45 responses

  1. Kieron
    December 23, 2010

    Jollibee is hideous – I honestly chose to go hungry instead of making the mistake of eating it a second time when I was in the Philippines!

    My #1 food over there is mangoes. For some reason nothing compares to the mangoes grown there!

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      Good point about going hungry rather than eating jollibee, been there myself. Very true about the mangoes!

      angoes from the Philippines

  2. ciki
    December 23, 2010

    wow! the jollibee burger eh.. now you’ve planted it in my head.. i will never rest till i eat that monstrosity! still i would have thought that balut was worse.

    Why am i not surprised that BBQ chick is your no.1 Heck I would have thought, BBQ any meat would be ur no.1

    GREAT list dave!

    • Marnie Alvez
      December 23, 2010

      Pretty Mei! When you visit the Philippines in the future, I’d make sure you try the best and the worst food in the Philippines =) Jollibee and balut, I’d make sure you try it haha.

      In the meantime, I’m back in Malaysia! Hope to see you soon! =)

      • ciki
        December 23, 2010

        NOOOOOO! i dare not.. don’t make me do it marnie… noooo :P hehe

        (OH, OK.)

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      All meat aside from internal organs! Remove Jollibee from your head, not worth it! Bolinao has a very light amount of spice on it. Not really salty. Though the cheap, cheap versions still taste of the sea.

  3. ciki
    December 23, 2010

    is the bolinao also really salty? am trying to imagine if its like he pickled stinky fish in Malaysia. It’s not that greasy though..

  4. Stuart
    December 23, 2010

    That jollibee thing sound bad alright. But I’ll give the bbq some room!

  5. JP Yu
    December 23, 2010

    Hey Dave, being a filipino it amuses me how an outsider sees my culture.
    Having traveled myself, I also get fascinated by a certain country’s culture and food. Being filipino, this traits have been accustomed to us already, that they all seem to become very normal. It is nice reading your thoughts, being a foreigner in my country.
    I wish you could write more about how you see things done our way..

    Be safe.. Travel more and blog often…

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      I think you’ll find about 2 years worth of info I’ve written about the Philippines here! Just click the country menu on the right :)

  6. Marnie Alvez
    December 23, 2010

    Jollibee haha. Actually I also find it surprising why Filipinos love this lousy fast food when, let’s say in a mall, there are far more better alternative. Almost everywhere, Jollibee is always full. The price of their meals is not worth your peso too. I say this because I get to eat something more delicious than any of the meals served in Jollibee at less price and better ambiance. I loved their Aloha burger. Don’t know whether they still serve it. It’s beef burger with all the trimmings plus pineapple =)

    Agree with you on the roasted chicken! 3 months into my Southeast Asia backpacking trip last year, I’ve been dreaming of lechon manok. I finally satisfied the craving in Luang Prabang, Laos but it is not the same!

    Great list! Philippines got a lot of great food yet to be discovered!

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      I hope one day the chef’s in The Philippines work on national food items, rather than international. Walking into a mall these days is like walking into a mall in the USA. And, yes, there’s lots of other burger choices here. Though, I’ve yet to taste one quiet as sickly as jollibee!

  7. Wade | VagabondJourney.com
    December 23, 2010

    Man, there is a HUGE gap between these best and worst choices.

    I have a stomach of steel and have eaten everything from insects to testicles to human placenta, but your photo of the half baked duck made me want to puke. I have watched fertilized chickens being knocked out of their shells and grilled up in China, but there is just something about that photo that hit me in a place I am rarely hit.

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      Ha! To hit you in that rare place must mean I did a good job! I won’t ask where you started eating human placenta.

  8. sealdi
    December 23, 2010

    Hmmm. Mixed emotions about the list, but then each to its own taste buds, I think. But no lechon baboy/ roasted pig at all? The cholesterol-laden fiesta king of all time didn’t make it?! :(

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      Not really a huge fan of lechon baboy (roasted pig). Lots of crispy skin, and layers of fat. I don’t know where all the meat disappears too :(

  9. journeyingjames
    December 23, 2010

    i agree with you dave (except for the balut). hahaha i dont eat it everyday but i like it.
    i really dont eat at jollibee, i prefer to eat on hole in the wall type of stalls. love the marang too!
    btw, leaving the philippines already? why? where’s your next stop?

