Who Cares about the Food?

I’ve been debating how to broach this subject for some time. Hmmmm. Let me begin by saying I love Filipinos. They are amazing, warm, friendly, hospitable people…

But they can’t cook.

Many travelers claim that the food here in the Philippines is the worst in Asia. I wouldn’t go that far – in my book, that honor goes to another people I love: Tibetans. But when I recently heard that Obama’s White House chef was a Filipina, my first thought was, “God, I hope she did her training somewhere outside the Philippines.”

So what is Philippine cuisine? It might best be described as Oklahoma strip-mall meets crappy Hawaiian luau. Foot-long hotdogs, fish head on rice, cardboard pizza, stir-fried anything with pineapple and ketchup, greasy fried chicken, and elementary school cafeteria spaghetti are everyday favorites. In fact, bad spaghetti is a major player in the Filipino diet. It’s everywhere. It’s so common that McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, and even Mister Donut offer their own version of microwave spaghetti.

In fact, fast food chains, which reign supreme in the Philippines, seem to openly acknowledge the food issues here with meals designed to cater to Filipino tastes. To outsiders, these offerings occasionally seem so absurd that they appear to be mocking Filipinos, such as Pizza Hut’s Starpops Pizza which bills itself as “16 pullable sausage pops and pizza in one!”

Spam, corned-beef, canned tuna, and hotdogs (a.k.a “sausage pops”) are major food groups here and figure heavily in breakfast offerings. Tapsilog, a combination of corned beef, garlic-fried rice and eggs, is an ever-present early morning option. Or if you prefer, hotsilog made with hotdogs rather than corned beef.

Then there is the unique Filipino use of cheese. Try a halo halo, shaved ice with mango, banana, taro, syrup, chunks of flan, condensed milk… and grated cheese. Not up your alley? How about waffles with maple syrup and cheese? Yummm. Or perhaps you would prefer a nice scoop of cheese-flavored ice cream. (Don’t believe me? Try it for yourself at the Inasal fast food chain. Just ask for a scoop of queso.)

Yes, taste is a highly subjective thing. Don’t even get me started on balut, boiled duck eggs with partially developed fetuses at the chewy center. Yum. And for your convenience, you can choose your preferred stage of embryonic development.

So is it all bad news? Absolutely not. The Bicol region of southern Luzon had some rather tasty dishes including Bicol Express, a mixture of pork, shrimp, garlic, and peppers. Coconut flavored ginataan dishes and the diced-pork candingga are also quite good. Outside of Bicol, larger cities and Boracay have nicer fusion restaurants which cater to wealthy Filipinos and Westerners. And lets not forget the wonderful Boracay Wet Market cooking services which can whip up a feast fit for a king.

In the rest of the Philippines, standards such as sinigangs (tamarind sauce), adobos (vinegar/garlic sauce), afritadas (spicy tomato sauce) can be good if prepared by a reasonable cook. But all too often, the dishes are thrown together.

Actually, quality just might be the main reason that foreigners, including me, so frequently bitch about food in the Philippines. In fact, on one occasion it was so bad that I actually – just for one moment – considered throwing the food in the waiter’s face. Even the ubiquitous, beloved lechon (roast pig) seemed quite flavorless here. I mean seriously people, how can you make flavorless roast pig?

A second reason many visitors complain is that the food, which is mostly meats and starches, is often greasy, overcooked, and very sweet. (There is literally sugar in every dish – even Jollibee hamburgers!) Although fresh fruits and vegetables are widely available, they hardly ever seem to show up in the food. We have been in several restaurants which did not have a single vegetable option on the menu. And one restaurant we recently ate at listed spaghetti as its vegetable option (and no, it wasn’t vegetarian spaghetti).

To be fair, the food quality issues are largely linked to the good old U.S.A. A hundred years of American military and overzealous southern missionaries are bound to leave you with a diet of fatty meats, starches, and no vegetables. I, as an American, admit that I recognize that crappy spaghetti from K-12 cafeterias. And I willingly acknowledge that I appreciate the ubiquitous fast food restaurant and donut shops.

