Why some foreigners would rather go hungry than eat Filipino food

I love Filipino food!!! I never get tired of eating adobo. The taste is so primal because I just think it satisfies every human being’s craving for protein and salt – those two key ingredients that help keep our bodies from malfunctioning. For me, Adobo is one of those dishes that make you want to say, “I am so glad I am not vegetarian”. I like it especially when the pork and chicken have been fried to a crisp before mixing it back with the soy and vinegar sauce. We have adobo regularly and it is the default dish when everyone is too lazy to think of what to have for lunch or dinner.

For some greens, I like the bitter and sweet taste of pinakbet. Cooked right, the pumpkin melts in the mouth while the okra and eggplant is crunchy in light sauce mixed with bagoong (shrimp paste). I also like stir-fried kangkong (swamp cabbage) and ginataang gabi (taro) or laing, which my late mother’s best friend from Bicol used to cook for us whenever she drops by for a chat. Not everyone can cook laing with the same success as her in my opinion. I won’t even dare try cooking it myself because it is cooked in several stages the first of which is drying the taro leaves under the sun for a few days at least.

Filipino street food is something else also. I have to stop myself from eating too much balut lest I develop high-blood pressure. I don’t like the aborted duck fetus so much when the duck bones and little bits of feathers are already visible although sometimes when it’s dark or when I just close my eyes and not let my imagination go wild, the yuck factor goes away. Balut is very tasty, indeed but I wouldn’t force my overseas friends to eat it. I’d hate for them to throw up a good thing.

Isaw: No germs can survive this grilling!
Isaw: No germs can survive this grilling!
Another street food that can be so addictive once you start munching on it is the isaw. It’s what we Filipinos call barbecued chicken innards. It’s so light and tasty that you end up eating more than the number of kilojoules allowed for the day. I have fond memories of eating isaw in Boracay Island before dinner while watching the sun set in the horizon. It’s just one of those little joys that we Filipinos love to do when we have time.

I can list all the Filipino dishes that I love but it could take me all week and if I enumerate all of them, this article might turn into a book. Besides, listing all of them is not really the point of this article.

Do you want to know why I love Filipino food? If I tell you it’s the best, which I won’t because I don’t think it is, you’ll probably think I am just being biased. I love Filipino food because I am Filipino. For me it is good because I got used to eating it from the moment I became capable of chewing solid foods when I was a toddler. Had my parents introduced me to eating monkey brain the way they serve it in China and Indonesia — raw and occasionally directly out of the dead monkey’s skull — perhaps I would crave it too. But because I didn’t grow up eating monkey brain, I find the thought of eating the “delicacy” appalling and gross.

Yes, I am well aware of the fact that some Filipino dishes are too salty, sweet, loaded with fat and overall unhealthy if taken in large quantities, which is why I do not eat too much of it. Lechon, anyone? I realize the danger of indulging too much in some Filipino dishes because I know a lot of people who developed kidney stones from eating too much salty Filipino food, particularly those flavored with alamang or shrimp paste. I also know someone who is a little bit on the plus size because she dips just about everything she eats in sugar carelessly.

Most Filipinos who go abroad would find other foreign dishes too bland and flavorless. I know some kababayans or Filipino travelers who think the famous British food Fish and Chips is unappetizing and depressing. Personally, I would only eat it when there’s nothing else to eat. I haven’t tried African food yet but I doubt it would appeal to me, something I decided after just watching them prepare it on one of those documentary shows on television.

Because the world is getting smaller and smaller, people from around the world are getting exposed to different kinds of food from overseas. Aside from Filipino food, I love eating Thai, Malaysian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican, Swedish, Greek and Italian food. I can live without Indian food because I think it’s too spicy, oily and fattening.

Animal rights activists might find the sight of lechon offensive.
Animal rights activists might find the sight of lechon offensive.
This brings me to my point. Each society is different. People from different societies have different tastes. We all have been exposed to different ways of cooking our meals. I was told that some people from other societies do not like being reminded of where their food came from, which is why they fillet their fish instead of serving the whole thing, head and all, on the table. Furthermore, some societies prepare and flavor their meals depending on the available ingredients in their homeland. Historically, some societies have even gone to great lengths to put some precious spice for their meals by conquering other lands. Meanwhile, some societies make do with what little they have like salt for instance to preserve their catch of the day.

We cannot force people to love our food because they have been exposed to a different kind of food preparation regimen and their idea of what is edible and unhealthy is not the same as ours. In other words, people from different cultures have different standards. This applies to pretty much anything — including food.