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      I guess out of 90 million people there will be some that enjoy Balut ;) No idea where is next. But January there will be a new country!

      • Marnie Alvez
        December 24, 2010

        I love balut! I don’t eat it everyday though! One time my father cooked balut without the soup, sauteed with onion and garlic then mixed with tomato sauce and beer =)

  10. flip
    December 23, 2010

    my best foods include sinigang na hipon (prawns in sour soup) although it wont beat tom yum for sure… and grilled fish… i also like vegetables with tofu… go to Bicol Dave for spicy food… and go to Pampanga for more good tasting foods…

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      I like the chicken in coconut milk soup. But, the prawn one has too few prawns for my liking. Leaving soon, no Bicol for me. I’ll leave it to you!

  11. Ian Martin
    December 23, 2010

    I find the Philippino snacks and ice creams outstanding, as a European. There are hundreds of types of snacks for sale in most shops, potato crisps (“Chips” to North Americans) and all manner of crispy things in small bags. My favourite is the moist chocolate and cheesey Oishi snacks, UNIQUE !

    I would agree about Jollibee and other burgers, i would hate to know what EXACTLY is in them. They all seem to be covered in a sickly sweet sauce. When it comes to fast food here, i stick to fried eggs, but they become repetitive after the 20th breakfast.

    Most food in RP tends to be overly cold, full of artificial colours and FAR FAR FAR too sweet. But you eat things that are so different from anything else in Asia and the west . I like the Adobo sauces , soy suce with garlic and calamansi.

    The food is like RP itself, very very different from other Asian cultures and religions. It is NEVER too spicey, has wonderful desserts, leche flan, buco salad (coconut scrapings and fruit mixed with cream AND CHEESE ???) (i know you don’t like desserts dave), The food is a bit Asian, chinese, bit spanish and american.

    So the good parts for me ? well the soups are bizarre but SO tasty ! when you first taste one, they are SOUR with big chunks of fish and prawns. The sourness is made by tamarinds. I have never eaten much fish in my life, it tends to be very expensive in Europe, but Tuna is 70 pesos a kilo in my local market, and it is considered a cheap large fish ! The roast pork tastes like pork used to, when i was a boy. You just eat it sawn from a whole pig, and eaten with a liver sauce (only sauce in RP that is NOT sweet)

    The oridinary food is cheap, it is food from the 60s for western visitors, chemically enhanced orange juice, instant milk for coffee. It is normally bought in tiny packets !I am hunting out the things that you highlighted Dave, i think the fruit maybe not in season at the moment though.

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      Great observations Ian! Before I forget, Marang is indeed seasonal. Comes out about twice a year. June/July maybe a little before. And, around October. I’ve only ever seen it in the south, but well worth seeking out!

      I really enjoyed your analogy about food in The Philippines being like western food from the 60’s. So very true. So many artificial chemicals it’s a wonder people do not glow in the dark around here. Wait a few more years for the ADD to kick in.

      First time I saw fruit salad with cheese, I knew I’d be sticking with the meat!

      Good call on the soups. And, yes, the greatest thing about the food here is that it’s really old school when it comes to meat. Giant servings of meat that taste as it should!

      Thanks again for your insightful comment, I enjoyed it.

  12. Sabina
    December 24, 2010

    You hit some interesting spots. I doubt if I’ll ever make it to the Phillipines. Of course the food looks great, though :) And I love your header photo! (I might have told you that already)

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      It might happen, never know what the future can bring :) Thanks for the vote on the header photo. Some people think it should go! I think it should stay.

