Top 10 11 Dishes You Order at Pinoy Restaurants

A few days ago, I asked you what five dishes they would order if they went out to eat at a Filipino restaurant. Over 125 readers left a comment, and while not a huge sample, it is a pretty good one considering the trends I see from my previous poll questions (many times, the results after 200 votes, is very similar to the results at 600-800 total votes). Not surprisingly, a few dishes were clear favorites, with the most popular one appearing in nearly 60% of the comments left on that post. It was also quite interesting to see that the Top 10 or so dishes you order at restaurants differed noticeably from readers’ Top 10 Pinoy Dishes overall from a poll nearly two years ago… In fact, only five dishes appeared on both lists. I guess that means that folks tend to order things at restaurants that they can’t be bothered to make at home. So it isn’t a big surprise that the most ordered dish at a pinoy restaurant, didn’t even show up in the top 10 list of Pinoy dishes overall. Read on for the results of the recent poll:

11 – Tied at 11th place and just a vote or two shy of 10th, were LECHON KAWALI and PORK BARBECUE. Both dishes were mentioned in 14% of the comments left on that post when the tally was done. Neither of these dishes appeared in the Top 10 Pinoy Dishes in a prior poll. If you want to attempt it at home, here is a recipe for lechon kawali/bagnet part I, and part II. And here is a recipe for pork barbecue.

10PINAKBET – There are quite a few versions of this dish offered in Pinoy restaurants (from fantastic to horrific), but clearly folks eating out like to balance their fat intake with some healthy vegetable dishes, this being one of them. Many readers also cook this dish at home, and if you are curious, here is one recipe version by Marketman with squash or kalabasa, and another, more authentic version done in a palayok.

9PANCIT PALABOK – Yes, I understand why this is in the Top 10. Delicious and not so easy to make at home, I personally order this at restaurants whenever possible. This is perhaps the one and only dish in the list that I have not personally cooked or attempted to cook before. But hopefully, in the months ahead, I will take a crack at this one.

8LAING – This placed surprisingly high in the poll, I thought. A delicious dish of taro (gabi) leaves and coconut milk. It is realtively easy to make at home, and while it didn’t appear in the Top 10 list of overall pinoy dishes, I think diners at restaurants have been conditioned to go over the top with outrageously fatty and rich selections…. :) I did two versions of laing, here.

7KINILAW – Another of those dishes that folks love, but don’t necessarily do at home. Oddly, I find I rarely order this (fish kinilaw) at restaurants and PREFER to only do this dish at home. Unless I know for certain that the fish used had only recently died, I would be wary of this dish at restaurants due to the handling, heat, freshness, etc. If there is a dish that can give you the runs (after clams, oysters and mussels), it is badly prepared or stored kinilaw. This stuff is incredibly easy to make, if you have the right ingredients, see versions here, here, here and here.

6LUMPIANG SARIWA – This “fresh” lumpia made up of a cooked pancake like wrapper and cooked filling (begging the question why it is fresh at all) is definitely high up on the favorites list. I have failed thus far to achieve a really thin wrapper (which I think is superior to the more pancake like versions), but here is a recipe that is close to the one my mom used to make in case you are inspired to do this at home. Often, I find, restaurant versions ladle an incredibly sweet and cornstarchy sauce on top of their “fresh lumpia” and I cringe every time I get one of those…

5SINIGANG – At first glance, I thought this seemed like an unbelievably poor showing (5th) for my favorite pinoy dish of all time. But then again, a lot of folks make this sour soup at home, so I can see the logic why they wouldn’t necessarily order it when eating out. Nevertheless, it is a certified Pinoy favorite, and there are so many variations of this dish that you could have a whole menu just based on sour soups. I have lots of sinigang recipes in the archives, including this Sinigang na Baka, and if you scroll down to the end of that post, it has links to all of my other sinigang recipes… :)

4SISIG – The preparation of a proper sisig is a bit of a pain in the neck. Getting all the right ingredients when you are sitting in a city condominium is more difficult than one thinks. Therefor, it didn’t surprise me in the least that dish rated so high up on the list of items ordered at a restaurant. I am not a big fan of the dish, but I understand why others are. I cooked my own sisig version here, but since that experiment, I haven’t bothered to do it again.