But, of course, amusing generalizations are just that, generalizations. In fact, we have found many exceptions to the sucky food rule. Elsa’s delicious chicken curry in Port Barton comes to mind. And we have happened upon many inexpensive family run eateries which were quite good. Some people are natural born cooks regardless of where they grow up. And with beautiful islands, steamy tropical breezes and epic sunsets, who cares about the food anyway? Or maybe I should say, other than Thomas, who cares about the food anyway?

51 responses to “Who Cares about the Food?”

  1. avatar Puxesaco says:

    Tony, you’ve got both mitts around the most important food group found in SE Asia. Cool, refreshing, hydrating, and guaranteed NOT to give you food poisoning…..

    • avatar Tony says:

      Yes, Coca Cola saved my life in 1993 while I was trekking in the Mentawai Islands in Indonesia. Oh my god, do I sound exactly like Elaine’s boss on Seinfeld?

  2. avatar Freda says:

    Tony,
    The expression on your face reminds of the night we had sticky rice and liver

  3. Yeah. You really got to the heart of the issue in the second-to-last paragraph. I think it’s safe to say that the presence of a U.S. military base has never improved cultural conditions, in ANY part of the world. That said, the locals may technically be better nourished now, than before G.I. Joe arrived.

    Spam, spam, spam, spam . . . . sing along with me, folks!

  4. avatar Joyceee says:

    really, i was almost offended with the post before i read the last few paragraphs. i would agree with you, yes, it’s the american’s influence that made our food, well, what it is.
    And i think it can be because of the fusion of so many dishes from different cultures that you can say there isn’t no authentic filipino cuisine. it’s as if our dishes have no identity.
    maybe you’re a picky eater, that’s why you didn’t get to enjoy our food, eh? Or maybe you just went to a lot of fast food chains? Or you just haven’t tried it all. πŸ™‚

    • avatar Tony says:

      No, I’m not a picky eater. I love almost all Asian food, but the Philippines won’t be on the top of my list – although I did like several dishes in Bicol. Even Lonely Planet puts a little disclaimer in about the food. It’s actually quite funny. One line sums it up best. Filipino food is not as bad as foreigners think, but it’s not as good as Filipinos think either πŸ™‚ But that’s why I chose the title, the Philippines is fantastic, so it really doesn’t need to have the best food to bring in the foreigners. We often write humorous tongue in cheek postings on topics like food. What I love about Filipinos is that they can usually take it with a good laugh. Indians on the other hand, love to hate our humor. Check out the comments on this video we did in India. The comments are WAY more interesting than our video.

  5. avatar Sandra says:

    When you order “Hawaiian” pizza at Greenwich, make sure you specify ham and pineapple, not Spam and pineapple.

    A friend once told me that God’s big joke was convincing the Thais they could sing and the Filipinos they could cook. There’s a whole lot of reality in that πŸ˜‰

  6. avatar blah says:

    I think fast food, chain establishments and restaurants that cater to tourists are a bad representation of real Filipino cuisine. Which is why I find your belief that Filipinos can’t cook so insulting. It’s such a gross, ignorant assumption. It’d be like someone thinking all wine was disgusting based on trying a box of Franzia (not to say Franzia is all that terrible). From what I know growing up in a non-Tagalog region of the Philippines, the best Filipino food is found and made in the kitchens of Filipino homes. Growing up, every morning my grandmother and mother would go to the market to get the freshest fish, seafood and vegetables available and would come up with meals based on what was bought. The country reaps the benefits of access to amazing seafood and a climate that allows such a great variety of fruit to thrive (some that could never be found in Western nations). The mangoes in the Philippines are the best I’ve ever had.

    While I agree that the food commercially available might be greasy and borderline unhealthy (like here in America) and that in general Filipino cuisine has no specific identity due to the melting pot of cultures inhabiting the nation (also like here in America), fast food is certainly not indicative of real Filipino cuisine. Filipinos CAN cook.

  7. avatar alexis says:

    I would have to disagree with this post. I am a fan of trying new food and out of all the different dishes I tried all over Europe, America, Mexico, I have to say that Filipino food is still my most favorite. Fast food is not Filipino food. In fact, the restaurants in the Philippines don’t sell traditional Filipino food. Pizza is obviously not from the Philippines. You would have to eat at someone’s home in order to taste and enjoy real Filipino food.

