Top 10 Must-Try Filipino Dishes

Ever heard of the saying, ‘The way to someone’s heart is through their stomach‘?


Well, if you’ve ever hung out with the Filipino community in Qatar, you’ll know that this is more than just a saying—it’s a way of life! What can I cook for you? This is how the Filipino people express their love for one another.


In Qatar, our Filipino friends have brought a piece of their homeland that’s downright incredible—their cuisine. Trust us, it’s a flavorful rollercoaster you won’t want to miss. So, grab your forks and prepare your taste buds because we’re about to hop on a delicious adventure, exploring the top 10 must-try Filipino dishes in Qatar.


Get ready for a mouthwatering voyage through the intense and assertive flavors of the Philippines, served with a side of love and community spirit. Let’s dig right in!

History of Filipino Cuisine

Philippine food was prepared by Malay settlers, spiced by the Chinese, stewed by the Spanish, and hamburgerized by Americans; this is how the history of Filipino cuisine went down, according to a local saying.


Considering that the Philippines is a sprawling archipelago of over 7,500 islands, you can bet that Filipino cuisine isn’t a one-size-fits-all mouth. It’s an edible mosaic of local, regional, and ethnic traditions, each with its own special twist.


The culinary journey spans thousands of years and has many cultural influences. Back in 3200 BC, the Malayo-Polynesians set foot in the Philippines, bringing with them rice, farming, and nifty cooking techniques like steaming, boiling, and open-flame roasting.


Filipino cuisine is far from a one-note wonder. It’s a fusion of Asian flair with a dash of Spanish and American zest. Mexican ingredients like corn, tomatoes, and chili add their own sizzle to the mix. And while it might not set your mouth ablaze like some of its Southeast Asian cousins, Filipino food knows how to play with your tasting senses.


Instead of going heavy on the spice rack, it leans on aromatic ingredients like garlic, onions, and ginger to work its magic. Plus, there’s a little secret: the slow and meticulous preparation and cooking methods that bring out those mouthwatering, natural flavors. No spice overload here!

Suggested Reading: Top 7 Tips on How to Choose a Filipino Restaurant in Doha

The Filipino Community in Qatar

In 2020, there were over 236,000 Filipinos who made Qatar their home away from home. That’s right, one of the largest expatriate communities in the country. Why does this matter? Well, because wherever Filipinos go, they bring a taste of the Philippines with them, and Qatar is no exception.

Balikbayan Boxes

To keep their connection with their roots alive, many Filipino expats in Qatar are sent “balikbayan boxes” packed with all things Filipino. We’re talking about essential ingredients to whip up their beloved dishes. It’s like sending a piece of home across the seas, making sure those traditional flavors stay as authentic and accessible as ever.

Influence of Filipino Culture

It’s not just about the ingredients; it’s about the influence of Filipino culture that’s piping hot in the food scene of Qatar. Filipino restaurants and eateries have become hosts that connect Qataris, expats and everyone from around the world to the taste of Filipino flavors.

Taste of the Philippines Festival

Here’s the icing on the cake (or, should we say, the sauce on the adobo?): The Qatar government decided to celebrate this beautiful culinary fusion. In 2022, they rolled out the “Taste of the Philippines” festival, and it was a huge hit!

There were over 100 Filipino restaurants and food stalls that came together to showcase their mouthwatering creations. More than 100,000 visitors flocked to this two-week extravaganza held at the Katara Cultural Village in Doha. It wasn’t just about the food; the event itself was a cultural explosion, complete with performances, workshops, and a big, warm welcome to anyone interested in understanding the heart and soul of Filipino culture through its food.

Here is a list of 10 must-try Filipino dishes in Qatar

  • Adobo
  • Sinigang
  • Halo-Halo
  • Sisig
  • Kare-Kare
  • Lechon
  • Bicol Express
  • Pancit
  • Puto
  • Taho

#1. Adobo

Let’s kick off with the Filipino classic, Adobo. You know, it’s often hailed as the unofficial national dish of the Philippines, and trust us, it’s a flavor-packed arrangement you won’t want to miss.


Now, the name “Adobo” might have Spanish origins, stemming from the word “adobar,” which means “marinade” or “pickling sauce”. History buffs will tell you that it was first recorded way back in 1613 by a fellow named Pedro de San Buenaventura. But here’s the thing: while it shares a name with its Spanish and Mexican counterparts, the Filipino Adobo takes a vinegar-forward approach, infusing that tangy goodness into the meat while slow-cooking it to mouthwatering perfection.


