Mindanao cuisine is very distinct in terms of flavor compared to the rest of the Philippines.
Largely influenced by Spanish and Malay flavors of nearby Southeast Asian countries, dishes in Mindanao are known for their use of coconut milk and spices like chili, onion, and ginger. Fresh seafood and tropical fruits are also abundant, so this figures a lot in regional dishes. As the second largest island of the country, each region and major city has its own specialty. Here are just a few of the famous food travelers commonly associate with Mindanao.
Curacha is the local Chavacano name given to a species of deep-sea crab commonly found in the waters of Sulu province and waters surrounding Zamboanga City.This is one of the most iconic symbols of Zamboanga’s seafood delights and is a much sought-after delicacy for locals and tourists.Also known as “red frog crab” this bright orange crustacean is usually steamed or boiled and served topped with a thick sweet orange sauce made with coconut cream and secret spices that was popularized by homegrown restaurant Alavar Seafood Restaurant.
Sinuglaw gets its name from two popular cooking methods in Visayas and Mindanao: sugba, meaning to grill; and kinilaw, meaning to cook by soaking in vinegar like a ceviche. Sinuglaw is a popular appetizer that combines grilled pork (sinugba) and raw marinated fish (kinilaw). The acidity of the marinated fish cuts the richness and smokiness of the grilled pork belly. This dish is widely enjoyed in Davao, Cagayan de Oro, and many other areas around Mindanao.
Chicken Piyanggangis a Tausug dish that consists of chicken stewed with blackened coconut meat and the Maranao condiment called palapa (ginger, chilies and sakurab) until tender and then grilled. The spices help pack the chicken with intense flavors while the burnt coconut draws out the natural sweetness of the chicken. While Chicken Piyanggang is typically enjoyed by the Muslim community in specific areas like Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, some restaurants in Metro Davao, Zamboanga, Quiapo and some restaurants in Manila serve their own versions of this flavorful indigenous dish in an effort to highlight lesser-known Filipino cuisine.
Tiyulah Itum is another dish that originates from Sulu that deserves more recognition nationwide. The exotic and unique dish takes its name from Tiyula which means soup or stew and Itum which means black. This black soup of slow cooked beef or chicken in burnt coconut broth is usually served during special occasions like Muslim weddings and is known to be one of the dishes served to Royalties.
General Santos City or Gensan is popularly known as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines.” No tourist visits GenSan without indulging in fresh tuna or tuna delicacies served in various restaurants. Aside from fresh tuna, the city is known for producing other tuna-based food products like tuna hotdog, tuna longganisa, tuna tocino and tuna chicharon.
Durian and durian-delicacies
Both local and international travelers to Davao City usually make it a point to try durian. Known as one of the world’s most exotic fruits, this strong-smelling tropical fruit is abundant in the city and is used in a variety of local delicacies and food souvenirs. Head to a local coffee shop and you’re sure to find durian flavored coffee, cheesecake or ice cream. You can also shop for novelty durian candy bars, sticks, cubes and preserves for friends and family, from airport kiosks and souvenir shops.