Food & Cuisine in Manila
If a global gourmet meal of Chinese style dumplings followed up by authentic Spanish style paella, ending on a high note with a platter of very tropical coconut or guavas in syrup or the mysterious sounding Halo-halo intrigues you, there's just one place to go - Manila!
Street food is readily available throughout the city. Though the fare is delectable some precaution should be taken while eating out at these venues.
This Manila Restaurant Guide introduces you to the variety of cuisine travellers are likely to come across while dining out in Manila, along with contact details and further information about local restaurants in Manila that are favoured by travellers and locals alike. As a city, Manila offers many dining, drinking and entertainment options making choosing where to eat out in Manila an easy venture. Many great eateries and restaurants in Manila can be found in the Manila shopping centres, malls and markets. Take a look at our Philippines Restaurant Guide for more general information about Philippines restaurants and dining out opportunities along with links to other Philippines destinations.
Food and Cuisine in Manila
The Philippines has been a key crossover point for traffic between the Pacific and the South China Sea, and for centuries people from around the world have migrated here. Each of these groups of people brought their unique flavours and cooking methods to the country, making it a real melting pot of cuisines.
Coconut milk came with the Malays, and the Chinese introduced their traditional food like noodles, bean curd and soy sauce. The Spanish occupation resulted in the use of olive oil and Mediterranean cooking methods using generous amounts of onions, tomatoes, vinegar and garlic.
Convenience foods and canned products arrived with the Americans who also introduced the Filipinos to hamburgers, hot dogs, apple pies, cheese and even canned tomato sauce.
The indigenous peoples have always had copious amounts of rice, vegetables and seafood in their daily diet. With much of its land bordering the sea, seafood in Manila is plenty and fresh. Some say there are as many as 2000 varieties in the area - try and get through as many as you can on your trip. And don't forget to take home some local fish sauce called patis, which is a vital ingredient in Filipino cooking.
Types of Food in Manila
Locals eat three main meals a day but also an afternoon snack called the meriénda, minandál or minindál. Rice is always on the table to accompany vegetables or seafood on a normal day. Meat is usually saved for special events. The food in Manila isn't too spicy so even those with delicate stomachs can enjoy a meal in Manila.
Some standard fiesta fare in Manila includes:
Lechón: A succulent spit roasted pig.
Cocido: Meat, vegetables, sausage, chickpeas or garbanzo beans stew.
Paella: A seasoned meat and rice dish cooked in flat pans.
Morcon: Beef rolls.
Embutido: Pork rolls.
Other tasty foods in Manila to try on your trip include:
Adobo: Chicken or pork stewed in vinegar, soy sauce and garlic until dry.
Longganisa: Spiced Philippine style chorizo or sausage.
Pochero: An unusual dish combining beef, bananas and tomato sauce.
Afritada: A vegetable and beef or pork dish in tomato sauce.
Kare-kare: Peanut sauce coated vegetables and oxtail.
Hamonado: A sweet pineapple sauce marinated pork.
Sinigang: A tangy stew of tamarind with shrimp, fish or pork.
Pancit: Noodles stir fried with a sweet and sour sauce.
Lumpia: Spring rolls.
Pinakbet: Vegetables and shrimp paste.
Desserts and sweets are aplenty in Manila, thanks to the Spanish influence. Leche flan which is Spanish style caramel custard tops the list.
Other sweets and desserts in Manila to try are:
Buko pandan: Young coconut slivers served with pandan flavour.
Hopia: Bean filled pastry.
Bibingka: A sticky rice based dessert.
Puto: Sweet steamed rice cake.
Sapin-sapin: Sweet made of rice flour, coconut milk and purple yam.
Halo-halo: Chilled dessert made of milk, sugar, shaved ice, coconut, yam, jackfruit, caramel custard, tapioca, red beans.
Biko: Coconut milk, sugar and butter based sweet.
If you'd like a change from the local cuisine, Manila has plenty of great international flavours on offer. You can choose to dine at Indian, Greek, Chinese, American, Japanese and even French restaurants in Manila.
Eating Out in Manila
What to Wear
Casual wear is fine for quick stops at cafes in Manila, but for evenings out to restaurants in Manila - skip the flip flops and shorts and dress sharp.
If you're heading to a formal dinner then you could opt to wear the local national dress or stick to a regular suit and tie.
An average tip of 10% is expected unless a service charge of about 10% is already included in your bill. Check before you pay.