As a first generation Filipino-American, I have grown up surrounded by the traditions my parents have always celebrated year after year in the Philippines. With that being said, any and all family gatherings are centered around—you guessed it—food! These dishes provide a thrill to your senses with savory tastes and colorful presentation. And you already know that there will be rice present with any traditional Filipino meal, even dessert. So here's a list of traditional Filipino dishes that always hit the spot. 

1. Adobo

Adobo can be described as marinated meat, and is arguably the national dish of the Philippines. Its primary ingredients include soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, oyster sauce, and bay leaves. There are various recipes for adobo, with different meats and different twists to it, as well as additional vegetables and sauces to add.

2. Pancit

Pancit is a stir-fried noodle dish. There are various types of Pancit in the Philippines, and the one pictured above is known as Pancit Palabok. Rice noodles are smothered by a rich orange sauce made of shrimp, shrimp broth, pork, hard boiled eggs, chicharon (pork rinds) and sometimes oysters and squid. It's pretty delightful and a different twist on spaghetti.

3. Lechon

Known as the national dish of the Philippines, Lechon is of Spanish origin, but what separates a Filipino Lechon is the seasonings used. It's commonly known as a roasted suckling pig. The best part is the skin – it's a must to have Mang Tomas (liver sauce) to top it off. You need to make this your first stop at the party, or else it'll be gone before you know it. 

4. Kakanin

Kakanin directly translates to "tidbits." Above is a sampler platter of Cassava cake, Sapin Sapin, Rice cake, and a sweet corn cake with caramelized coconut milk on top. These desserts consist of layers of glutinous rice flour and coconut, the textures being chewy and sticky with a slight sweetness to it. Some can be topped with toasted coconut to boost it with and added crunch.

5. Bibingka

Babinka is yet another type of rice cake baked in banana leaves to give it an enticing aroma. This delicacy was initially introduced around the Christmas season in the Philippines. Due to its massive popularity, it's now served as an everyday dish. The texture is slightly spongy with a taste much like rice pudding.

6. Ube Halaya

This bright, color-popping dish is derived from purple yams. Ube Halaya is a paste formed from steamed purple yams and an added sweetener. Ube is used as a flavoring in many Filipino pastries and desserts, and recently, it's been growing in popularity all across America.

7. Lumpia

Eggrolls are a necessary part of any Filipino meal. Above is Lumpia Shanghai, it's smaller and thinner than the average egg roll. This dish is best served with your favorite sweet and sour sauce. At any given celebration, you'll find a large platter of these just waiting to be taken. Lumpia comes in various types, such as fresh Lumpia, which is a mixed vegetable blend in an egg roll wrapper. Depending on your preference, it can be made with meat or no meat.

8. Kare Kare

This dish is truly a staple to the Philippines, commonly known as "peanut butter stew." Traditionally, this is made with oxtail and a peanut butter sauce, along with steamed veggies such as eggplant, banana blossoms, and green beans. This melt-in-your-mouth meat along with savory sauce is only complete on top of rice with a side of bagoog (a shrimp paste).

9. Chicken Inasal

Chicken inasal is special because of its marinade. Calamansi is a key ingredient within the marinade. It is a small green citrus fruit indigenous to the Philippines, and is a hybrid of a mandarin orange and a kumquat. The calamansi flavor is combined with lemongrass to give the chicken its distinct flavor. To complete the dish, brush the chicken down with anatto oil and a side of garlic rice.

10. Sinigang

This tamarind-based stew can be made from beef, pork, chicken, or shrimp. Vegetables like taro, radishes, okra, eggplants, and water spinach are added in, as well as green long pepper for even more flavor. Other essentials include tomatoes, garlic and onions. Naturally, this dish pairs well with rice, so it always hits the spot.

If you haven't already tried Filipino food, we highly recommend giving it a chance. It's an experience within itself, combining influences from Spanish and Asian cultures – the best of both worlds! You never know, it could be your new favorite type of food.