In adobo, tender chunks of chicken or pork are lounging in a marinade of soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, bay leaves, and a sprinkle of black peppercorns. They simmer away, soaking up all those savory flavors until they’re practically begging to be devoured. It’s the kind of dish that wraps you up in a warm, comforting embrace—a true Filipino comfort food classic!

#2. Sinigang

Second on the list is Sinigang. This dish has a name that’s as descriptive as it gets; “sinigang” essentially means “stewed,” and it is indeed a delicious stew!


Even though it’s often labeled as a soup because of its light and flavorful broth, Sinigang is no light snack; it’s a hearty meal. Proteins and veggies are all happily settled in a tangy, sour broth. But here’s the kicker: the sourness doesn’t come from vinegar, as most expect; it’s all about the tamarind. This tropical fruit lends its strong sour kick to the broth, making every spoonful tantalizing on the taste buds.


The sour and spicy elements will give a lightness to your taste palette, a nice relief in the midst of Southeast Asia’s hot and humid climate. Whether it’s a family gathering or just a cozy dinner for one, Sinigang is here to serve up a meal of flavors that will keep you coming back for more.

Suggested reading : 15 Delicious Filipino Veggie Recipes You Must Try!

#3. Halo-Halo

Next up, we have Halo Halo. They say you can taste a country’s soul in its dishes, and this dish is no exception. This frosty delight has a history as cool as its ingredients.


Back when the Philippines was shaking off Spanish rule and welcoming American influence in the early 1900s, the Americans built the Insular Ice Plant in Manila, introducing ice and frozen storage to the country. Meanwhile, Japanese immigrants were whipping up their version of shaved ice treats, known as “kakigori,” topping them with local sweetened beans called “monggo,” sugar, and milk.


Fast forward a bit, and this Japanese kakigori made itself at home in the Philippines, adapting along the way. It blended the sweetness of Japanese beans, the creamy goodness of Spanish (or Mexican, if we’re being precise) leche flan, and the chill of American ice. Local fruits and flavors added their own Filipino addition, and voilà—halo-halo, or exactly what it translates to, “mix-mix.”


So, when you’re craving a Filipino dessert, don’t forget to order Halo Halo—it will satisfy your sweet tooth and your cultural curiosity in one spoonful!

#4. Sisig

Fourth on our compiled list is Sisig, a dish that’s not just delicious but also comes with a story to indulge you and your appetite.


Sisig’s roots go way back—we’re talking about the year 1732! It was initially concocted as a remedy for hangovers and nausea. The name “Sisig” itself comes from an old Tagalog word, “sisigan,” which means “to make it sour. Back then, it was like an acidic green salad, believed to calm queasy stomachs. But over time, Sisig’s journey took a twist. During the American Occupation, a culinary legend named Lucia Cunanan, aka “Aling Lucing,” transformed the regional dish into the part of Filipino cuisine people eat and love today. She grilled, chopped, and fried it up, adding pig brains and chicken livers to the mix. The result? A sensational blend of crispy pork, creamy brains, and a hint of spice


While digging into a plate of Sisig, you’re not just savoring deliciousness; you’re biting into a piece of Filipino food history. It’s a crunchy, flavor-packed adventure that’s uniquely Filipino and an absolute must-try.

#5. Kare-Kare

Let’s get into the tale of Kare-Kare now. It isn’t just one story to tell; it will be a debate! According to the Kapampangans, Kare-Kare was derived from a dish called Kari, originally created by the Moro people in southern Mindanao. Some claim that it was invented by the Kapampangans in central Luzon. Kari back then, though, looked more like Thai fish curry. It didn’t become the creamy Kare-Kare we know today until the Kapampangans performed their culinary magic.


Many others attribute their knowledge of kari to the nearby Tagalog people, saying they got it from the Kapampangans, who sold it on the side of the road. Kari, though, was too difficult to create for just anyone. Therefore, the Tagalogs gave it their own spin and came up with what the Kapampangans called Kare-Kare.”


Whether it was Kapampangans or Tagalogs who made the first batch, one thing’s for sure: Kare-Kare is a timeless treasure in Filipino cuisine. It’s a creamy peanut stew, traditionally featuring oxtail, tripe, and sorted vegetables, all luxuriating in a rich peanut sauce. Served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) and a heap of rice, it’s a dish that embodies the Filipino love for bold and unforgettable flavors.

