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5 Iconic Filipino Dishes To Celebrate Independence Day—And Where To Enjoy Them

If you’re feeling particularly patriotic this June 12, Philippine Independence Day, then show your national pride by feasting on one (or all) of these five Filipino savory dishes, ranging from timeless classics done well to elevated versions of traditional favorites. These are dishes that may also serve as a better introduction to Filipino food than the infamous balut that tends be an acquired taste for many.

Here are my favorite places to enjoy these proudly Pinoy dishes:

 

1. ADOBO

Adobo has long been regarded by many as the country’s unofficial national dish. Each family has its own version of this classic that usually involves a protein of one’s choice, traditionally a combination of pork and chicken, cooked in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, with crushed garlic and bay or laurel leaves. It’s one of the most approachable dishes for foreign palates

Bamba Bistro’s Lamb Adobo

 

For your adobo fix, deviate from the norm and check out the delectable Lamb Adobo at Chef Tina Legarda’s Bamba Bistro served with mint jelly. Or if you want to eat well without blowing your budget, go for the Adobong Itik (local duck) at Caruz Eatery in Pasig. A single serving of itik costs less than P200.

 

Bamba Bistro, 55 Aguirre Avenue, BF Homes, Parañaque, IG @bambabistro

Caruz Eatery, 220 Hillcrest Drive, Pasig City

 

2. BEEF TAPA

Tapa involves curing or drying meat with salt and various spices, similar to beef jerky. Cooking tapa used to be a way to extend the shelf life of meats like beef, carabeef, and pork. Now, it’s simply marinated in a garlicky sweet, spiced soy-based mixture before it’s cooked, usually grilled or fried.

Little Flour’s Beef Tapa

 

These days, tapa is popularly enjoyed tapsilog style, with garlic fried rice and fried sunny side-up egg as an all-day breakfast meal. The secret to good tapa is good quality meat and that’s why Little Flour’s version reigns supreme, made with premium beef belly and served with house made atsara, garlic fried rice, and topped with two sunny side-up eggs.

Little Flour Café, SM Mega Fashion Mall, SM Megamall; 136 Valero Street, Salcedo Village, Makati City; World Plaza, 4th Avenue corner 31st Street, BGC, IG @littleflourcafe

 

3. LECHON

A big Filipino celebration is hardly complete without the presence of lechon or whole pig roasted on top of charcoal. With so many variants and styles coming from the different regions of the Philippines, pork lovers are spoilt for choice.

 

Stuffed lechon by Pepita’s Kitchen

 

For a truly festive celebration, it’s hard to beat the stuffed lechon de leche of Pepita’s Kitchen. While its truffled mushroom rice stuffing remains the most popular, you cannot go wrong ordering the Spanish Manileña with its taba ng talangka and Spanish chorizo rice stuffing or the “healthier” lechon stuffed with laing rice. For a more traditional lechon with no stuffing, my favorite is the Cebu-style small or lechon de leche of Ulcing’s.

 

Pepita’s Kitchen, (0917) 866-0662, pepitaskitchen@gmail.com, IG @lechon_diva

Ulcing’s Cebu Lechon, 33 Bayani Road, Taguig, (02) 497-7957

 

 

4. SISIG

Traditionally eaten as pulutan or bar chow, this dish made with chopped pig’s head with liver and spices is now one of the most popular dishes in town with a surprisingly wide audience appeal.

Cirkulo’s Cabeza de Cerdo

 

There are many variations to this dish, but the crispy style sisig at Cirkulo is still my favorite. Called Cabeza de Cerdo on the menu (though just order sisig and the waitstaff will know what you want), this version is made from the trimmings of a roasted suckling pig, lending not only extra crunch but a guaranteed cleaner tasting pork as well that tends to feel less fatty on the mouth, too. You can also order this sisig at Cirkulo’s sister restaurant MilkyWay Café located on the second floor of the same building. This dish is best eaten with a side order of fluffy white rice.

Cirkulo and MilkyWay Café, Milkway Way Building, 900 A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City, www.elcirkulo.com, www.cafe.milkywayrestaurant.com

 

5. KARE-KARE

This rich and meaty oxtail stew is usually thickened with a savory peanut sauce (some use peanut butter) and is meant to be eaten with fermented shrimp sauce or bagoong on the side. It can also be made with seafood or vegetables.

Seafood Kare-kare at Bale Dutung

 

For oxtail kare-kare, you can try the Kapampangan-style ones at Café Juanita or MilkyWay Café. Claude Tayag’s reservations-only Bale Dutung in Angeles City, Pampanga serves the best seafood kare-kare by a mile, while Floating Island Restaurant in Ayala Malls the 30th has a good one made with vegetables only.

 

Café Juanita, 19 West Capitol Drive, Kapitolyo, Pasig City

MilkyWay Café, 900 A. Arnaiz Avenue, Makati City; Power Plant Mall, Rockwell Center, Makati City

Bale Dutung, Villa Gloria Subdivision, Angeles City, Pampanga, www.baledutung.com

Floating Island Restaurant, 2/F Ayala Malls the 30th, 30 Meralco Avenue, Pasig City

 

 

Photos by Cyrene de la Rosa

Follow the author on Instagram and Twitter @cyrenedelarosa