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17 Exotic Filipino Dishes To Challenge Your Taste Buds

Planning a culinary “trip” to the Philippines? Complete your “visit” with these 17 popular but strange-sounding Filipino dishes. Or if you are Filipino and looking for a taste of home, these might make for an adventurous meal!

There are many things about Filipinos that others might find just a bit different. 

They mark September 1 as the start of the Christmas countdown and end the yuletide season up to February. (Yes, Christmas songs start playing on the radio and in the malls.) 

When it comes to drinking culture, tagay is a thing in the Philippines, a Filipino term that refers to liquor-rationing around the group using a single cup. 

And who can forget their highly-contagious smiles even in trying times?

On top of that, they’re big, adventurous eaters! 

But this article doesn’t focus on the gentle people; we will tackle something uncommon and surprising.

Behold, bizarre Filipino dishes! Yes, some Filipino recipes are bound to challenge your taste buds.

—take note, though, these may not be for the weak stomach! Read on, only if you dare!

From the beloved street food Balut to super-duper crispy Chicharon Bulaklak, these intriguing, exotic dishes are perfect for those culinary thrill-seekers out there who are always opting for an adventure. 

Editor’s Note: The Philippines have been drastically affected by the December 2021 typhoon. The writer of this article is based in Cebu City, one of the cities hit hardest by Typhoon Rai/Odette. While we wait to hear about his safety, shelter, and health, we ask that if you are able, donate to Filipinos via Unicef for drinking water and home repairs during this devastating typhoon aftermath.

Balut is a popular Filipino snack made from a hard-boiled duck egg that’s incubated for up to 18 days or more.

The egg can have more or less visible features depending on the length of its incubation. 

It’s commonly sold in the streets and eaten with salt and spicy sukang tuba (coconut sap vinegar).

Tuslob buwa is one of the bizarre foods you shouldn’t miss when you visit the Philippines, especially in the Central Visayas region. 

But if you’re thinking about making it at home, this recipe is for you.

The typical street food is known for its key ingredients: pork liver and brain. 

These innards are cooked with pork stock, garlic, soy sauce, onions, chilis, and shrimp paste, resulting in a savory and thick stew.

The cooked mixture is then served with pusô or hanging rice typically dipped into the dish.

Most people often confuse tamilok as a woodworm, but scientifically, it’s a bivalve mollusk, a marine creature that lives among rotting mangroves. 

It’s described as slimy and gray with a length that can reach up to one foot. Its flavor tastes like oyster and complements onions, chili, coconut vinegar (sukang tuba), and calamansi juice. 

Abuos is an exotic Filipino food that consists of sauteed or stir-fried pupae of the red weaver ants with onions, cloves, tomatoes, and eggs. 

Also dubbed as ant-egg caviar, abuos can be also prepared in an adobo style, but other adventurous foodies prefer to eat it raw. 

The pupae or eggs look like legumes and have a noticeable sour taste. I know—OMG!

Dinuguan or pork dinuguan is a kind of Filipino stew that uses pork blood as the main ingredient. 

It has a savory and porky taste with a sour undertone. 

The recipe starts by sauteing onion and garlic. 

You need to brown the pork, pour water with dry herbs and vinegar to tenderize the meat, and then toss some chopped green peppers for a kick. 

Once done, incorporate the blood until thoroughly cooked.

Another unusual Filipino recipe is ginataang kuhol. 

It’s a tasty stew consisting of edible snails cooked in coconut milk with herbs, spices, veggies, and sometimes soy sauce. 

Filipinos enjoy the food by serving it as a main dish alongside hot steamed rice.

It’s popular in Philippine cooking.

Note: Making the recipe is challenging as the shells require thorough cleaning.

Soup number five (popularly spelled soup no. 5) is a Filipino soup made from bull’s penis and testicles seasoned with fish sauce and lots of freshly ground black pepper.

Filipinos serve the dish as a pulutan, a snack eaten during drinking sessions. 

The aromatic flavor of the soup comes from the blend of lemongrass, ginger, chili, and sibot herb mix. 

Fun fact: Some people love the soup as it’s believed to have aphrodisiac properties.

Betamax is a traditional Filipino street food made from chicken blood. 

It’s versatile and can be eaten during drinking sessions, meals, and midnight snacks. 

The blood is dried, shaped into cubes, skewered then grilled with soy sauce, oil, and banana ketchup. 

It’s delicious when dipped into spiced vinegar and served with rice or beer. 

When you hear about the word helmet, you might think about the protective headgear used by cyclists and motorcyclists—for Filipinos—it’s tasty local food. 