    • avatar Tony says:

      It’s OK to be insulted by the post, but there is a lot more truth to it than most Filipinos would like to admit.

      By the way, we did eat food cooked in people’s homes as well as β€œgreat” restaurants recommended to us by Filipinos in the know. Our Filipino friends raved about dishes that to us were OK at best. Both of us, a German and an American generally found the food very disappointing.

      True, pizza and spaghetti are not from the Philippines, but no discussion of food in the country would be complete without mentioning them. (Spaghetti at Mister Donut, are you serious? πŸ™‚ )

      We were in the Philippines for five months and we sampled food across the country, this is not a generalization based on a quick weekend trip. In contrast, after less than 24 hours in Vietnam, we had already identified 3 or 4 dishes that we could never live without.

      Asia is known for good food, perhaps neighboring countries set standards too high. But like I said in the title, who cares about the food. We still loved the Philippines very much.

  8. avatar katzkie says:

    Maybe tony you just don’t know how to pick those Filipino people who realy knows what filipino food really is. Maybe your with those people that have guts….try those ordinary people that who you might think you don’t know..coz i’m sure they will serve you the best filipino food you ever think..or maybe joycee was right your just a picky eater…..thats why you don’t apreciate any filipino foods….

    • avatar Tony says:

      Perhaps we encountered the wrong people, but after five months, even dumb luck should have revealed something. It’s possible that I might be a picky eater, I didn’t really enjoy the fried locusts in Myanmar or the fried tarantulas in Cambodia – although I am a big fan of Bamar food, which many travelers don’t really like.

      But one thing is for certain, NOBODY ON THE PLANET can claim that Thomas is picky. He literally eats everything. And he disliked Filipino food more than I did. A quick Internet search will reveal that this opinion is hardly unique. When guidebooks have warnings about the food, you know there is at least a bit of an issue. But the important thing is that Filipinos like their food. That’s nice.

  9. avatar Gringo (yep that's my name) says:

    Hi, I’m Filipino. This post is quite understandable. Sad but sort of true… for foreigners.

    I would like to think that we Filipinos like our food simple and all those mumbo-jumbo fast food concoctions is not very Filipino but at the same time so Filipino in the sense that we format it to our taste. Sweet spaghetti with hotdogs for example. Haha!

    I guess Pinoys, long before history have always been CONTENTED with Beef/Pork/Chicken/Seafood seasoned with salt alone. The abundance and variety of fresh sea food or whatever food never got the Filipinos to “experiment.” We never felt the need to explore new flavors as, again.. we were contented with salt.. and sugar.

    Best way to cook crab? Steamed. Best way to cook pork? Seasoned with salt. Grilled. Chicken? Season with salt and fry or grill! And a mountain of RICE!!! No fuss. Everybody happy.

    I love our deep fried food. I love sweet spaghetti with hotdogs. Balut is awesome when on munchies. After all it’s just egg.. with soup. (tricks of the trade: eat it in the dark)

    Filipinos love to eat. A party is not a party when there’s no lechon and 20 other deep fried awesomeness. (btw, lechon is usually good. you probably had a crappy one with soggy skin.)

    But yes.. I would say Filipino cuisine is not as complex or as diverse as Thai cuisine(I love Thai food) or wherever. But our food makes us happy.

    And heart attack is the number one cause of the death in the Philippines.

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Gringo,

      I think you brought up a great point when you said that your food makes you happy. Isn’t that the most important aspect about food (besides providing calories)? Everyone has comfort foods. I love German meat salad with mayonnaise, Tony loves cinnamon gummi bears, but Tony won’t touch German meat salad and I won’t touch those gummi bears. It’s all a matter of taste.

  10. Indeed! A friend of mine once said, “Good food makes you happy.” I don’t think Cinnamon Gummi Bears will. Yuck. ;p

    All the best in your travels, guys. I certainly enjoyed reading your wonderful (mis)adventures.

    I will be tagging along, if you don’t mind.