  13. Marlys
    December 24, 2010

    Yes, this Jolibee monstrosity is all too true. I’ve not been home for quite a bit (I’ve been living in Europe for the last 28 years) but whenever I do, I always see Jolibee fast food counters always with long lines.My brother tells me it’s more popular than McDonalds because it is “juicier and tastes better” all because of the amount of fat in it. Uuggh! And kids love it.
    Having said this, whenever I do get home, friends bring me to try this or that new restaurant that are influenced by European or North American cuisine. Almost always, they disappoint. But the restaurants serving Philippine food, from the simplest to the ones influenced by the spaniards always make me want to stay home. I’m always always homesick for Philippine food – lechon, dinuguan at puto, mangga at suman, crispy pata, Kare kare (yes, complete with bagoong, that smelly fish paste foreigners find pukey) crisp green mangoes, banana-q, banana turon w/ langka (naming these foods bring tears to my eyes because I’m homesick again)
    And eating out is soooo cheap. I keep telling the story of me brining friends (all 6 of them) in a fancy Philippine restaurant where we pigged out and ordered the house specialities and my bill didn’t even get to £50. How cheap is that?
    I would encourage all to visit the Philippines. Don’t stay more than 2 days in Manila. Get to Cebu, Davao or Palawan instead.

    • The Longest Way Home
      December 24, 2010

      Yes, the queues at Jollibee are mind boggling. I think the longer you live in a place, and eat a particular food group, the more you grow accustomed to it. And, even begin to savor it.
      Even after eating a huge plate of spaghetti, a Filipino without rice in their meal, is still hungry.

      I think with time food here will advance. But as noted many of the comments, food here is still very unique for it’s location in South East Asia. But prices are going up! The last year alone saw a rise of nearly 30% in rice prices. Quite where and how this will end, is turning into a global issue. Hopefully the Philippines will diversify.

  14. Miss Turista
    December 28, 2010

    Hahaha! As a Filipino, I noticed that the taste of Jollibee is even worse when it’s brought to other countries.. Like the one I tasted in Brunei.. It tasted like paper. Yuck.

    Did you ever try eating Pancit Canton?

  15. Ted Nelson
    December 30, 2010

    I hate to admit it, but I had a jollibee burger or two in the Philippines. I also hate to admit I never tried the Balut. Even though it makes your top 3 worst foods I really want to try it.

  16. Ace Macaro
    June 28, 2011

    There is a story behind the “bolinao” or what we filipinos called “dilis”. It is a dried foods. But even a rich person eats this to the reason that it reminds you about your roots and younger life, and understand what its like to have nothing to eat. Our parents force us to eat dried fish, so that we are prepared when things get worst. Be humble, be happy what you have.

    About the “balut”, it looks disgusting if you stare at it, but it is very clean, it is inside the shell(never eat balut with a broken shells even it is free.). Anyway, it consider as aphrodisiac. Thats why it should be eaten at nighttime, gives you more stamina.

    Jolibee? All fastfood-chain like mcdo, goldilocks, tropical hut, burger king, etc. All those shop who are selling burgers are worst. But “pizza” are all nice.

    Sorry for the wrong english.
    Nice blog, BTW.

    • The Longest Way Home
      June 29, 2011

      Nice quote about your parents making forcing you to eat dried fish to prepare you for the worst! Made be laugh as it makes perfect sense. I can barely smell the stuff before my stomach starts to turn.

      Agreed with the burgers. Pizza is good alright.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Ace Macaro
    June 29, 2011

    Trust me, i hate the smell and the salty taste. When i was, i dont understand why my mother buy it, why not just egg? or vegetables?. Then later, we visited a family who are poor. They prepare a dried fish for dinner. Thats the time i realize the reason. :)

    Anyway, in filipino culture, you have to prepare foods to all visitor. And what i mean “all” means all. And as a visitor, refusing to eat the prepared food is considered rude and it hurt the feeling the owner. You dont want that to happen, simply because they wont invite you again.

    So every filipinos, when we go for a visit. We are expecting the owners must prepare at least cold water or bread or anything you can offer. Thats also a reason to prepare your stomach for the worst. Maybe if foreigner refuse to eat, i do think some understand.