Similar to Betamax, helmet or the chicken’s head is marinated with condiments, skewered into bamboo sticks, and grilled until nicely charred. 

10. Isaw

Isaw is a must-try if you’re heading to the Philippines on your next travel vacation. 

Typically served with sweet sauce, soy sauce, or spiced vinegar, this unusual street food is primarily made from chicken or pig’s large intestines. 

These intestines are thoroughly cleaned, pre-cooked, seasoned with soy sauce and ketchup, then grilled until they get a smoky char.

Walkman or BBQ-style pork ear is one of the famous street food barbecues sold along the streets in the Philippines. 

Aside from its affordable price, walkman has a soft and chewy texture with a blend of sweet and savory flavor profiles. 

To create, pre-cook chopped pork ears with water, garlic, onions, soy sauce, vinegar, and peppercorn until tender. 

Skewer them in barbecue sticks and grill over low heat charcoal. Done!

Fun fact: Pinoy ‘walkman’ gets its name after the old but gold portable audio player, Walkman, gained popularity in the country in the ’80s.

Often eaten as a main course or pulutan (appetizer) in Luzon areas in the Philippines, you’ll never expect that this dish tastes like chicken. 

Betute tugak or deep-fried edible frogs are filled with minced pork mixed with garlic, onion, salt, and vinegar. 

The key is to ensure that you clean the frog and remove its skin, head, and intestines before stuffing the ground pork mixture.  

Primarily Hispanic, lengua estofada is made from ox tongue cooked in tomato sauce. 

The exceptional dish is bursting with nice flavors and texture thanks to flavorful ingredients such as garlic, green olives, oyster sauce, and beef bouillon cube.

The recipe is sometimes served with fried potatoes, sauteed mushrooms, or steamed rice.

Pinikpikan refers to a controversial dish that’s prepared by beating a live chicken with a stick before cooking it. 

It comes from the Ilocano word pikpik, meaning to hit repeatedly. 

According to the Igorots, (the indigenous people of Northern Philippines), chicken beating brings blood to the surface of the animal’s flesh, resulting in an improved flavor after cooking.

Commonly enjoyed as an afternoon snack, side dish, or pulutan, chickaron bulaklak consists of pre-boiled pork intestines seasoned with herbs and spices then deep-fried to crispy and golden brown perfection. 

Many Filipinos serve the dish with spicy vinegar with hot, steamed rice. Pro tip: After deep-frying, ensure to drain the excess oil in kitchen paper towels.

16. Adidas

When you roam around the busy streets in the Philippines, you are likely to see those marinated chicken feet grilled and served with pusô (hanging rice) and soy-based sweet sauce. 

They’re called adidas! 

Its name was inspired by the three stripes printed in a footwear brand’s logo, Adidas. 

These street foods are packed with smokey flavor and an excellent pair with a glass of cold beer; you can also enjoy them with rice!

If you’re always ready for an adventure, then this last Filipino dish is the best for you. Its main ingredient? 

Insect. Wait—what?! This list is bizarre all the way down, am I right?

Adobong kamaru is a dish composed of edible mole crickets (kamaru) cooked in vinegar, tomatoes, onion, garlic, and chili. 

To make, the recipe starts by washing the crickets well. 

Saute garlic and onion and then mix with the remaining ingredients.

The bottom line

In case you’re planning a trip to the Philippines, it’s best to prepare yourself for the array of exotic foods you’re likely to come across. 

To get you started, I suggest trying the famous balut and once you have the guts for something more bizarre, go with betute tugak, helmet, and adobong kamaru. 

Best of luck!

Check out our other articles in the Filipino Recipe Series—desserts and appetizers too!

17 Exotic Filipino Dishes

17 Exotic Filipino Dishes

Complete your gastronomic travel experience in one of Asia's friendliest countries, the Philippines, with these 17 exotic Filipino dishes.

Ingredients

  • Balut
  • Tuslob-Buwa
  • Tamilok
  • Abuos
  • Dinuguan
  • Ginataang Kuhol
  • Soup Number Five
  • Betamax
  • Helmet
  • Isaw
  • Walkman
  • Betute Tugak
  • Lengua Estofada
  • Pinikpikan
  • Chicharon Bulaklak
  • Adidas
  • Adobong Kamaru

Instructions

  1. Check out our list of exotic Filipino dishes for your next recipe! 
  2. Gather the ingredients. 
  3. Start cooking your new dish! 
  4. Enjoy and share your insights on our Facebook page!

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Pinterest

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