3KARE – KARE – Was a huge favorite at third place. And it had a very strong showing in the list of overall pinoy favorites as well, also placing third. Again, I am less of a fan than its position in the poll, but that might be a bias in the sense that we didn’t eat this much as a kid. When compared to other saucy dishes from Souteast Asia, including some types of curries, I find kare-kare to be a bit bland, and it is the quality and quantity of bagoong that makes the dish for me. Nevertheless, I did attempt to make this from scratch, recipe here, and ingredients required here, and I did like the results. Lately, I have been ordering it often at Filipino restaurants trying to see if I would eventually take a really strong liking to it… I am still trying… but some interesting versions like a seafood one we had at the Kanin Club may just convince me eventually. Also, if I am not mistaken, this is a more Northern or Luzon favorite, with many Visayans clueless about how and why it is so popular.

2INIHAW NA ISDA, BABOY, etc. – For the purposes of counting the votes, we lumped all inihaw style dishes together, and so it is not surprisingly that it came in second overall. This is a return to our roots, I believe. As outdoor simple grillig of fresh seafood, pork, chicken, etc. was the most basic and satisfying of food preparations. My posts on inihaw style recipes are numerous, but let me highlight three for those of you seeking recipes: inihaw na liempo, chicken inasal, inihaw na isda, and a mixed grill.

1CRISPY PATAFat reigns supreme! Crispy pata appeared as one of the five favorite dishes of nearly 60% of comments left on this poll! I have to agree, I order this dish almost every single time we sit down to eat at a pinoy restaurant. I was always so intimidated by doing this at home, but ever since our gardener brought us a freshly butchered pata and we fried it up, we have made crispy pata at home at least once a month. It is incredibly easy to do, just a bit messy and hairy when it is fried, that’s all. And they keys to getting it wickedly crispy? I find the pata should be boiled the day before and allowed to cool and its surface dabbed dry with paper towels. Then allowed to chill naked in the fridge at least 18 hours, then put out a couple of hours before frying and dried again with paper towels before being plunged into hot fat and fried to a crisp. Also, brine the pata before you boil it for that extra oomph. Others like to treat it to an hour or two in front of an electric fan to dry the skin off even more… Utterly delicious, and oddly, this dish DID NOT make it onto the Top 10 list of Pinoy dishes from a poll taken two years ago… thus it is, apparently, the KING of dishes ordered at Pinoy restaurants, due to its perceived difficulty to make at home…

Finally, a note on dishes that didn’t even show up in the Top 11 dishes ordered at Pinoy restaurants… The most obvious dish is ADOBO, a certified national favorite, and yet hardly anyone orders it at restaurants. Is it because most folks feel they can easily do this at home? Or that restaurant versions are so weak? At any rate, if a restaurant served an adobo like this one I did a week or so ago, I would order it a LOT. Surprising some form of daing or fried bangus also did not make it into the top 11 dishes, despite the fact that it was rated the 6th most favorite pinoy dish overall. Lechon and its obvious partner dinuguan are also absent, probably considered a luxury item these days, and ordered only for the most special of occasions. Besides, how many restaurants do it right? And a last observation, I was thrilled to note that the list above is in fact, very Pinoy, with lots of pork, kinilaw, etc., devoid of heavy spanish tomatoey sauces, etc. The dishes with heavy foreign influence might be the pancit palabok, due to the noodles, not the sauce, the kare-kare, also heavily indiginized and the fresh lumpia, Chinese in ancestry but totally local in execution and ingredients… Phew! This post took a long time to write! :)


20 Responses

  1. I think its the thought that everyone’s mom makes the best adobo so why bother trying something second rate?

  2. Thanks for the summation of the favorite dishes and the links thereto in how to make them at home if needs arise. You make my life easy. Yes, you are absolutely right I get stuff at the restaurant I cannot cook myself at home. After 5 or 6 failed attempts and working like a mad scientist and burning my eyebrows at the stove in making them and counting the energy and resources, time to call it a quit. I find it comforting just grab the phone and place a take out order. Barbecuing is not my forte – I cannot control the flames and I find the smoke irritating.

  3. What about a rundown of top 10 Filipino desserts people order in restaurants? I suspect halo-halo will reign supreme … but there’s also suman, guinumis, banana-q, etc.

    I think there’s such a wide variance in how flavorful people want their adobo that it’s safest for them to do it themselves at home. =)

  4. We love crispy pata, but hate the process of frying it with all the splatters. So what I do these days is to crisp the skin on the oven. Boil the pata in salted water, dry and pop it in the freezer for at least a day. Then cook it straight from freezer to oven at 200-220C. We get the crisp skin and soft meat (from the boiling) without the added fat.
    Right now I have a smoked hock in my freezer that I boiled this week. The stock will be for soup and the pata will be cooked ala crispy pata this weekend.