    • Marnie Alvez
      June 29, 2011

      Agree on Filipino culture offering food/ drink or inviting strangers to join in meals. I remember when the cable guys went to our house for what else, cable installation, my mom immediately placed some biscuits on a plate and glass of water for them! =) I don’t think other Asian nations are as congenial.. Though I remember awesome generosity in Sumatra, Indonesia =)

  18. Matthew
    July 31, 2011

    While in the Philippines, I tried as hard as I could to like Jolibee. The Chicken Yum is OK but everything else on the menu is awful. Especially the spaghetti. Their sister pizza chain, Greenwich, is even worse. The only enjoyable food from Jolibee Corp, in my opinion, is Chow King.

    There are so many fantastic local foods in the Philippines, especially their desserts! Sans rival, brazzo de mercedes, polvoron, leche flan… Mmm! Sarap!

  19. Max
    August 30, 2011

    lol! i think all people from the west hate the smell of dried fish.

    you find chowking ok but let me tell you, the meat they have in their sweet and sour pork is not real, it’s just flour that is made to look like and taste like pork. i found out when i put it in the refrigerator, it suddenly turned into flour nuggets few hours later. it’s really scary how they make that flour taste and look like pork — must have tons of carcinogenic shit to make it look like meat . . . i wonder what our food and drug administration is doing, I think they don’t scrutinized the food served in fast food joints . . . same with mcdonald’s their crispy chicken fillet is also just made of flour!

    the best food in the Philippines are the ones prepared and cooked at home — fresh and clean :)

  20. Palawan Martin
    September 11, 2011

    I have some secret Philippines food items that i have discovered that are world class, the first is “Aroma Rice”, it smells a little like Basmati even when dried, but is much shorter grained. It has a quite intense smell when cooking, a cross between popcorn and mice. It does not look very good on the plate , but has a chewy texture and an individual taste. It is only grown in the mountains, mainly by tribespeople, and is only available in September and early October. this is because it is grown without irrigation, just in the wet season , once a year. It is planted in the traditional way , a man making a hole with wooden implement, followed usually by his wife who plants the seed. there are absolutely no chemicals used. It tastes superb ! It costs a few pesos (i paid 37p a kilo) more, and so the average Pinoy does not buy much of it. It is not at all lauded, it is just stocked in the normal rice shops, but anyone travelling to Palawan, i recommend it strongly !

    Another unique food is half dried fish “Bangus Lamayo”, sprinkled with onions, it is fried and becomes very crispy, but moist in the centre. It is eaten with rice (of course), and well, uniquely wonderful. They cost 50 pesos for a medium size fish. You can buy them in Palaweno markets. Also the markets usually sell smoked fish too, which is also very good. Well, i would have to say Palawan is fish heaven (well literally for the fish, of course). Yellow finned Tuna , sliced cost 70 pesos for 1 kg, at my local market

    The olive green coloured globule shaped seaweed called “Lato”, is unique too ! I recomend the small globuled version.

    Desserts are also good, but not particularly from Palawan, i particularly like “Sans Rival”, made with Cashew Nut Meringue, butter and tastes great. I must mention the tangy ginger, you can buy a great deal for 5 pesos !

  21. AcidJazz
    November 20, 2011

    CHOWKING is the WORST fast food ever. Poor SANITATION(LANGAW) and Poor Customer Service. Here’s the story, few hours ago i was eating at Chowking Lipa Batangas near BigBen. I was alone then this waiter served the combo C. I was asking politely to get me a straw because I don’t want to leave the table. Di naman ganun kadami tao nung oras na yun. He said yes, I keep on waiting and I was keeping my eye on the waiter then napansin ako ng manager ” Yes mam may kulang pa sa order niyo? ” sabi ko ” Wala na po sabi kasi ng waiter kukuha niya ako straw” then she replied ” self service kami dito “. Binalewala ko na lang. I was eating my Combo C then nung asa gitna na ako ng mangkok may nangingisay na LANGAW. I was very very upset!!! Tinawag ko ang manager at sabi papalitan nila. Wala na talaga akong gana! then they refunded what I pay for. Gustong gusto ko ipahiya ang Chowking kanina sa mga diners but I can’t , so I ended up crying! Then I walked out.