  11. avatar Michael says:

    hmmm.. haha… i’m a filipino by the way… πŸ™‚ i don’t find your post offending thou i understand my fellow filipino’s if they got offended…

    In my opinion filipino food is so diverse that sometimes it has similarities to other foods in different countries but it happens to have different taste. like spaghetti here spaghetti is supposed to be sweet and with hotdog or grained meat (go to supermarket and there is a filipino flavor of delmonte spaghetti souce, made for filipino taste), when i went to the states and ordered spaghetti man i did not finish my plate, see same fud but different taste. another thing about food in the philippines thou is each province usually have their own specialty food, like in pampanga which is famous for sisig, cebu famous for lechon and batangas where i’m from is famous for Barako Coffee. Those foods are available in some parts of the country thou the taste is probably not as good as were it originated from.

    i agree with fellow filipino’s that fastfood is not the indicative of filipino food but i would say their indicative of an acceptable taste for filipino food.. fastfood was supposed to be fast cooked and fast service and CHEAP but with an acceptable taste. its like saying the taste of food is okay, not bad, not great, just okay…

    If a foreign traveler in the philippines wants to discover food taste in the philippines then i suggest try to learn the specialty food of each province and try it. But we filipino’s pride our selves with our HOME COOKED Meal, cooked of course by our Mom’s and/or GrandMas..

  12. avatar joy says:

    Hiya Tony and Thomas! I am certainly jealous. Unlike you guys, I’m a free spirit who loves to travel, but can only do so with limitations – work beckons.

    Anyhoo, I chanced upon your website while looking for blogs on Saigon, which I’ll be visiting next week. To my delight, the Philippines was one of those places you visited and enjoyed for at least 5 months. Hooray!

    However, I am left wondering where you guys ventured in the Philippines for sustenance. Setting aside fast food chains, I think you’ve missed out on SO MANY wonderful Filipino dishes. As previously raised by fellow Filipinos, the Pinoy cuisine is actually diverse. Up in the north, the staple would be fish and vegetables. Down south, it’s mainly seafood. In Central Luzon, lots of curried dishes. In Manila, take your pick!

    Now home cooking – that’s a whole other story. Home cooked meals are the most delightful in the Philippines. Needless to say, it still depends on the home. But on the whole Filipinos certainly know their way around the kitchen.

    If ever you get a chance to swing by our neck of the woods again, do let me know and I’ll be sure to signpost you (or even accompany you) to the best places to eat – fine dining or not.

    Btw, love your photos!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Joy,

      We love the Philippines so much, we might actually return for more diving at some point in the future. If we do, we’ll definitely take you up on your offer. We do want to like the food, it just has not happened yet. πŸ˜‰

  13. avatar Tony says:

    Let’s put the Philippines aside for a second. My home city of San Diego, California teaches us an interesting lesson. Thai and Chinese restaurants everywhere. Plenty of Vietnamese and Korean restaurants. Japanese restaurants on every corner. And while Filipinos represent one of the largest immigrant groups in California, Filipino restaurants are few and far between – there is a reason for that.

    But, like the title asks, who cares about the food? I still love the Philippines πŸ™‚

  14. avatar jecoycoy says:

    Hi guys, I am Filipino and I love traveling around the Philippines. I find a lot of truth in this article, because I myself get disappointed with food here too (though of course not to your extent). With the abundance of natural resources in the country, I sometimes contemplate on why we are not known to the world for offering one of the best cuisines. Here’s my hypothesis:

    I think a lot of this was due to the long colonial history of the country, in that it was denied of the chance to create its own identity on a lot of aspects. Unfortunately, food’s one of them. And as Filipinos were discriminated and subjected to poverty during the colonial era, you can not blame them for developing simple tastes (i.e. preparing something simple to eat to get by the day). There are exceptions of course, just like Bicol (one of my favorite regions). Again, this is just a hypothesis. And I love the Philippines so fellow Pinoys, do not be hard on me.

    I know this issue won’t stop you from going back to the Philippines. It’s just beatiful! So on your next visit, I suggest you set a mission: finding authentic good Filipino food. Haha, cheers!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Maybe, with the input of Filipinos, we can assemble a list of must-try-dishes that are available to all travelers (no secret family recipes). Are there any particular dishes you can recommend?

