Metro Manila is the bustling capital of the Philippines. A crowded city of 1,7 millions people that is divided into several smaller cities.
I visited Makati City, which is known as the business and financial center of Metro Manila. You can observe the traffic filled streets, workers queuing up for their daily commute on buses and jeepneys (old World War Jeep converted into a full of blink public transport), neon lit streets of bars and hotels. Makati displays the Filipinos working hard for their dream.
Where you find hard working people, you will find eateries which serve local favorite for workers to get their daily meals. The upside of staying in Makati City is, usually all of those places are only walking distance away.
Fast Food Haven
You can’t talk about Filipinos cuisine without mentioning Jollibee. What started as a local Fried Chicken restaurant had grow to a huge chain in several countries. The locals love to have a side of gravy with their fried chicken. Even KFC in the Philippines serves this gravy as well. The chicken taste great and good quality.
If you have been following my posts, you’ll know that I have a personal mission to taste KFC in every country I visit. Now that I’ve tasted the local favorite Jollibee, time to pay a visit to good old grandpa Sanders. The chicken is quite good and on the same level as Jollibee’s. However the Sisig Rice Bowl that you see above stole my heart. It has a great blend of sauce, egg, rice and chicken. I’d say that you have to try this if you go to KFC in the Philippines.
I found this New York style pizza in Ayala Center Makati. You can see how prominent the American influence is in the Philippines. Seeing a workers queuing up to get a slice of pizza feels so American to me. The pizza is nice and they serves fried chicken as well. The fried chicken is a different style from Jollibee or KFC. I start to think maybe Filipinos love their fried chicken gravy like Indonesians love their sambal. You seem to find them everywhere.
What if you worked/explored until late at night and most of the restaurants are already closed? Then stop by to a convenience store! I joined the tired faced locals filling their belly while waiting for bus ride home. You can find the usual Asian convenience store food such as a cup of instant noodle, dumplings, sausages, fried skewers, and don’t forget the local favorite of fried chicken with gravy. The food taste decent and quite cheap. The fried chicken is not as good as one you can find in restaurants but still good nonetheless.
Filipinos have this famous breakfast staple called Tapa/Tapsilog. A rice dish accompanied with Sunny side egg and meat. Think of it as their version of Malaysian Nasi Lemak or Indonesian Nasi Uduk. A great and heavy meal to start your day with a smile. I had this dish in 2 different places and I can vouch that Rufo didn’t lie when he said that their Tapa is famous.
Other famous Filipino specialities are Kare-kare, Adobo, Sisig (the original one, not KFC’s) and Bangus fish. I had several great one in Makati but I highly recommend the Manam restaurant. They serve local dishes with 2 styles, traditional and their own modern twist.
Foreign influence in Manila
Being an important port town of Spanish Empire and situated in South East Asia, Manila has a significant foreign influence in it’s identity. This covers food as well. You can find Bacolod style grilled chicken that is similar to Malaysian & Indonesian Ayam Bakar.
There is Chinese influenced Lumpia in Binondo (Chinatown), similar to Indonesian’s Lumpia Semarang or Malaysian Popiah but taste sweeter because of significant amount of penaut fillings.
Manila had a significant amount of Jewish settler. You can find great Middle Eastern restaurant like Beni’s and get yourself a great Hummus and Falafel.
The great Halo-halo (means mix-mix) will save your life in a hot and sunny Manila.