The Underrated Southeast Asian Cuisine That You Need to Try ASAP

We’ve seen Thai and Vietnamese food make a splash but make room… Filipino cuisine is having a moment.

Compared to its neighbors to the north, Filipino cuisine has flown under the radar and unlike Thai and Vietnamese eateries, Filipino food isn’t easy to come by. While finding a Filipino restaurant can be slightly more challenging than looking up “Thai food near me” or “nearby pho,”  it doesn’t discredit the rich food culture awaiting to be uncovered for those willing to make an extra effort.

Why is it harder to find Filipino food?

There are a number of explanations as to why Filipino food isn’t as mainstream. New York City Eatwith host Raf – who was born and raised in the Philippines and now leads a Filipino food crawl in East Village – says it’s partly because Filipino dishes vary from household to household.

Filipino dish called pancit
Pancit is a traditional Filipino dish that can be prepared several ways

For those of you reading who have already tried Filipino food, how many different types of pancit (noodle dish) have you had? Some recipes call for thick noodles, some thin. Some have chicken, others have shrimp. Filipino recipes are inconsistent – in a good way. But because of this,  it’s a lot more difficult to market the cuisine to a wider audience of foodies. 

But host Raf says this is changing. People are looking for a new cuisine to “discover” and excitement around the Filipino culinary scene is on the rise. We believe it. After all, the late Anthony Bourdain did an entire episode of Parts Unknown in the Philippines and said sisig was the best pork he’s ever had! 

Speaking of sisig…

Filipino dish called sisig
Sisig served sizzling hot on a cast-iron skillet

You’re probably wondering what on earth it is! The dish is made of pig head parts and chicken (although there are several other ways you can make it). It’s served sizzling hot on a cast-iron skillet. Sisig is host Raf’s favorite dish and it’s the first thing guests taste on his food tour. Raf is a firm believer that sisig is a gateway to Filipino culture. One bite and you’ll want to discover all the Philippines has to offer.

“Filipino food is only the beginning. There’s a lot more to discover after you’ve tasted the dishes.” – Host Raf

What’s Raf’s food tour like?

Eatwith host Raf's food tour
Raf’s food tour in New York City’s East Village

The next time you’re in New York City, save a spot on host Raf’s food tour where you’ll get to taste some of East Village’s best Filipino eateries. During the 2.5-hour experience you’ll make 4 stops, trying different Filipino dishes and learning about Filipino history and culture.. 

To kick off the tour,  you’ll meet Raf at the first location – a Filipino market. There you’ll be introduced to products like banana ketchup – a sweet tomato and banana sauce that’s staple for any Filipino spaghetti dish. Other products you’ll learn about include ube ice cream and spam.

Fun fact: Did you know the Philippines is the 3rd largest spam consumer in the world – behind Guam and Hawaii. Spam is a big product in the Philippines and it was first introduced to the country during the U.S. occupation in WWII.

Filipino dish called lumpia
Lumpia is the Filipino eggroll

After the market, you’ll make your way to the second stop where you’ll sample appetizers including Raf’s favorite, sisig. From there, Raf will take you to the next eatery where you’ll feast on staple Filipino dishes like sinigang – a tangy, tamarind-based soup dish made with pork and vegetables, lumpia – the Filipino version of an eggroll, and arroz caldo – a rice and chicken porridge dish infused with ginger, onions and garlic. 

Halo halo is a Filipino dessert

On the last stop, you’ll try what will soon be your next favorite dessert – halo halo. When translated, halo halo means mix-mix. And trust us, there is a lot to mix in this dessert concoction. The main components are shaved ice, condensed milk, and ube ice cream. But the base of the dessert is where the real party happens. Toppings include sweet red and white beans, coconut gel, coconut strings, and jackfruit. To eat halo halo, you just have to mix everything and enjoy. 

Sticking to true Filipino hospitality, Raf always ends the tour by sending guests home with a bag of sweet, Filipino treats.

How can I get a taste of Filipino food?

Raf offers lunch and dinner food tours year-round. You can save your spot here. If you’re not up for walking and prefer a sit-down Filipino meal, check out hosts Cris and Anna in Brooklyn.

And if you’re ever in Philly, grab a seat at host Raquel’s table for a modern Filipino fusion dinner.

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  1. Filipino here. Let me just correct the first line. The Philippines does not have a neighbor to the north. Not even to the east, west, and south. We are surrounded by water. The rest of the article is good. Filipino food is full of flavor