Popular Filipino Dishes in Canada | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Popular Filipino Dishes in Canada

Philippine cuisine is gaining popularity in Canada due to the growing size of Philippine communities in the country. Philippine cookery has been adapted to suit the Canadian palate and is enjoyed by people of diverse backgrounds. Its dishes are distinct, as they draw culinary influences from Spanish, Mexican, Chinese, Indian and other Southeast Asian traditions mixed with Indigenous food practices in the Philippines. Philippine dishes are often named after their cooking techniques, with their flavour profiles defined by sourness, saltiness and sweetness.



Adobo is one of the most widely recognised Philippine dishes. Adobo refers to the cooking method of braising meat that predates its Spanish name. The dish can be made with chicken, pork, beef or even squid. Sometimes, the recipe is prepared with potato and egg. Its versatility comes from the use of pantry basics, like vinegar, garlic and black peppercorn. Some versions use soy sauce while other variations add turmeric, coconut milk, annatto oil or squid ink. The long braising process helps make sure that the dish can last a long time without refrigeration. Moreover, the use of vinegar is used to preserve food in a tropical country like the Philippines, where the warm climate increases the risk of food spoilage. Adobo is served either with the cooking liquid or with the sauce reduced until it’s almost a glaze.


Halo is the Philippine word for “mix,” so the name of this much-loved dessert literally translates as “mix-mix.” This shaved-ice delicacy is made of an assortment of layered ingredients that may include red beans, plantains, jackfruit, sweet potatoes, sugar palm fruit, coconut gel and strips, sago, rice flakes, crème caramel, ube (purple yam) jam and evaporated milk. Refreshing and sweet, it is considered a summer treat. There are halo-halo-inspired festivals organized in Toronto and Vancouver.


Kare-kare is a stew of thick, savoury peanut sauce. The original recipe calls for oxtail; however, other kinds of meat can be used instead. A combination of vegetables such as eggplant, string beans, bok choy, okra, squash and banana blossoms absorb the nutty, sweet profile of the roux that is thickened by adding lightly toasted ground rice. Its yellowish-orange colour resembles curry, thus kare-kare roughly translates to “like curry.” In Canada, the sauce is most commonly made from instant kare-kare mix, which is available in powder packets. The dish is often eaten with bagoong, a condiment made from fermented fish or shrimps.


Lechon, a whole-roasted suckling pig, is a centrepiece feature during holidays or any special occasion. Although its name is a Spanish loan word, the method of cooking meat to a crisp on a spit over a bed of charcoal is native to the Philippines. It is known as inasal in the Bisaya language whereas in Tagalog it is generally called inihaw (literally translates to “grill”) or Philippine barbecue. Smaller portions served on skewers are popular among event attendees during street food festivals.

Lechon manok is Philippine-style rotisserie chicken, often served with a sawsawan (dipping sauce). Lechon sauce is made of processed pork liver and spices. Other options include vinegar with onions, or soy sauce with juice squeezed from calamansi. Grilled food is also eaten kamayan-style, a communal dining experience where food is usually served on banana leaves for diners to eat with their hand.


Lumpia is a savoury meat-and-vegetable roll of Chinese origin. It is similar to a variety of spring rolls found in Southeast Asia. The recipes, in both fried and fresh versions, were brought by immigrants from Fujian province, in China. Unlike other spring roll wrappers, the traditional Philippine version is longer and thinner; the wrapper is often made of flour, water and salt ― it is thin for wrapping paper. In Canada, frozen packages of lumpia are sold in grocery stores as Philippine-style egg rolls.

A sweet version of the Philippine lumpia is turón. In its most basic form, turón na saging, it is made of sliced banana or plantain dipped in brown sugar, rolled in a thin crepe-like wrapper, and deep-fried. However, there are numerous other turón fillings, including jackfruit, coconut, ube and cheese.


Influenced by Chinese cuisine, Philippine noodle dishes are generally called pancit. Types of pancit range from dry to saucy varieties. Pancit canton, for example, is stir-fried egg noodles with vegetables and meat flavoured with soy sauce. Palabok, on the other hand, consists of thin noodles and an orange sauce traditionally made from annatto as well as a mix of pork broth and shrimp stock. The toppings vary from ground meat, parboiled shrimp, chicharon (pork rinds), dried fish, hard-boiled eggs, etc. Pancit is especially made for New Year's to help symbolize long life, or for other special occasions. They also make for a great dish all year round. Fast-food chain Jollibee offers pancit palabok on their menu as "fiesta noodles."


Pandesal (also spelled pan de sal) is a Philippine bakery mainstay. Unlike its Spanish-derived name, which translates to “bread of salt,” it has a slightly sweet taste. The dough is usually made with yeast, flour, sugar, oil and salt. The loaf is shaped into long logs before being sliced. The pillow-like rolls are then coated in fine bread crumbs and baked until golden brown, adding a crisp texture outside while keeping their soft, doughy structure.

Pandesal is a breakfast staple with humble beginnings that can be eaten on its own, stuffed with a filling or incorporated with different flavours such as ube.


Silog refers to an assortment of made-to-order fried rice dishes. It is shorthand for sinangag (garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg). The dish’s name changes depending on whichever meat it’s paired with. Tapsilog, for example, features tapa (marinated beef) with silog. Longsilog is made with longganisa (Philippine sausage), tosilog with tocino (sweet cured pork), spamsilog (with canned cooked pork) and so on. Bangsilog is made with bangus (milkfish). As rice is a staple food in Southeast Asia, there are similarly popular Malay and Indonesian fried rice dishes.


Sinigang is “the dish most representative of Filipino taste” according to author and food critic Doreen Fernandez. Sinigang is a soup coupled with the sour taste of a fruit or leaf. It is traditionally made by simmering pork, beef, shrimp or fish in a broth soured with acidic fruits, usually tamarind. Other variations of the dish depend on the locally available sour ingredient. A variety of vegetables can be included, but onions and tomatoes are traditionally used. These give the sourness favoured by the people of the Philippines, as it is believed that sourness whets the appetite. Sinigang is usually served as a viand, or main dish, with rice.

Did you know?
In Philippine English, viand refers to a meat, seafood or vegetable dish that goes with rice in a typical Philippine meal.


Sisig is a meat salad consisting of pork ears, snout, cheeks and other parts of the pig that are normally discarded. The process includes finely chopping the boiled pork meat. Then, the mixture is marinated in a spicy-tart dressing of vinegar, calamansi (citrus) juice, chopped onions and chilis. The recipe traces its origin to the province of Pampanga during the American occupation of the Philippines. It is typically served on a hot cast iron plate. Sometimes, mayonnaise is mixed in for extra creaminess or the sisig is topped with a fried-runny egg. Specialty stores have recreated sisig as toppings on poutine and on pizza or as a burger.