City Eats

Manila Food Tour: Authentic Filipino dishes, snacks, and exotic street food

manila food tour filipino food

Looking for a taste of authentic Filipino dishes and traditional delicacies? Take the best Manila food tour to eat and drink like a local!

One of the best things foreigners look forward to in Asia is the food. But compared to our Southeast Asian neighbors, authentic Filipino food is quite different.

Despite years of colonization of Spain, America, and Japan, one of the symbols of preserving the local Filipino culture is with food. You can’t find the authentic Filipino food anywhere else in the world — unless you’re in a Pinoy community!

Here’s a list of my favorite traditional Filipino food, with options for vegetarians and dessert-lovers. You can also take an official Manila food tour to learn more about the origins of our top recipes:

My Top Traditional Filipino Food to Try

Traditional Pinoy food usually tastes either salty or sweet. One Manila food tour guide said we owe our salty taste buds to living close to the sea. And anything cooked “Filipino style” means it’s a sweeter blend!

Arm yourself if a cup of rice… here’s a list of my recommend Filipino food that you should taste:

Adobo. Every province in the Philippines has a different take on adobo, which is garlicky chicken and pork dish cooked in soy sauce, vinegar, and spices. The spices naturally preserve the dish, making it great for packing during a tour.

Sinigang. Second most-known Filipino dish is sinigang, a sour stew made with tamarind, vegetables (kangkong, string beans, taro, wintermelon, okra), and chunks of meat.

Kare-kare. A truly unique Filipino cuisine is karekare, known for its orange-colored crushed peanut sauce cooked with oxtail and vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, and banana blossom. It’s usually eaten with shrimp paste (bagoong), a common Filipino condiment.

Chicken inasal. While Jollibee Chicken Joy is the more popular stop for a Manila food tour, chicken inasal hails proudly from Visayas. It’s the Bacolod version of grilled chicken marinated in lemongrass, lime, achuete oil (annatto seeds that give it an orange tinge), and spices.

Lechon. A staple in every Filipino celebration such as fiestas, parties, and weddings is lechon, a whole roasted pig. Pinoys go crazy over the crunchy brown pig skin and tender meat. In Cebu recipes, the pig is stuffed with spices such as star anise, laurel leaves, lemongrass, etc. to give it a savory taste.

Tapa. If you’re having a Filipino breakfast, try tapsilog which means tapa, sinangag, at itlog, a combination of dried marinated beef (but traditionally, horse meat!) with fried garlic rice and egg. Tapa can be sweet, spicy, flakey, or chunky.

Bicol Express. A traditional dish from the land of Mayon volcano is Bicol Express. It’s known for its fiery taste, being cooked with coconut milk and red chilis. It’s the spiciest Filipino food you can try similar to Southeast Asian dishes.

Kinilaw. A sour Pinoy dish is kinilaw, which is a fresh catch of raw seafood mixed with coconut vinegar, ginger, chili, onions, and other spices. Many seaside restaurants in Manila and other provinces serve and have varying versions of kinilaw.

Choose your Manila Food Tour

Old Manila Filipino Food Crawl

  • Duration: Mid-day food tour
  • Food stops: Casa Armas, Szechuan House, Cafe Adriatico, Seaside Dampa, SM Mall of Asia, etc.
  • Food to try: Pollo Asado (Spanish version of roasted chicken), classic dim sum dishes, chocolate and kesong puti with pandesal, salted egg prawns, etc.
  • Notes: Children 0-3 years old are not allowed to join the tour
  • Price: PHP 2,700

philippines food tapsilog

Vegetarian Filipino Food

Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, finding vegetarian or vegan food in Manila is harder. Filipinos love meat because it’s a way of showing hospitality, as serving meat to guests meant high esteem.

Still, there are traditional Filipino food that contain a lot of vegetables, with less to no meat (upon request):

Pinakbet. Originating from Ilocos, pinakbet is made with eggplant, bitter gourd, squash, okra, and shrimp paste. It’s the most common vegetable-filled food in the Philippines.

Ginataang sitaw at kalabasa. This looks a lot like pinakbet, but ginisang sitaw kalabasa is sautéed squash, green beans with coconut milk and shrimp paste.

Lumpiang ubod. Similar to the Vietnamese spring roll, lumpiang ubod makes use of strips of coconut pith (palm heart), lettuce leaves, and nuts inside a thin egg wrapper seasoned with a garlicky sweet sauce.

