Cebu City is considered the “Second City” of the Philippines after Manila. With rich history comes with famous food and delicacies with various Visayan and strong Spanish influence. In this post, I collated some of the famous delicacies we’ve tried in this city, together with specialties of neighboring cities and municipalities. With this post, you may have an idea where to eat and what goods to bring back.
In most regions of the Philippines, lechón (also spelled litson or lichon) is prepared throughout the year for special occasions, festivals, and the holidays. Although it acquired the Spanish name, Philippine lechón has pre-Hispanic origins as pigs are one of the native domesticated animals of all Austronesian cultures and were carried throughout the Austronesian Expansion all the way to Polynesia. There are two major types of preparing lechon the Philippines, the “Manila lechon” (or “Luzon lechon”), and the “Cebu lechon” (or “Visayas lechon”). Cebu lechon like sample above is known for being savory, even without the need of dipping sauces.
Daing, Tuyô, or Bilad (literally “sun-dried” or “sun-baked”) refers to dried fish from the Philippines. Virtually any fish can be prepared as daing. The species of fish used is usually identified by name when sold in markets. For example, in Cebu, the local specialty which uses rabbitfish (Siganus spp., locally known as danggit), is called buwad danggit.
Otap (sometimes spelled utap) is an oval-shaped puff pastry cookie from the Philippines, especially common in Cebu where it originated. It usually consists of a combination of flour, shortening, coconut, and sugar. It is similar to the French palmier cookies, but compared to the French cookies, are not so much heart-shaped and more tightly layered and thinner, making it crispier. In order to achieve the texture of the pastry, it must undergo an eleven-stage baking process.
Ginanggang, guinanggang, or ginang-gang is a snack food of grilled skewered bananas brushed with margarine and sprinkled with sugar. It originates from the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. It literally means “grilled” in Cebuano.
Ginanggang is made from a type of banana in the Philippines called saba (a cooking banana also known as the Cardaba banana). The banana is peeled, skewered and then grilled over charcoals. When the outer surface is lightly charred, it is then taken off the grill, brushed with margarine, and sprinkled with sugar. It differs from banana cue in that riper saba bananas are preferred; the banana is actually grilled on the stick; and the sugar used is white table sugar and is not caramelized (being applied after cooking). These sweet treats are found usually in parks and outside tourist spots by street peddlers.
Visayan lechon is prepared stuffed with herbs which usually include scallions, bay leaves, black peppercorn, garlic, salt, and distinctively tanglad (lemongrass) and/or leaves from native Citrus trees or tamarind trees, among other spices. A variant among Hiligaynon people also stuffs the pig with the sour fruits of batuan or binukaw (Garcinia binucao). It is usually cooked over charcoal made from coconut husks. Since it is already flavored with spices, it is served with minimal dipping sauces, like salt and vinegar or silimansi (soy sauce, calamansi, and labuyo chili). In Carcar, they use pasotes leaves. The lechon was so tasty that even we put it in freezer and thaw it the next day, it is still savory and delicious!
Ampaw, usually anglicized as pop rice or puffed rice, is a Filipino sweet puffed rice cake. It is traditionally made with sun-dried leftover cooked white rice that is fried and coated with syrup. This sweet and crunchy treat is made of dried cooked rice and peanuts mixed together with sugary syrup and poured into a mold to form its distinctive rectangular shape. The cooked rice is normally laid out under the sun to dry it up. The process makes the cooked rice crunchy. After this, peanuts are added to give the treat its unique taste. Syrup made of sugar and kalamansi is added into the mixture before pouring everything into a mold. While the ampao typically has a rectangular shape, the shape of the mold determines how it looks like in the end.
Torta is a popular cake in Argao. Torta is spongy and sweet pastry prepared in a unique way of cooking and special ingredients. It is not fluffy and a bit moist yet almost like a muffin. One of the important ingredients in this recipe is the inclusion of a ‘tuba’, a traditional coconut wine. Argao has its own festival dedicated to this delicacy.
We had lunch at a crowd-favorite restaurant in Cebu City, as recommended by our driver when we had our city tour. AA BBQ is Cebu’s iconic dining place for the best barbeque dishes – grilled pork belly, grilled seafood and delectable char-broiled chicken dishes. They have reasonably-priced food, comfortable ambiance and accommodating staff.
There is a display of marinated seafood and meats in front of the restaurant, where you will specify how you want your food to be prepared. You can have them grilled, fried or stewed. Delectable fresh seafood includes fish, squid, shrimp, and scallops. Vegetables are also cooked in a variety of ways. We had sumptuous lunch of very tasteful dishess indeed!
You wont’t get out of Cebu City without trying their danggit bought from famous Tabo-an Market. Beware of the danggit-smell that will stick to your clothes so it’s best to buy a day before your flight.