Manila, The Philippines – Great food in a busy city

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

The favorite Jolly Super Meal consists of a crispy fried chicken served with a side of gravy, a burger steak with mushroom sauce, a spaghetti bolognese and rice.

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.

Filipinos never missed their gravy to accompany fried chicken. I skipped the rice and get this delicious Sisig Rice Bowl instead.

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.

Whenever there is fried chicken, there is gravy.

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.

Craving some convenience store food? Mini Stop got your back!

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 specialty

A plate of Tapa Queen from the Tapa King.

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.

A plate of Burger Steak Tapa from Rufo’s Famous Tapa.

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.

Kare-kare and fried chicken from Max’s restaurant. Finally a fried chicken without gravy! And it is “sarap to the bone” indeed.
If you can only visit one restaurant in Makati, make sure you visit Manam! It serves great Filipino food with both traditional and modern twist. I had Corned Beef Sisig, Lamb Adobo and Pancit Palabok
What if you are looking for something more plebians than Manam? Stop by Manam Express, the have the same great food served as rice set meal with cheaper price. I had this delicious Bangus belly there.

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.

Chicken Bacolod from Aida’s Chicken House. A speciality of Bacolod region of the Philippines.

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.

A Lumpia from Bo-Heng Lumpia House in Binondo. This hidden gem is a little hard to find because it is located behind other buildings off the main road.

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 award winning Hummus from Beni’s

The great Halo-halo (means mix-mix) will save your life in a hot and sunny Manila.

MilkyWay Cafe claimed that they are home of the original best Halo-halo. I wont’t argue with that since I only tasted one so far. But I can vouch their Ube (some kind of Yam) Halo-halo is great.

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