  15. avatar jecoycoy says:

    Okay here’s a list of my favorite pinoy dishes and comment if you tried one and got disappointed:
    -sinigang na hipon (shrimp sinigang) – if it’s not good, then the cook is not good
    -sinigang sa miso w/ your chosen fish
    -adobo is popular, but my favorite is adobong pusit (squid adobo); if it’s not sweet (you know how some abuse sugar here), then it’s probably good
    -kare-kare (Philippine stew made from peanut sauce, w/ vegetables, beef w/ or w/o tripe); this is usually eaten with bagoong (shrimp paste)
    -sisig, which I think originated in Pampanga (it’s greasy though, so I’m not sure if you’ll like it not to mention it’s made from parts of a pig’s head, lol)
    -menudo (one of those dishes w/ tomato sauce, if it’s not mechado or afritada, 2 dishes that I get confused with, and the meat are diced, then it’s probably menudo, plus it has liver πŸ˜‰ – this doesn’t sound authentic though)

    Most dishes as you know are eaten with plain rice, so if you’re not a fan of that, hmmm, I’m not sure how you’ll enjoy food here.

    Sides:
    -kinilaw or kilawin is raw fish marinated with vinegar and/or calamansi along with garlic, onion, ginger… popular in the Visayas (I like the one’s in Ormoc, Leyte)
    -ensaladang mangga (green mango salad)

    Most vegetable-only food are cooked. I personally am not a fan of those, with adobong kangkong (water spinach) as exception.

    Restaurants at the seaside, where you shop for seafood at the market and have it cooked at adjacent restaurants are usually good (but warn them on the use of sugar, lol). Suggested commercial restaurant: Kanin Klub (it’s not all kanin don’t worry)

    And of course, you know how we love sweets here, so deserts are abundant, a lot of them made from “malagkit” (sticky) rice…

    I hope this helps

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Thanks a lot for this list, it sounds like a good start. We have definitely had some of these dishes, like the sinigang and adobo dishes. Some of them were better, others not so much. I guess, it really depends on the cook.

      I also found a website called Philippine Cuisine which introduces quite a few dishes and recipes.

  16. avatar chafed tongue says:

    Seriously! I don’t feel offended at all with this post. It’s just difficult for us to understand the “incommensurability” of the Filipino palate as compared to the rest of the world. That (Idea [in]correctly ripped from Kuhn) may give a reason why us Filipinos love our queso ice cream and our balut, et c.. Going above the slew of onion-skinned replies(as if this post was a low blow,) let us just conclude that us locals follow a different paradigm as to what is delicious. :)) Kidding… I just think our food is as crazy/eccentric as we are… After all, you are what you eat. :))

  17. avatar Lambchop says:

    I just read this post, even though this was written last year. And all I can say is LOL! I’m Filipino and I understand how our food could be strange to foreigners. But we love it and that’s all that matters, right? As one comment said, it makes us happy, so it’s all good πŸ™‚

    It really does boil down to taste and culture. I mean we have dinuguan, which is pig’s blood boiled to coagulation. It’s gnarly but delicious. Haha!

    • avatar Tony says:

      I’m glad you got the post, Lambchop. We meant it in good fun. And as we said, we absolutely loved the Philippines and Filipinos.

  18. avatar pating says:

    i have to comment what tony said…

    “But when I recently heard that Obama’s White House chef was a Filipina, my first thought was, β€œGod, I hope she did her training somewhere outside the Philippines.”

    i think being a great cook is not all about where you did your training… its a gift nourished by learning thru experince… so even if you ve learned how to cook on a dirty kitchen, if you got the talent, if you got the gift you should be a great cook.

    the post was perfectly edited to sound less insulting to filipinos readers, i wonder what these guys really think.. but we have to admit guys, we filipinos are striving to be good but are not that the best on cooking…

    But who Cares about the Food?

    you do tony… otherwise, you shouldnt be debating how to broach the subject and you shouldnt have created this post if you did not… he he he… πŸ™‚

    • avatar Tony says:

      Yes, I guess I do a little. And on the plus side, I had some of the best tiger prawns ever at the wet market in Boracay. Glad to see that you got that the post was written in good humor.

