The Best Local Food to Try in Cebu
by Gama Rae
The Republic of the Philippines or the Philippines is an archipelagic country with over 7,641 islands as of 2018. The country’s location is situation on the Pacific Ring of Fire which makes ensures its abundance in various natural resources and biodiversity. Multiple ethnicities and cultures are found throughout the country where coupled with its history has created a unique heritage that encapsulates both Eastern and Western influences.
The country is divided into three main island groups: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. In Visayas, one of the most well-known islands is Cebu which was the nation’s first capital and oldest city. Dubbed as the Queen City of the South, Cebu is one of the most recommended places to visit in the Philippines. Coupled with its historical significance, the island also hosts some of the most unique and mouthwatering dishes the country has to offer.
How to Find the Best Local Food Cebu
Cebu is home to some of the most mouth-watering street foods and delicacies. While some of the best local food Cebu are Cebuano versions of the Chinese ngohiong and siomai, all these food have flavors that are uniquely Cebuano:
Lechon baboy or Inasal or Suckling pig
Suckling pig can be found anywhere in Cebu, even at the airport. In the Philippines, Cebu is basically the “lechon capital” of the country which is roasted suckling pig stuffed with various spices and slowly cooked over open charcoal. Universally reserved for fiestas and other special events, lechon is the defining dish of the island and has been hailed by Anthony Bourdain as one of the best pork dishes he ever had. Cebu suckling pig is known to be the best in the world, ahead of Bali’s suckling pig.
Roasted chicken can be found in most market places, restaurants and malls. Lechon is a way of cooking and it often means roasted (although it has a few more steps than just plain roasting) and manok means chicken so lechon manok basically means roasted chicken. Not to be confused with its pork counterpart, lechon manok is roasted chicken cooked similar to the pork dish in which it is stuffed with general helpings of spices, cooked meticulously over open charcoal, and tended for until meat is tender and juicy.
Ginabot or Chicharon bulaklak
Ginabot can be found in selected areas in Cebu, mostly around the vicinity where there are buildings filled with employees. Chicharon bulaklak is deep-fried crispy pig intestines that are usually sold in carts and street corners. The food stalls found on street corners are typically called “pungko pungko” because diners can eat/crouch on low benches provided while munching on ginabot, lumpia (spring rolls stuffed with meat or vegetables), bola bola (meatballs), fried chicken, and puso (hanging rice) with their hands.
Puso can be found in pungko pungko stalls and informal dining locations like plazas and food stalls. Puso is shaped to ressemble a “heart” which is puso in the Filipino language. It is also known as “hanging rice” which is made by wrapping the rice grains in a triangular casing made of woven coconut leaves prior to cooking. The end result is a compact and dense staple food that is usually paired with grilled and fried foods. You can also dip your puso in a small dish of sauce for added flavor. The organic casing of the leaves provides a unique flavor to the dish and is usually eaten by people in pungko pungko stalls and those who are on the go.
Siomai sa Tisa
This famous siomai brand is mostly found in Tisa, Cebu; but this siomai is bought from siomai and served in other food stalls across Cebu. In other places in the country, this steamed pork dumpling is basically referred to as siomai although Cebuano foodies hail Siomai sa Tisa as one of the best variations. Tisa is located in Labangon, one of the barangays of Cebu City where a small place called “D’Original Siomai sa Tisa” claims to sell the original recipe to this addictive siomai. Compared to other competitors, Siomai sa Tisa consists mainly of chopped pork, salt, secret flavorings, and spices encased then steamed in a wrapper. No shrimps, mushrooms, or vegetables are added which makes it simpler compared to some. Siomai also comes with calamansi (Philippine lemon), soy sauce, and chili garlic oil that adds a unique flavor to the meat.
Ngohiong is the local alternative to the ever popular spring roll and has since been a popular staple in food stalls, and other eateries. Ngohiong is deep-fried battered rich-paper roll containing julienned singkamas (jicama) or bamboo shoots (for other recipes). It also includes ground pork, minced shrimps, garlic, onions, and various seasonings. Ngohiong is typically paired with a starchy sweet and sour dipping sauce to enhance its flavor and is best paired with puso.
Specialty Halo Halo
Halo halo is a popular Filipino dessert that’s equivalent to shaved ice counterparts from other parts of Asia. The Cebu special halo halo already mixes milk into the ice before freezing and shaving. Halo halos in Cebu stand out from most of the usual halo halo in the Philippines because it’s a combination of the Pinoy flavor and the Bingsu or Korean shaved ice dessert. This kind of halo halo is a southern Cebu specialty that has been adapted by other parts of Cebu due to its popularity.
More Reasons to Visit Cebu in the Philippines
The Philippines is home to the most diverse populations in regards to people, culture, and marine life. Try some of the best local food in Cebu next time you visit. You can expect a lot of grilled and fried foods that are typically paired with satisfying sauces. While there are vegetable dishes offered to help balance the flavor, there is no doubt that Cebuanos are not afraid to eat pork and has even managed to create a variety of dishes from said meat while also providing a lot of sauces and slow cooking techniques to help enhance its natural flavors.