What to Eat in Cebu

Cebu City, the capital of the island of the same name, is one of the most developed areas of the Philippines and frequently tops lists of the best places to visit in the region. As you would expect, hotels near Cebu City offer accommodation to suit all budgets.

Founded in the 13th Century by a native prince, Rajamuda Lumaya, from the Chola Dynasty in southern India, Cebu was home to a mixed Muslim and Hindu population until the arrival of Magellan in 1521. The explorer persuaded the Rajah and his wife to swear loyalty to Spain and in return went in to battle on their behalf against the king of neighbouring Mactan Island but was defeated and killed by natives.

Fort San Pedro, Cebu City

It may not have spread as far and wide as other Asian cuisines but Filipino food is certainly one aspect of the local culture that should not be missed. The country’s history means that many of the dishes are a unique fusion of east and west. These have evolved from their South Pacific origins, taking in Malay, Spanish, Mexican, Chinese and even American influences. Overall the cuisine is combination of sweet, sour and salty flavours without the heavy use of chili found in some other Asian cuisines.

The main meals are Agahan (breakfast), Tanghalian (lunch) and Hapunan (dinner) plus a mid-afternoon snack called Merienda. The traditional way of eating, Kamayan, is not with chopsticks but with the hands, taking a bite of the main dish and following it up with a ball of rice.

Sinangag

[Sinangag with Chicken Barbecue, Lumpia and Pancit Miki)

Sinangag

As with other Asian countries, rice is a staple and the leftovers are often stir-fried with garlic and served alongside eggs and cured meats for breakfast. If you fancy something sweeter, go for Champorado, a rice porridge made by boiling the grains with cocoa powder, milk and sugar.

Adobo

Considered the unofficial national dish, this arose as a way of preserving meats in the tropical climate. Pork or chicken is stewed in a sauce made from oil, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay and peppercorns. It is either served as a stew or cooked until ‘dry’ to concentrate the flavours and preserve the meat.

Adobong Baboy with Sweet Potato

[Pork Adobo with Sweet Potato]

Arroz Caldo

The Filipino equivalent of chicken soup for the soul, this nourishing comfort food is a thick rice porridge. It is cooked with chicken, ginger and saffron and then garnished with toasted garlic, spring onions and coconut milk. It is often served with a boiled egg and is readily available from street food stalls.

Crispy Pata

This artery-hardening dish consists of a pork knuckle marinated in garlic-flavoured vinegar before being deep-fried to a golden brown. The crispy skin hides tender meat and the dish is served with soy sauce, vinegar and chili.

Lechong Baboy

[Lechong Baboy]

Lechon

This fiesta food is reserved for special occasions and feast days, which is just as well as preparation and cooking takes several hours. A whole pig (or calf in some areas) is prepared by having its stomach stuffed with lemongrass, peppercorns, spring onions, laurel leaves and star anise before being roasted on a spit over hot coals. The melting tender flesh and crispy skin is served with a sauce made from the liver.

Balut

A Filipino dish that some of you may be familiar with from reality TV shows, Balut is not for the faint-hearted or even slightly squeamish. Fertilised duck eggs are kept warm in the sun for a little over two weeks while the embryo develops before being boiled. The cooked eggs are kept in buckets of sand to preserve warmth and sold on the street. In the Philippines they are served with a broth made of chili, garlic and vinegar with salt for seasoning. The broth is drunk and then the egg peeled and eaten. Recently Balut – which means ‘wrapped’ in Filipino – have found their way onto fine dining menus cooked adobo style, made into omelettes or wrapped in pastry.

On her recent world wide travel, Jessica discovered a number of different options for food from many different places. She hopes to share her favourites to entice future travellers to these locations.
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