Ugly Delicious: 7 Popular Exotic Filipino Dishes
Filipinos love to eat. And when it comes to food, they are both bold and experimental, unafraid to use anything “edible” in their dishes. The result? A cuisine that includes offal, insects, among others that other people might find unappealing. So if you’re someone who’s looking for your next culinary thrill in the Philippines, you’ll be in for an exciting ride. From crawling critters cooked adobo-style to pig brain’s gravy, here are some of their most popular exotic dishes.
Be warned, though: this is not for the faint of heart and weak of stomach.
Crickets don’t make people squirm that much since it’s one of the most common insects used as food across the world. In Pampanga, the food capital of the Philippines, kamaro as the locals call them, are cooked like adobo (sauteed in soy sauce, vinegar, and garlic). It’s commonly eaten as bar chow, usually paired with ice-cold beer.
Tamilok is probably one of the most popular Filipino exotic dishes. They are soft and slimy woodworms living in rotten trunks and branches of mangrove trees in Palawan. To prepare it, the tamilok is pulled straight from the tree, cleaned, prepared like ceviche, and eaten raw. However, if you find this too much, you can have it either grilled or fried from one of the restaurants over there.
Soup No. 5 (Bull testicles soup)
Aphrodisiacs are pretty common throughout Asia. Here in the Philippines, Soup No. 5 is the most popular of them all. As the same suggests, it’s a soup made with a bull’s penis or testicles, sometimes both. Locals believe that eating this will give someone enhanced libido.
Abuos (Red weaver ants pupae)
In the northern parts of the Philippines, locals collect the pupae of abuos (red weaver ants), which usually nest on mango trees. This caviar-like delicacy is usually sauteed or stir-fried with shallots, garlic, and tomatoes. Most of the time, you will also see bits and pieces of abuos in the delicacy. The result is a flavorful dish with a slightly chewy and slightly crunchy texture. It is best paired with steamy rice.
Admit it, this won’t be complete with balut. Considered as the posterchild of Filipino exotic dishes, it’s a popular snack usually peddled by roaming street vendors in heated wicker baskets. Balut is technically just a boiled egg, but that of a developing duck embryo, and is eaten straight as-is from the shell. First, crack open from the top so you can slurp the soup. You then peel the shell to reveal an underdeveloped duck embryo attached to a yolk. Lastly, dip it in vinegar or salt, with each bite having a bit of both the embryo and yolk to fully enjoy the delicacy.
Uok (Rhinoceros beetle larva)
Uok is basically a coconut rhinoceros beetle larva found in dead coconut logs. This fat, squirming worm can be eaten as-is, or used in local favorities such as adobo, where it becomes chewy on the outside and gooey on the inside. They are also rich in protein, calcium, and iron.
In Visayan, tuslob means “dip” and buwa, “bubbles.” This is a popular Filipino street food found in Pasil, Cebu City. It is made with pork brain, liver, and intestines which get sauteed with onions, chilis, and soy sauce. Cooks fry everything up with oil to make the dish greasier. The mixture starts out as a watery stock, but changes into a thick, bubbly stew the longer it is cooked. This delicacy is traditionally paired with puso or hanging rice. Tuslob buwa has also been featured on Netflix’s Street Food, a documentary series showcasing different delicacies around the world.