Laing. Another dish originating from Bicol is laing, which is taro leaves in coconut milk. For extra challenge, pile up on the red chilis!

Choose your Manila Food Tour

Dinner Buffet and Cultural Show at Barbara’s

  • Duration: Dinner buffet (6:30 PM) and cultural show (7 PM)
  • Food stops: Barbara’s Heritage Restaurant in Intramuros
  • Food to try: Authentic Filipino dishes such as beef kare-kare, chicken adobo, etc.
  • Notes: Inclusive of hotel transfers in Makati, Ortigas, and Manila Bay areas. Transfers in Quezon City or Alabang has additional charges of USD 10; child ticket is for ages 2-11 years old; live cultural dance and music performances included
  • Price: PHP 3,082

Eat Fresh Famous Hong Kong Street Food

Favorite Filipino-Chinese Food

The Chinese and Filipinos have a long history of trade — probably a trade of recipes as well. Many Filipino-Chinese cuisines found everywhere, such as public food stalls, convenience stores, and fancy restaurants. That’s why it’s very common to go on a Binondo food trip. But compared to actual Chinese food, Fil-Chi dishes have been tweaked to suit local taste buds:

Yang Chow Fried Rice. Both cultures sharing the love for rice, yang chow fried rice is the Fil-Chi version of the sinangag (Pinoy fried rice). A great way to reuse day-old rice, it is then fried with sausage, shrimp, peas, eggs, and onion chives in a wok.

Hopia. This toasted pastry is usually filled with sweet mung bean paste. It’s a crusty version of the moon cake. Recently the hopia introduced new fillings, like pork fat, purple yam (ube), pineapple, or coconut!

Siopao. This local version of a steamed bun comes in two popular flavors: Asado (sweet roasted pork) or Bola-bola (pork, sausage, and egg) seasoned with savory sweet sauce. It’s a hugely popular on-the-go snack you can find from convenience stores to fancy Chinese restaurants.

Tikoy. A popular gift during the Chinese New Year, tikoy is made of sticky rice, white sugar, and lard. It’s usually cut into strips and fried with egg. Tikoy has new variants such as vanilla, brown sugar, muscovado, sugarfree, red bean, butterscotch, tea, ube, strawberry, pandan, and sweet corn!

Pancit. Symbolizing long life, pancit is noodles considered a staple in every celebration especially birthdays. There are various pancit recipes depending on the ingredients and the province of origin, like bihon, canton, Malabon, luglug, habhab, palabok, and more!

Lumpiang Shanghai. These fried spring rolls are made with ground pork, chopped carrots, onions, garlic, and other spices. Lumpiang shanghai is often dipped in sweet and sour sauce. It’s also a staple during celebrations like Christmas and birthdays.

Choose your Manila Food Tour

The Big Binondo Food Wok

  • Duration: Half-day food tour
  • Places to see: Binondo Chinatown, Binondo Church, Ongpin Street, Plaza Calderon dela Barca, Basilica de San Lorenzo Ruiz, etc.
  • Dishes to try: lumpia, siopao, pancit, champoy, etc.
  • Notes: Hosted by the Old Manila Walks founder, Ivan Man Dy; English and Filipino languages are used
  • Price: PHP 1,500 on weekdays; PHP 1,650 on weekends

Eat Fresh Famous Hong Kong Street Food

Exotic Filipino food and street food

If you’d like to taste local Filipino food, be sure to do it on the streets.

In the Philippines, we eat most of the chicken and pork limbs and entrails. What is practical for us have gained popularity as Filipino exotic food to foreigners. Have a true Manila food tour experience by trying our street food!

Balut. Infamous as being X-Factor material is balut. Usually peddled in the streets, it’s a hard-boiled duck embryo eaten straight from the shell with rock salt. To us Filipinos, balut is a typical pulutan, or food eaten when drinking beer. No Manila food tour is complete without balut!

Isaw, etc. Every edible part of the chicken or pork is grilled, skewered, and sold in the Philippines. They even have their own street names!