  5. Woohoo! Go crispy pata! Yeah! :)

    I think adobo (and sinigang) are so subjective to each Filipino that it’s really something they have at home, or at their mom’s place, or at their lola’s…I’m sure lots of us say, “Nobody makes adobo/sinigang like my lola/lolo/mom/dad/wife/husband/etc…” :) And when they find a great specimen of either dish is a restaurant, it is usually one particular restaurant and not something they would order in just any Pinoy restaurant. I think there are as many versions of adobo as there are Filipinos in the world :)

  6. your surveys are always interesting to join in and then for you to do the collating!…and commenting on! Thank you!

  7. Re: Kare kare, I remember eating a somewhat watery type of kare kare when I was in Cebu but I can’t remember the name of the dish. Can anyone help me remember? (P.S. I liked it as it reminded me of…kare kare!!! But without the bagoong on the side.)

  8. I, for one, am deathly afraid of roiling-boiling spattering oil so I will rarely attempt to fry the crispy pata or the lechon kawali. But I didn’t say I won’t make it at home. I just won’t be the one to do the frying. Let Uyab handle that! Haha…

    I agree that adobo is made at home anyway. Also, with so many varieties to it (with soy sauce, without soy sauce, in gata, with patatas, with quail eggs, etc…), I’m sure a lot of people will prefer their own version at home which they won’t have to pay for (without a possibility of a big disappointment) versus the ones that can be had in a resaurant.

    Wysgal, I second the motion. Filipino desserts naman. I will surely have a hard time narrowing my choices down. Basta, kamote is definitley out. Haha…

  9. Re. certain dishes not ordered in restaurants, there are dishes that some (squeamish) people would not entrust to just anyone even to restaurants in places like Toronto where food hygiene regulation and enforcement is quite aggressive. For ex., I only touch offal prepared by cooks I know know what they are doing.

  10. I think I saw a couple of mentions of lechon but I figured people don’t order lechon in a regular dinner out with family. It’s party food, good for groups of 20 or more. And I’ve usually eaten lechon at home parties come to think of it.

    I’m surprised sotanghon or pancit canton aren’t on as many of the lists.

  11. I always enjoy these survey posts, MM! I like to learn how other Pinoys eat, and if I am the same or different. I think that another reason people don’t order adobo, daing and fried bangus in restaurants is because it’s very common and ordinary — something one can eat at home anytime. For most Filipinos, eating out is a luxury, usually reserved for special occasions. So, since it isn’t often they would eat out, they would tend to choose dishes they can’t always eat at home. So it’s no surprise at all that crispy pata tops the list. And I agree with Mila about lechon — at least partly because of its size, it really is ideal for big parties. Besides, how often is it even offered in restaurant menus?

    Funny you mention kinilaw’s “dangers.” Just a couple of weeks ago, Felipe and many other doctors got violently sick in Cagayan de Oro, due to a kinilaw that had been exposed for too long. How embarrassing — making dozens of doctors sick, at a medical convention, at that!

  12. This post alone should get you an Academy Award of some sort! Excellent! Superb! Awesome! Why if I were Apicio, I would have more words of praise. But I am not and I just try the best I can! Thanks MM.

  13. MM — just to let you know I got my copy of the Aboitiz-Moraza cookbook this afternoon! How can I get to a size 2 with all those fabulous dishes?

  14. SL, I think you missed my proposal for the Nobel Peas Prize for Market Man (for his novel way of transporting mangosteen) which btw can apply anytime to the whole oeuvre too in my humble reckoning.

  15. hehe–great poll,MM! friday night is date-night. hubby and i headed to our favorite pinoy resto, and of course we had crispy pata..with inihaw na talong and sotanghon soup…yey for crispy pata!

  16. My family enjoys sisig next to Crispy Pata…Both can be a pain in the neck to prepare at home like you said MM. But since I cannot do much driving nowadays, I found a way to make sisig at home without too much hassle…Knowing that the Chinese lechon is ready by 10 a.m. at the local Asian store, I ask a neighbour to pick up the head and the pata…that’s what I use to make sisig and we share the finished product!

  17. for Pinoy food lovers, you gotta try Kabisera ng Dencio’s (located in Bonifacio High Street) :D Their sinigang na lechon and sari-saring sinugba is soooo good! :D

  18. funny… it’s crispy pata that we hardly order in restaurants. we do it at home, and always with a side of pancit canton of some sort made with the stock from simmering the pata(over charcoal!). perhaps the reason why folks don’t do it at home is the horrid amount(and dangerous spatters!) of oil you need to fry it. but if you have a regular turbo broiler(like we do)… it’s easy enough(and less fatty! – watch the fat melt out!) to crisp crispy pata(and lechon kawali!). and it only takes less than an hour. we use the broiler for large daing na bangus as well.



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