The fact that Filipino restaurants overseas are not that popular with other cultures says a lot about our need to improve on it. We should also not feel offended, for example, when people criticize our food like how the young couple from Poland did when they blogged about their awful experience eating Filipino food while they were in the Philippines. We should see it as an opportunity to address where we get it wrong.

Eating out in the Philippines is an adventure!
Eating out in the Philippines is an adventure!
Some Filipinos who were angered by Agness Walewinder’s claim that “she would rather go hungry than eat Filipino food again” appeared too defensive. They seem incapable of putting themselves in other peoples’ shoes. In the first place, the bloggers from Poland wrote valid reasons why they got turned off with Filipino food. I personally would not eat the stuff they ate. The picture of the adobo in the article didn’t look like it was cooked the same way I like it cooked. I wouldn’t like that adobo as well. The roasted poultry looked a bit grotesque piled up on top of the stand. I wouldn’t eat them even if someone paid me either.

Most Filipinos who got upset by the honest assessment of the couple from Poland missed their point. In the Filipino people’s defense some said that the couple should not have stuck with buying their meals from cheap local stalls that cater to poor Filipinos. But I think that the couples’ point was, in a lot of societies, the quality of food being served to the poor folk is not so different to that served to those in the middle and upper classes. In some countries for example, when a poor guy orders a steak, he will get a steak in the same quality as when a middle-income earner orders a steak. In a true egalitarian society, a steak is a steak. Meaning, food is not prepared according to your social standing.

Basically, these Polish bloggers highlighted the country’s gaping social divide.

Coming from a more advanced society, it was hard for the Polish couple to comprehend that poor Filipinos have their own standards in food preparation. Evidently, hygiene is not a priority when it comes to handling food. Unfortunately, because there are so many poor people from the Philippines, most foreigners visiting the Philippines will more than likely encounter street food that will not be enticing to them.

My advice to the two Polish travelers and other foreigners travelling the Philippines is to expect that the quality of food to be a lot different when the meals are prepared using a higher standard. And my advice to my fellow Filipinos is to take criticisms from foreigners with a grain of salt.

[Photo of isaw, lechon, and karinderya courtesy LifeOutofOffice.com, Dude4Food, and TropicalVacationSpotsblog.com respectively.]


Post Author: Ilda

In life, things are not always what they seem.

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78 Comments on "Why some foreigners would rather go hungry than eat Filipino food"

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Ang pagkain pinoy, pagkain ng alipin. Yung mga itim sa Amerika, halos pareho ang pagkain nila sa atin. At ang pinag-iba lamang natin sa kanila ay tanggap nila na dito sila lumaki sampul ng inalipin sila ng mga puti. Yung mga matataba na parte ng baboy, bituka, tenga, ulo. Ito ang mga nilalaga nila. Kaya naman nagtatabaan sila. Tayo naman, tumataas ang ating cholesterol at kina-mamatay ng marami sa atin. Pareho lang tayo inalipin ng mga puti. Pareho lang tayo umasa sa mga tira at tapon nila. Dapat talikuran natin ang mga pagkain na ito at tularan ang mga lahi… Read more »
Pinoys really believe the world should be seen through the eyes of Pinoys. Which is a paradox because they depend so much on outside perception even if it’s an unknown commodity like Isreali X Factor. If that show picks some Pinay caregiver then suddenly that show is so important . Whatever happened to liking what you like. ? If Pinoys are truly the best then all you need is Pinoy shows and what they glorify . No need for anything international. But if the internal culture is so weak that the government has to embargo your free choice like the… Read more »

Balut – I know some fellow Filipinos who would stay away from it. Unpatriotic? Nah, that’s stupid. But me, I eat it whether the chick is small or mature. I got accustomed to it.


“Bekoz penoy pud es da bes, so no wan has da rayt to kritisayz et!” – Says butthurts everywhere… XD

Hyden Toro
“You are, what you eat…”, they usually say. If you are open minded enough, to understand the history of the dish/menu/food offered to you in foreign countries. You would never be prejudicial on them. Filipino foods are too much fat; too much in cholesterol; too much in salts; too much in sugar. This is the reason , we have widespread: high blood pressures; diabetes; etc… Please adorn your food dishes, before offering them to foreign guest…it is not only the tastes, that they are looking. It is Also the PRESENTATION. Perhaps, you can offer an Ice Creame dish, in the… Read more »
I was actually going to mention the British fish and chips example you used, in other posts that have sprung up defending Filipino food this week. I’m British, and it’s a common joke that our food is unappetising, especially compared to neighbouring countries in Europe. Of course, as with any cuisine there are tasty dishes to be found too – but the famous ones are the bland and fattening ones. It’s a stereotype that we know, acknowledge and laugh about, both when talking to foreigners and on our own TV shows. I can’t think of any British people I know… Read more »

“By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, journalism keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.” -Oscar Wilde

ignorance and journalism do not go together. it’s as simple as that. the scaremongering, condescension, and vitriol writing of that person is not worth the effort of any form of justification. consuming a satire of the subject is not the same as having a critical consciousness about the subject. the blogger probably took a page from the National Enquirer’s handbook of journalistic ethics.