  • Isaw – Chicken or pig intestine
  • Adidas – Chicken feet
  • Helmet – Chicken head
  • Betamax / Dugo – Diced coagulated blood
  • Walkman – Pig ears
  • Balunbalunan – Chicken gizzard

Sisig. Served on a sizzling plate, sisig is diced pig cheeks, head, and liver seasoned with soy sauce, lime, and red chilis. Sisig is the most well-known pulutan, available in both cheap and expensive pubs and bars.

Dinuguan. Partnered with puto (rice cake) is dinuguan, pig entrails with its blood stewed with vinegar, long green chili, garlic, and more. It’s not as “exotic” for Filipinos since many restaurants already serve it with rice.

Bopis. This spicy street food bopis is made of minced pork lungs or heart sautéed in garlic, pepper, and other spices. Also a typical pulutan you can find in both the streets and some pubs.

beeffalo

Filipino desserts, snacks, drinks, and pasalubong

Now that we’re finished with exotic (often revolting) Filipino dishes, let’s take our Manila food tour on the sugary side. Filipinos have a sweet tooth and you’ll know when you taste our desserts!

Halo-halo. Popular in the summer season, halo-halo literally translates to “a mix”. It’s a glass of milk and shaved ice filled to the brim with colored gelatin, banana, sugar palm, various beans and peas, topped with leche flan and a scoop of ube ice cream.

Buko pie. Literally coconut pie, buko pie is a pastry made with layers of young coconut slices. It’s a good pasalubong (food to bring home after a trip) if you come from Laguna!

Bibingka. A Filipino Christmas dish, bibingka is a toasted batter of soaked rice with coconut and sugar laid in banana leaves. It’s made into mini rice cakes sometimes served with kesong puti (carabao’s milk cheese), salted eggs, butter, sugar, or grated coconut.

Puto bumbong. Also a Christmas food and usually sold outside of churches after Simbang Gabi (Catholic rooster’s mass), puto bumbong is purple mountain rice steamed in bamboo tubes coated with butter, panutsa (thick brown sugar), and grated coconut.

Taho. One of the most common drink in the Philippines is taho, peddled on the streets every morning. It’s warm silken tofu with arnibal (caramelized brown sugar syrup) and sago (gelatin-like coconut pith) pearls. Some vendors include jackfruit bits — or strawberry when you’re in Baguio!

Philippine coffee. No breakfast meal is complete without coffee. The Philippines has a variety of local coffee depending on the province of origin. Examples of these are the strong Kapeng Barako (also called Batangas coffee), Benguet Coffee, Sagada Coffee, Sulu Coffee, and more.

Tsokolate. Our hot, thick, and grainy version of the chocolate drink is called tsokolate. It’s made from tablea, pure roasted cacao balls dissolved in water and milk, and sweetened with muscovado sugar.

Choose your Manila Food Tour:

Manila Coffee Crawl

  • Duration: Half-day coffee tour
  • Food stops: Ella and the Black Bird, SGD Coffee Bodega, Commune, Habitual, Curator
  • Drinks to try: Flat White, SGD Cold, Cappuccino, Aeropress Coffee, BOD Coffee
  • Notes: Children 0-3 years old are not allowed to join the tour
  • Price: PHP 2,200

Balaw-Balaw

Preparing for your Manila food tour

  • How to commute around Manila. The fastest way around the city is via the train stations of the MRT and the LRT. Land transportation options are air-conditioned buses, vans, and jeepney. For convenience or safety, you can ride metered taxi cabs or use ride-sharing apps like Grab.

  • Best time for a Manila food tour. Summertime during the months of March to May is the best time to have a weather-proof trip. Take note of local holidays, such as Chinese New Year celebrations, Holy Week, Christmas, as well as many local fiestas and festivals.

  • Things to bring. Some must-haves for Manila food tour are bottled water, tissue, hand sanitizer or rubbing alcohol, and medications if you have any food allergies.
  • Tips for a Manila food tour. Always inform people if you have any dietary restrictions or allergies. Ask what the dishes contain. Observe the surroundings of a street food stall for good hygiene indicators. When in doubt, dipping street food in vinegar is very Filipino and may kill bacteria.
  • Helpful food apps. To save on money when eating out, you may check out apps such as Zomato, Booky, Eatigo, and more. These offer various discounts and freebies on selected restaurants.

More tours to take from Manila

This is my top Manila food tour itinerary based on my favorite Filipino food through the years. Did I miss anything? Let me know below.

philippines food tour
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