomato sauce-based dishes that are somewhat similar to one another. In these dishes meat is cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, and onions. Mechado gets its name from the pork fat that is inserted in a slab of beef making it look like a wick (mitsa) coming out of a beef "candle". The larded meat is then cooked in a seasoned tomato sauce and later sliced and served with the sauce it was cooked in. Kaldereta can be beef but is also associated with goat. Chunks of meat are cooked in tomato sauce, minced garlic, chopped onions, peas, carrots, bell peppers and potatoes to make a stew with some recipes calling for the addition of soy sauce, fish sauce, vinegar, chilies, ground liver or some combination thereof. Afritada tends to be the name given to the dish when chicken and pork is used. Another similar dish said to originate from the Rizal area is waknatoy. Pork or beef sirloin is combined with potatoes and cut sausages and cooked in a tomato-based sauce sweetened with pickles. Puchero is derived from the Spanish cocido; it is a sweeter stew that has beef and banana or plantain slices simmered in tomato sauce.
Filipinos also eat tocino and longganisa. Tocino is a sweetened cured meat made with either chicken or pork and is marinated and cured for a number of days before being fried. Longganisa is a sweet or spicy sausage, typically made from pork though other meats can also be used, and are often colored red traditionally through the use of the anatto seed but also artificial food coloring.
Filipino soups tend to be very hearty and stew-like containing large chunks of meat and vegetables or noodles. They are usually intended to be filling and not meant to be a light preparatory introduction for the main course. They tend to be served with the rest of the meal and eaten with rice when they are not meals unto themselves. They are often referred to on local menus under the heading sabaw (broth). Sinigang is a popular dish in this category distinguished by its sourness that often vies with adobo for consideration as the national dish. It is typically made with either pork, beef, chicken or seafood and made sour with tamarind or other suitable souring ingredients. Some seafood variants for example can be made sour by the use of guava fruit or miso. Another dish is tinola. It has large chicken pieces and green papaya slices cooked with chili, spinach, and moringa leaves in a ginger-flavored broth. Nilagang baka is a beef stew made with cabbages and other vegetables. Binacol is a warm chicken soup cooked with coconut water and served with strips of coconut meat. La Paz batchoy is a noodle soup garnished with pork innards, crushed pork cracklings, chopped vegetables, and topped with a raw egg. Another dish with the same name uses misua, beef heart, kidneys and intestines, but does not contain eggs or vegetables. Mami is a noodle soup made from chicken, beef, pork, wonton dumplings, or intestines (called laman-loob). Ma Mon Luk was known for it. Another chicken noodle soup is sotanghon, consisting of cellophane noodles (also called sotanghon and from whence the name of the dish is derived), chicken, and sometimes mushrooms.
Noodle dishes are generally called pancit. Pancit recipes primarily consist of noodles, vegetables, and slices of meat or shrimp with variations often distinguished by the type of noodles used. Some pancit, such as mami and La Paz-styled batchoy, are noodle soups while the "dry" varieties are comparable to chow mein in preparation. Then there is spaghetti or ispageti in the local parlance that is a modified version of spaghetti bolognese. It is sometimes made with banana ketchup instead of tomato sauce, sweetened with sugar and topped with hot dog slices.
There are several rice porridges that are popular in the Philippines. One is arroz caldo which is a rice porridge cooked with chicken, ginger and sometimes saffron, garnished with spring onions (chives), toasted garlic, and coconut milk to make a type of gruel. Another variant is goto which is an arroz caldo made with ox tripe. There is also another much different rice porridge called champorado which is sweet and flavored with chocolate and often served at breakfast paired with tuyo or daing.
Another rice-based dish is arroz a la valenciana, a Spanish paella named after the Spanish region Valencia that has been incorporated into the local cuisine. Bringhe is a local rice dish with some similarities to paella but using glutinous rice, coconut milk, and turmeric. Kiampong a type of fried rice topped with pork pieces, chives and peanuts. It can be found in Chinese restaurants in Binondo and Manila.
For vegetarians, there is dinengdeng, a dish consisting of moringa leaves (malunggay) and slices of bittermelon. There is also pinakbet, stewed vegetables heavily flavored with bagoong. A type of seafood salad known as kinilaw is made up of raw seafood such as fish or shrimp cooked only by steeping in local vinegar, sometimes with coconut milk, onions, spices and other local ingredients. It is comparable to the Peruvian ceviche.
Northern Philippine Cuisine
For festive occasions, people band together and prepare more sophisticated dishes. Tables are often laden with expensive and labor-intensive treats requiring hours of preparation. In Filipino celebrations, lechón (also spelled litson) serves as the centerpiece of the dinner table. It is usually a whole roasted pig, but suckling pigs (lechonillo, or lechon de leche) or cattle calves (lechong baka) can also be prepared in place of the popular adult pig.
More details at Northern Philippine Cuisine