Most international travelers’ introduction to Philippine cuisine is through traditional dishes like adobo, kare-kare, sinigang and sisig. Most Pinoy dishes are tasty fare cooked meat, fish and vegetables. However, you can also find a number of delicacies that make use of animals or animal parts that some people consider unusual or bizarre or wouldn’t normally think of eating.
One way to level up while traveling is to go out of your comfort zone and try new and unfamiliar dishes. If you’re feeling adventurous, here’s a sampling of some of the most exotic food in the Philippines to cross off your foodie bucket list.
When you think of exotic food in the Philippines, balut is the first food that immediately comes to mind. Balut is a fertilized developing egg embryo (usually duck) boiled and eaten straight from the shell that’s commonly sold as street food in the country. Said to be an aphrodisiac, balut is a favorite snack and beer chow pairing among Filipino men. For adventurous foreigners, eating balut is considered a rite of passage.
Exotic street food
Aside from balut, there are lots of other well-loved Pinoy street food that outsiders may feel squeamish about eating like isaw, which are skewered chicken or pork intestines. Adidas are barbecued chicken feet. Betamax is coagulated pork or chicken blood sliced in rectangular blocks and served on skewers. Helmet are barbecued chicken heads. Most of these street food are best eaten hot off the grill and dipped in a mixture of chili vinegar sauce.
While you can find balut and most types of street food widely around the country, different provinces also have their own unique signature exotic delicacies. The culinary capital of Pampanga is known for Betute Tugak or deep-fried rice field frogs stuffed with minced pork. The dish preserves the shape of a bloated or fat frog with the stuffing and other herbs and spices.
Want a protein-rich dish? Kamaru or mole crickets are considered a Kapampangan delicacy. While usually cooked as adobo, the insects can also be served deep-fried. You can find kamaru on the menus of various local restaurants in Pampanga including Everybody’s Café in San Fernando.
In Northern Luzon, particularly the Ilocos region, ant eggs are considered an exotic because of their high protein content and reputed aphrodisiac properties. Abuosare the eggs or soft white larvae of hantik or weaver ants which known for their stinging bites. When served, they resemblelegumes and are usually served sautéed in garlic or prepared as adobo, though some locals prefer eating it raw.
Uok are beetle larvae of coconut worms. While that doesn’t sound appetizing at all, some restaurants like Balaw-Balaw Restaurant in Angono, Rizal actually serve uok in adobo form as a delicacy. This wormy dish is best paired rice and tomatoes for a full meal or can be eaten as an appetizer along with alcoholic drinks to wash it down.
In Palawan, one of the most popular exotic delicacies you can try in local restaurants is tamilok, or woodworm. Tamilok is a type of mollusk with a long, slender body that inhabits the branches of mangrove trees. This fresh, salty and slimy delicacy which tastes like and has the same texture as oysters is often served ceviche-style immersed in calamansi and salt.
Tuslob buwa is Cebu’s most popular exotic dish, a mixture that combines pig brain and liver, soy sauce and oil. It’s best paired with hanging rice, which is dipped into the whole mixture and chased down with some soft drinks. Tuslob buwa is popular in open air eateries and barbecue stalls across the province of Cebu. The dish was even featured on Netflix’s Street Food documentary series.
While Bohol is known for some great eats, one of the more distinctive food souvenirs you can buy here is chichaworm. Packaged as exotic treats for tourists, these crunchy cultured “Super Worms” are fed with organic food like fresh fruits and vegetables before being fried and flavored with sugar, salt and chili powder.
From afar, you could easily mistake puyoy for isaw or small snakes, but they’re actually eels on skewers. Puyoy is a type of eel that is locally abundant in the town of President Roxas in the province of Capiz. These snake-like creatures are grilled over charcoal just like barbecue and enjoyed by locals and adventurous tourists alike.