  19. avatar Taj says:

    Filipino restaurants are few and far between – there is a reason for that. –> And there is. And you’d be surprised that a considerable number of Michelin-starred restaurant have Filipino chefs but none of them would dare open up their own honest to goodness Filipino restaurant.
    Filipinos would rather eat a home cooked Filipino food (from their own family recipe, with it’s own regionalistic flare, say Ilokano) than risk eating a Filipino food made by other Filipinos of different ethnic origin (and recipe). You just can’t expect a Kapampangan (from Pampanga) and a Batanggenyo (from Batangas) to equally enjoy the same bowl of sinigang.

  20. avatar Maria says:

    I agree with Taj, best to sample speciality dishes from the region itself and pray to God you have the best cook and ingredients at the time, lol. Eating filipino food needs getting used to, it’s an aquired taste. Although i have several British friends believe it or not who love our food instantly. I have tried many ok and mediocrely cooked filipino food but i also tried some that were cooked to perfection and OOOOOOOOOOh my God… was all i could say. I sure hope you will encounter such moment too. xxx

  21. avatar Maria says:

    Here’s a quote from a friend of a friend who did the same thing as you guys; travel the world and create a blog.
    http://itinerantlondoner.wordpress.com/category/philippines/

    The food (and the beer)

    Filipino food has an awful reputation – often described as the worst in Asia. I think that’s really unfair. One of the things I liked most about it was that it was different – a nice change from the (delicious) stir-fries and curries that are that staple fair elsewhere in the region. The Spanish influence is obvious, and I loved dishes like Adobo (a vinegary stew normally made with pork or chicken) and Afritada (meat in a rich garlicky, tomato sauce with lots of peppers). I even liked Sisig (a common fast food or bar snack made with crispy bits of unusual parts of the pig). Best of all was Bicol Express, a (unusually for the Philippines) firey dish of chilis, pork, shrimps, onion, garlic and coconut milk. Meanwhile from the perspective of a traveller who is perpetually over budget, San Miguel (the national beer) is possibly the cheapest in the world, at about $0.60 a bottle. Marvellous.

    I really cannot believe how many people come to South East Asia and skip The Philippines. It really is incredible, and it’s yet another country I long to go back to, so I can see more – Samar, Layte, Siquijor, Mondanao, Negros, Boracay, Camiguin and more of Luzon are all on my list.

    • avatar Tony says:

      Again, I’m going to repeat that this article was written mostly in jest about a topic which really isn’t up for much debate. Even many Filipinos have admitted their food leaves a lot to be desired. Humor aside, it is really hard to believe that anyone would prefer Filipino food to Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Singaporean, Chinese or Japanese cuisine. Even Indonesian food, which is closely related to Filipino food, simply seems better made. When you say that Filipino food is a nice change from Asian stir-fries, it’s odd, because you go on to mention adobo, afritada and Bicol express, which are all what most people would label stir-fries. Filipinos love their adobo, afritada, Bicol express and sisig and we ate a million versions of each dish. Occasionally, the dishes weren’t bad, but all too often an afritada was a stir fry with ketchup and adobo was often some terrible meat and old vegetables with a bit of vinegar and garlic. Of course it depends on the cooks. As we mention, we did discover some talented cooks. But in general, I think it is safe to say, most people aren’t visiting the Philippines for the food culture. That’s worth stating because many other Asian nations are worth a visit for the food alone. But – once again – the purpose of the article was to say who cares about the food because the Philippines is such a wonderful destination.

  22. avatar KIkay says:

    Hi Tony and Thomas,

    This list might come in handy the next time- http://www.ivanhenares.com/2007/03/flavors-of-metro-manilas-streets.html.

    I’m just wondering if anybody ever offered you Cebu City’s kinilaw, sutukil, or lechon (Anthony Bourdain declared Zubuchon’s Cebu lechon as “the best pig ever” on his hit travel-food show No Reservations) when you were here. If you do come back, I’ll bring you to a halo-halo shop where they don’t put cheese in it. It’s a first for me to hear some people do put cheese on their halo-halo! Best of luck on your travels!