  22. Ronny
    August 21, 2012

    Sorry, but I think this list is shallow. You can’t possibly make a list like this without visiting the food capital of the Philippines – Pampanga (a region about an hour north of Manila).

    As a foreigner *living in*, rather than visiting, the Philippines, I agree on the burger – it’s awful. and the dried fish, also known as tuyú, is nearly inedible. But balut is actually very nice. Come on people, we eat eggs, and we eat ducks, this is just somewhere in between – nothing to be afraid of!

    The best food list probably needs to be rewritten after visiting many towns around Pampanga. Any list without sizzling sisig (a Kapampangan speciality made from… no never mind what it’s made from, just taste it first!) is bound to be incomplete. By the way, don’t bother tasting it outside of Pampanga – they don’t know how to make it!

    • Dave from The Longest Way Home
      August 24, 2012

      Shallow would be only mentioning “Pampanga”.

      Sisig is chopped up pigs face not so exciting in reality.

  23. Pinoy adventure rider
    November 2, 2012

    The balut is a high-cholesterol delicious treat. The trick is to eat it without looking at it and as the vendor to give you the one with the tiny duck inside. The bad feeling is when you get a big duck inside the balut where when you chew on it, you can feel the beak, bones and hair, thats bad.

    About the dilis or dried fish, you should try the spicy bbq flavor, its really good with beer.

    About the lechon manok, its also my fav, all my troubles disappear with my tasty lechon manok.

  24. padawan
    November 16, 2012

    I know that this blog is ur perspective as a tourist visiting philippines but i found injustice seeing lechon manok as the number one food in ur list.

    This is my own perspective as a filipino reading ur list.

    the list didn’t surprise me about ur ‘worst foods’ list,maybe u didn’t try buro from pamapanga (should be included in the list (worst),smells bad but they said it’s delicious.

    Now on to ur best foods list, palitaw is just palitaw can’t see anything special bout it .I’m a filipino living in manila my whole life and idk anything about marang. Lechon manok is just too plain to be number 1 ,sorry.

    If ur planning to visit philippines again, let me give u some ideas on what to look for,

    best food list:
    1. adobo (chicken/pork)
    2. sinigang (pork/beef/shrimp)
    3. Kare Kare
    4. Dinuguan
    5. Paksiw na pata
    6. lechon kawali
    7. sisig
    8. menudo
    9. sinampalukang manok
    10. crispy pata
    11. Lechon
    12. halo-halo
    13. leche flan
    14. buko salad
    15. bulalo
    16. sopas
    17. chopseuy
    18. tapsilog
    19. afritada
    20. batchoy
    21. isaw (grilled chicken/pork)
    22. Goto (beef/chicken/isaw )
    23. pansit malabon/canton/bihon

    There u go a small list of gastronomical delights from “our” perspective. Try most or all of them,then let us know ur thoughts,i’m sure u will be removed from the “dark side” ,lol

  25. Ina
    November 29, 2012


    Thanks a lot for the article. I would agree with your taste. I am a foreign student and have problems with Filipino food. I have never tried baloot and dried fish cause find it awful and stinky. I love their bbq chicken cause I am not a fan of pork. Because of difference in taste, I cook Russian cuisine at home and rarely eat outside.
    Overall, would also agree with the concept that Filipinos eat not because of nutrients, but mostly to make their stomachs full. Also like eating outside even though it is expensive and they don’t have affordable budget for outside food.
    We tried to make business on injecting healthy yogurt to Filipinos. Didnt work, Filipinos prefer sweet and artificial flavors, not plain yogurt.

  26. Vanesa
    January 27, 2013

    Please do consult more locals about Filipino food. I agree with padawan’s post in the dish list. Best if you can befriend a Filipino family – they will cook food for you and take you around places…The best Filipino food is cooked at home, with a lot of different versions of the dish on the list.

    • Dave from The Longest Way Home
      January 27, 2013

      Do take a look around, after over 2 years I’ve eaten in plenty of locals houses and published them individually here. The list is top 3 best and worst in my opinion.

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