Charles Conley

Your conclusion is the best advice. Racist white people do not think anything a non-white person does is good. I am in the USA and an African American who learned by experience that White people food is not prepared to taste good. Or they go to the extreme and add to much sugar and high fructose corn syrup to make their food palatable. The Western diet has caused the people of the world to explode with diabetes. The Filipino natural diet does not contribute to diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases.

Robert Haighton

Dear Ms. Ilda,

I am lost and confused by your latter statements. It seems, they contradict each other.

Especially this statement makes me lost and confused (but also others):
“And my advice to my fellow Filipinos is to take criticisms from foreigners with a grain of salt.”

It would be very easy to translate your above statement into:

“And my advice to my fellow Filipinos is to take criticisms from GRP bloggers with a grain of salt.”

Does that make sense? I dont think so.

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are” – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin I personally avoid most modern “street” food in Manila, not only because I feel it is unhealthy and lacks imagination but because I suspect most vendors don’t practice proper handling, preparation and storage of the food items they sell. Whatever their reasons are, be it a lack of knowledge or a lack of pride in what they do, it feels unsafe to consume. Any food served at any price range should be prepared competently by someone trained and knowledgeable of food protection. Filipino cuisine… Read more »
While I enjoy adobo and Giniling and Apritada, I steer away from many Filipino food favourites. As a Westerner, I find the overall ‘appearance’ unusually unappetizing. Filipino dishes in food courts for example is often grey, dark, greasy, and worrying to look at. Dishes made from pig blood and the use of every part of every creature make attacking a Filipino buffet somewhat of a nail biting experience. Chinese dishes, and Thai food by comparison, is bright, fresh and crisp looking. Vibrant colors, aromas, fresh peeled cucumber, carrot, spring onion accents to the side of bright delicious looking stir fry… Read more »
JT Jerzy
Well, the adobo I can live without. Soy sauce just grosses me out, what can I say? The pig on a spiker is eaten the world over and is usually excellent. Try it you might like it? Depends, on what you and ur tastebuds are used to. But try telling me that Durian is anything but fucking gross and I’ll tell you what……….YOU CAN HAVE MINE! To Me the quality of the food I eat counts, BIG TIME. The quality standards in the fils are just low as low gets, thusly I just don’t care for the food. and Filipino’s… Read more »
Jerry Lynch
Some things I like and things I don’t like about Filipino cooking. Lots of Filipino food is very tasty if cooked and prepared properly. Both chicken and pork adobo can be very good. Under no circumstances do I ever eat pork out in restos or from street stalls because the cooks leave too much fat, connective tissue and other detritus in the meat before cooking it. When I use pork I make sure none of that stuff is present on the meat. If I feel the fat is necessary for the taste then it gets cut off in big chunks… Read more »

“I would rather go hungry than eat Filipino food again”.

Then, go hungry hehehe.


I smell satire here. :p


What I can’t figure out is, why don’t Philippino’s eat taco’s? Living out in the municipality I have had tacos that have sugar in them or made with bannana ketchup sauce, man I get tired of sweets or those Swarma burito’s…horrible and where’s the salsa and corn chips…answer: Philippines does not sell corn flour, it’s owned by the Chinese and they don’t do corn flour, so not corn bread and no taco shells it’s all imported or sold at a price most business couldn’t afford.


Ilda im curious. You said you like greek food. Where did you try this greek food? In greece or elsewhere?


[…] lot has already been said recently about Filipino food and how the world reacts to it, so I won’t be covering much of that issue here. What matters I suppose is that, in spite of […]


Filipino food can be very salty and some dishes filled with sugar. I’ve been living here for 2 years and desperately miss my families Puerto Rican dishes. This is the order I would rate food by country, and yes i’m biased….

1. Puerto Rican
2. Thai
3. Japanese
4. Korean
5. American (steak and potatoes)
6. French
7. Italian
8. Mexican
9. Cuban
10. Filipino (just the bbq dishes, inihaw)