    • avatar Tony says:

      We’ll check it out the next time we’re in Cebu city. Anthony Bourdain seems to be declaring a lot of places the best pork ever. In fact, we have a post coming up tomorrow about a restaurant in Ubud, Bali which Anthony Bourdain claimed had “the best pork ever.” Hmmmm.

      As for cheese in the halo halo, we actually had that in multiple locations. Thomas actually likes it that way. πŸ™‚

  23. avatar Kikay says:

    He does? That’s a hmmm for me too. I went to Ibu Oka in Ubud which I learned is famed for their babi guling. The taste was a bit bland compared to ours, but I still loved it!

    I don’t seem to understand the presence of cheese in halo-halo and I’m seriously baffled. Never have I tried one! But if Thomas likes it that way, then I’m cool with it πŸ˜€ Enjoy Bali!

  24. avatar Ree says:

    I think the problem is the culture of mediocrity in Filipinos. I would bet you will forget your name if you tasted my mom’s dishes

    • avatar Tony says:

      That’s an interesting comment. As we mention in the article, we definitely found individuals who made wonderful food. (That one woman in Palawan made the best curry ever.)

  25. avatar miglovin says:

    the anthony bourdain episode on the philippines where he declared “best pig ever” was made much after the indonesian episode

    • avatar Tony says:

      Well, we’ve eaten roast pig in both countries and both of us agree there is NO comparison. That restaurant in Ubud, Bali wins hands down.

  26. avatar tekamutz says:

    I would like to direct you to another blog that I also read, and probably give you a different perspective or take on our food. Though I know that what you experienced maybe different from theirs, well, at least it might just give you a different insight into our food ( as seen through their experience) should you decide to come and visit the Philippines again:

    http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/philippines/

    I have attached the link to their posts on their experience during their very first visit to the Philippines, and they too have been warned about our food. Good thing about their experience though, is that they had some great hosts to tour them around and introduce them to our cuisine.
    As mentioned by other Pinoy commenters above, our food is cooked differently depending on the region you are in. For example, adobo, which is basically stewed pork or chicken in vinegar, garlic, peppercorns and bay leaf, will be cooked, say in the Bicol region, with coconut milk.
    I just hope, that on your next visit, you get to find a good host/guide to the best places to eat and hopefully, some dishes, will leave you wanting for more. Best wishes on your travels and thank you for visiting our country!

    • avatar Tony says:

      Somehow Filipinos really want us to love the food. πŸ™‚ But just to recap, we were there for five months and had many different people introduce us to their favorite dishes. It was never really as great as they wanted it to be. But again, as we said in the title, we didn’t care about the food because we loved the country and we loved the people. Also it sounds like you didn’t read to the end, we mentioned adobo and Bicol dishes in the post.

  27. avatar Grapes of Wrath says:

    OMG Filipinos! WTF! Don’t act like the Indians do! Get a grip! Don’t force others to like what only you enjoy! WTH! That’s his opinion so respect it! I, being a Filipino and have travelled the world over, share the same opinion as this guy. Now you hate me? Well, I hate you too for being sissies!

    I mean saying that it’s because he haven’t tried home cooked food? WTF? Who goes to another country and eat in local people’s homes? Slap yourselves!

    Although it’s true that it depends on the chef, so does any other country’s foods! Let a crappy Thai chef cook Thai food and see for yourself!

    What the author is saying is simply “I don’t really like your food but I love the place!”

    What’s up? Did it hurt your ego? Again, why force someone to like what is unlikable to him and to many others? Soy sauce, vinegar and oil? Really?

    My mom never forced me to eat what I don’t like. She always tells our chef to cook what I want as long as it’s nutritious. Growing up, I learned to love pasta. And really, the first time I tried Jollibee or McDonalds spaghetti, I threw up! And they market them as “panlasang Pilipino”. I’m sure all these whiners here agree that it is “panlasang Pilipino” (Filipino taste). Well, I DON’T! I say it’s impoverished uncultured Filipino taste. Yes, it is poverty that makes MOST Filipino food suck! You make do with what you have. You don’t improve by using ingredients that you can not afford. Sucks but it’s true. And your moms forced you to like what naturally is unlikable. And so you acquired poor taste! So please, stop the whining. Learn to improve.

