The ultimate food experience in Cebu is more than the food itself; it involves the way it is cooked, the fanfare and the actual serving of the meal that elevates the event and make it authentic.
Cebu is a first-class and highly urbanized city located in the Central Visayas Region, which is less than two hours from Manila via air travel. It is a haven for food lovers due to a wide variety of dishes featuring native delicacies mixed with Spanish and Chinese influences.
What I love the most about Cebu is the fact that great food does not have to be expensive. There are high-class restaurants and food strips that cater to all walks of life. Here are seven food experiences in Cebu that you shouldn’t miss when you visit the Philippines’ Queen City of the South:
Ask anyone about Cebu, most of them will mention lechon or a whole pig stuffed with lemongrass, garlic, onions, and black pepper and roasted to golden brown to almost reddish perfection making the skin so crispy and the meat moist and delicious. It is also a dish that is becoming more popular outside Philippine shores.
What sets Lechon Cebu apart from other lechon in the country is that it does not need any dipping sauce. Filipinos love their dipping sauces and everyone has their own concoction like soy sauce and vinegar or lechon sauce. Lechon can be found all over Cebu from long-standing restaurants to stalls in markets.
Cebuanos love to grill everything. Pork, fish, and chicken – you name it, Cebuanos can grill it. Each restaurant usually has its own blend of sauces and style of cooking. Best enjoyed by the beach to which Cebu is blessed with. This is a perfect dish for island hopping in Cebu. Make sure to visit Malapascua, Bantayan, Sumilon, Camotes, and Olango islands that boast tranquil beaches and tropical paradise.
Thanks to its surrounding waters, seafood is bountiful in the province. Head to Orchid Street, and you will find grilled scallops topped with cheese and crispy, fried garlic for only PHP 15 (USD 0.30)!
Hot soup in the morning
Start the day of sightseeing in the city with a piping hot soup in the morning. Larang is a sour and spicy fish soup that warms the tummy. The most popular version of this dish is the Nilarang na Bakasi using Bakasi or reef eels. Reef eels are believed to be an aphrodisiac and Entoy’s Bakasihan in Cebu was featured in Netflix’s program –Street Food.
Another hot soup best enjoyed in the cold mornings is Balbacua, which is a beef stew made from beef parts like oxtail, feet, skin and joints. Its name is derived from the Spanish word “barbacoa” which means cooking meat very slowly on an open fire for several hours. Therefore, It is a hearty soup with meat so tender, it melts in your mouth.
Locally called puso, the Filipino term for the heart because it is shaped like one, is cooked rice wrapped by coconut leaves. These are often hanged in bundles and sellers and customers simply pick one when they order. No need to measure with a cup.
This is a practical and sustainable way to serve rice in Cebu. Being an Asian country, rice is paired with everything likeTuslob buwa, which is like a combination of pate and fondue. It is a bubbling mix of garlic, onions, pig’s brain, and liver.
Pungko-pungko is a street food stall that can be found in every street corner in Cebu. Pungko means “to squat” and is characterised with low-seating little benches that customers use making it a memorable food experience in Cebu.
The star of this stall is ngohiong or a spring roll using a five-spice powder seasoning which typically includes cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, star anise, and Sichuan pepper. However, not every ngohiong is one and the same. Each place has its own unique mix of ngohiong, so don’t expect them all to be the same. Ngohiong is usually served with ginabot (deep-fried pork intestines), squid balls, tempura, chorizo, and many more. It is a cheap treat and some people eat them as viand, eating them with rice.
Chocolate, chocolate, chocolate
For those with a sweet tooth, nothing beats chocolate! Thanks to the massive influence of the Spanish in Cebu, which is the latter’s first settlement in the Philippines, chocolate arrived in the country. A popular breakfast in the region, Puto Maya is made from glutinous rice mixed with ginger and coconut. This is usually paired with tablea, concentrated cacao with added sugar and the famous Cebu mango.
With the blend of sweet and savoury, every bite promises a mixture of all things good. Champorado or chocolate porridge is another must-try.
Food as souvenirs
Bring home a bit of the rich food culture and food experiences in Cebu with you by taking home some of the delicacies that are uniquely Cebuano. Dried mangoes, chicharon (deep-fried pork skin), rosquillos (flower-shaped cookie made from flour, eggs, shortening, sugar, and baking powder), otap (oval-shaped puff pastry cookie from the Philippines usually consists of a combination of flour, shortening, coconut, and sugar), and danggit (sundried rabbitfish) are some of the popular items that people take home from their Cebu trip.
Travelling to Cebu is easier than expected. Philippine Airlines and Air Asia fly from Manila and other major airports in the country. Cebu Pacific flies from major airports in the Philippines and from HK, Singapore, Korea and Japan. There are international flights flying to Mactan International Airport such as Silk Air from Singapore to Cebu; Cathay Pacific from HK to Cebu; Asiana Airlines and Korean Air from Korea; Emirates Airline flies daily from Dubai; and Eva Air from Taiwan.
Cebu is also a major port in the country. It serves as a connectivity hub for ships sailing to Luzon and Mindanao. Moreover, Cebu serves as the central nervous system for the maritime activity in the Visayas. Cebu City ferry port is served by a number of ferry routes with crossings to Cagayan De Oro, Iligan City, Manila, Nasipit (Butuan City) & Ozamiz City.
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