10 Exotic Filipino Dishes and Where to Find Them

Buck up and taste some of the Philippines’ most unusual delicacies!

By Bianca Ma. Guerrero
November 14, 2011

Philippine cuisine, though not quite well-known in other parts of the world, mostly consists of tasty and colorful fare made with fish, meat, and vegetables. However, there are a number of dishes whose ingredients are unexpected, or even downright bizarre. One way to amp up your next trip's adventure factor is to try things that are unfamiliar to you, including new foods. Dare yourself to seek out and taste some of the curious fare listed below:

Adobong kamaru - Pampanga

Kamaru, or mole crickets, which are plentiful in Pampanga, are considered a Kapampangan delicacy. It is often made into adobo, but can also be served deep fried. Several restaurants in Pampanga serve this dish, including Everybody's Café in San Fernando.

Adobong salagubang - Nueva Ecija

The salagubang, or june bug, is a common treat in Nueva Ecija, where many of these beetles thrive. When fried, it can be served as an appetizer or as pulutan (food served with alcoholic drinks, usually beer).  Sometimes, it is prepared like adobo and eaten with rice. Salagubang can be found in some markets in Nueva Ecija.

Adobong uok - Rizal

Beetle larvae may not sound very appetizing at first, but uok cooked as adobo served with rice and tomatoes is considered an exotic delicacy. One restaurant that serves this dish is Balaw-Balaw Restaurant in Angono, Rizal.

Abuos - Ilocos

Also known as ant-egg caviar, this Ilocano delicacy is one that is tasty, but a little bit pricey. Abuos, which looks like legumes, is often served sautéed in garlic or prepared as adobo, though some eat it raw. These are sold at public markets in Ilocos, and are usually displayed on leaves.

Balut - All over the Philippines

Though considered common eats among many Filipinos, there are still those who have yet to pluck up the courage to try balut. Balut is a fertilized duck egg, either 16 or 18 days old, which has been boiled and is eaten with salt or vinegar. Though the almost-fully-formed duckling inside the egg can be off-putting to some, balut is a tasty afternoon treat all over the Philippines.


Photo by Bianca Ma. Guerrero

Betute tugak (stuffed frogs) - Pampanga

Though frogs' legs are considered a delicacy in other parts of the world, frog dishes are made slightly differently in the Philippines. The most common way of preparing frog is to fry it (prito), or to turn it into adobo (a kind of stew where the meat is cooked in garlic, oil, vinegar, and laurel leaves). However, in Pampanga, there is a dish called betute tugak, which are deep-fried field frogs stuffed with minced pork.

Etag - Cordillera Region

Etag is salted pork that is kept underground in earthenware jars to age. It is not a dish in itself, as it is most often used as an ingredient in other viands, but it adds a very distinct flavor to meat or vegetable dishes.

Kinilaw na tamilok - Palawan

"Tommy, look!" were the words uttered by a foreign visitor when he and his companion chanced upon locals in Palawan eating raw woodworms with vinegar. Since then, the woodworms, which can be found in mangrove trees, have been known as tamilok. Despite its common name, woodworms aren't worms at all--they're molluscs, which is why they tend to have an oyster-like taste and texture. The tamilok is served kinilaw-style, which means it is raw, soaked in vinegar with chilli peppers, onions, and calamansi juice.

Pinikpikan - Cordillera Region

Though similar to the traditional tinolang manok (chicken in broth with vegetables), pinikpikan is a chicken dish where the process of preparing the chicken is considered a tribal ritual which helps the people determine their tribe's fate regarding a particular course of action. The dish derives its name from the word "pikpik," which means to beat lightly, usually with a stick. To prepare pinikpikan, a live chicken is beaten lightly with a stick under the wings and neck until these areas become dark blue-this is so that the blood of the chicken coagulates, making the meat more flavorful but keeping the chicken's bones unbroken. The chicken is then killed with one hard blow to the head, and cut up. Before the meat is cooked, the tribal priest reads the liver and bile to see if they will have good luck. After this, the edible parts of the chicken are boiled in water flavored with etag. Some restaurants in Baguio City still serve pinikpikan.

Soup No. 5 - Manila and Cebu

This story behind this soup is as mysterious as its name. Soup No. 5 looks like a regular meat soup, but it is actually made of bull or ox penis and testicles, and is believed to be an aphrodisiac. Some restaurants in Binondo serve this dish, and it can also be found in Cebu, where it is known as Lanciao.