    I’m glad though that with more and more people getting out of poverty, there is hope for improvement of the Filipino cuisine. Never had there been much interest in culinary arts among the youth than today. And more LOVABLE Filipino restaurants are cropping up in the country. Probably, in a decade, this will no longer be the state of COMMON Filipino food.

    By the way, studies show that, as in India, online whiners are either currently or previously much of his life below the poverty line or below average IQ.

  28. avatar Christelle van Vuuren says:

    Haha! Lots of comments here…. I just had the thought though – I wonder if you’ve had the (um…non)pleasure to enjoy Mongolian cuisine?

    Goodluck. We weren’t in Ulaanbaatar and nearby very long, only a week or so. But, we had basically versions of deep fried lamb packets and salad (read gerkins) all that time and we weren’t particularly risk-averse either. We did buy pizza with the idea it would be a quick sit-down before we had to catch the train out of there (try not to buy chain food when away); ended up standing at the front door of the establishment nervously gesturing that we absolutely had to go if the pizzas didn’t arrive “in the next two minutes.” Picture 3 backpackers running panic-stricken through the streets of UB, backpacks on, each with a huge pizza box in outstretched arms and only barely making the train.

    I’d also like to mention that based *nearly entirely on your depictions of Vietnamese cuisine, that’s where I’m heading next. Stuck on an island in the Southern Ocean for a year, so Vietnam and the delicious food is going to be an amazing counterpoint!

    Thanks for the blog and extras – great read. I agree – amazing food brings something to the memory of a place!

    • avatar Tony says:

      I ate Mongolian food in Inner Mongolia in the mid-1980s. And I’ll agree, it was pretty bad as is most relatively “authentic” Tibetan food. Most real Nepali food also leaves a lot to be desired. Interestingly, along with Filipinos, these are all my favorite people in Asia.

  29. avatar Marie L says:

    On the way late train here but I just found your amazing travel blog an hour ago. I’m planning on a trip to the motherland. One of my concerns is the food. On one hand, I know that all these “fusion” and trendy, hip restaurants will have mediocre food at best. I know can cook better than that. Living in Southern Cali and having access to all these wonderful and diverse fresh local food and hole-in-the wall restaurants, gourmet food trucks, etc, etc, I still would rather eat in my kitchen. On the other hand, I can just feast on fresh seafood and fruit that is abundant and scrumptious in the Philippines. The beaches more than make up for the mediocre food.

    Filipinos are very passionate about their food. But passion does not make it delicious.

    And that’s okay.

    • avatar Tony says:

      You’ll definitely survive. Actually, keep your eyes open for restaurants which are full and you’ll be fine. There’s always a culinary genius somewhere.

  30. avatar Laurelle says:

    I was just taken out to a family dinner in Cerritos, Calif. at a large, very popular Filipino restaurant filled with tables of Filipino families, including a catered party banquet. We tried a variety of foods that were familiar in concept – fish, shellfish, beef, chicken, vegetables, even spaghetti – but new to me, not being a Pinoy. What can I say? Meh. There must be a great deal of comfort for Filipinos in eating their home cuisine, and the two hundred-some people eating there were truly enjoying themselves, but I? Definitely would not go out of my way to eat Filipino cuisine again.

  31. avatar lyn says:

    man… this is an old post but I just had to say that I’m Filipino and I couldn’t stop thinking these comments from people are hilarious! its like trying to force someone to like Vegemite! you like it or you don’t.

    bter im from san diego, too. have you not been to national city aka manila mesa? Filipino foods galore!

    • avatar Thomas says:

      Hi Lyn,

      Funny you mentioned the Filipino food in San Diego, we actually liked the food there more than in the Philippines…

  32. avatar Chef Joe says:

    I visited the cebu area and I will never ever go back to this country in my life!! The food sucks so bad. I used to be a personal chef and live in thailand full time. The food in thailand is night and day compared to this country. I tried the famous spots, take out and a bit of fast food. All garbage in my professional opinion. The famous roasted pig dish is gross and so plain. This lady make me nasty sauce on the spot I almost spit and throw up.

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