#6. Lechon

The dish we will be detailing about is Lechon in the section. You see, the name “lechon” comes from the Spanish word for “pig,” hinting at its colonial origins in the 16th century, when the Spanish came to the Philippines.


Some culinary experts believe that Lechon might have its roots in China, where roast pig has been stealing the limelight for ages. Chinese trade missions waltzed into the Philippines as early as the 13th century, and who knows, they might have brought along this porcine masterpiece. Others say Southeast Asia might have birthed the idea of roasting pigs, adding another layer of intrigue to the debate.


Regardless of its beginnings, one thing’s for sure: Lechon is a Filipino national favorite nowadays. It’s a dish that’s synonymous with celebrations, from weddings and birthdays to lively fiestas. You’ll find it being roasted over an open fire, slowly coming to perfection, and basted with a flavorful mix of herbs and spices. The crispy skin is the highlight, and when it’s ready, the Lechon is carved up and served with rice, side vegetables, and mouth-watering dipping sauces.

#7. Bicol Express

We have a spiced-up dish to serve – Bicol Express, hailing from the picturesque Bicol region of the Philippines. But the story of Bicol Express isn’t just about heat; it’s a tale of culinary crossroads and one woman’s journey to popularize it.


Here’s the scoop: The Bicol Express got its name thanks to a Laguna native who grew up in the Bicol region and later moved to Manila. The name “Bicol Express” is said to have been inspired by the speed at which the dish can be cooked. It can be made in as little as 30 minutes.


But its rise to fame is often attributed to the one and only Cely Kalaw. She’s the culinary genius who brought this spicy delight into the spotlight. Pork or shrimp is simmered to perfection in creamy coconut milk, mixed with shrimp paste, and then comes the pièce de résistance—a generous helping of fiery chili peppers.


It’s a flavor explosion that’s not for the faint of heart but a must-try for anyone seeking a pit stop for some spice.

#8. Pancit

Pancit, a Filipino noodle sensation with a history as rich as its flavors is our eighth Filipino dish on the menu. Noodles first made their way to the Philippines thanks to Chinese traders, much like they did in other corners of the globe. But Pancit’s story takes us back to the 16th century, when Manila became home to the world’s oldest Chinatown, thanks to Chinese immigrants and traders.


Now, the word “Pancit” itself is a giveaway; it simply means “noodles”. And when we say noodles, we mean all kinds—rice noodles, egg noodles, mung bean noodles—you name it! These noodles are tossed in a delightful sauté of meat, seafood, and vegetables, creating a one-plate wonder. The name “Pancit” even has its roots in the Hokkien word “pian i sit,” which roughly translates to “something conveniently cooked fast”. It was all about whipping up a delicious, hearty meal in no time. Today, Pancit is as Filipino as it gets, having found its way into the hearts and homes of people all across the country. It’s a must-have at celebrations, especially birthdays, where long noodles symbolize long life.

#9. Puto

Puto is made from glutinous rice and coconut milk. Now, the name “Puto” has an interesting origin. It’s derived from the Malay and Indian words “puttu,” which means “portioned”.


In the Philippines, making Puto involves a fascinating process. Glutinous rice grains are soaked overnight to get a slight fermentation going, then ground with coconut milk and sugar to form a dough. This dough is then portioned into small mounds and steamed on banana leaves.


The result? Soft, fluffy rice cakes that can be enjoyed as is or topped with a dollop of butter or cheese. Puto is often paired with savory dishes like diniguan (pork blood stew) or pancit (noodles), creating a delicious contrast of flavors.


And guess what? Puto isn’t exclusive to the Philippines. Similar versions pop up in neighboring countries like India, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. It’s like a sweet, starchy symphony that transcends borders, showing how food can travel and evolve through trade and migration.

#10. Taho

Well, let’s conclude the list on a sweet note with Taho, a warm and comforting Filipino morning treat. Now, the name “Taho” has its origins in the Chinese word “douhua,” which refers to soft soybean pudding. The story of Taho goes way back, to the time of the Han Dynasty in China, around 206 to 220 A.D. Legend has it that a cook was attempting to make soy milk but ended up adding some impure salt to the mix. Surprise, surprise—the salt’s high calcium content curdled the soup, giving birth to the soft, silky wonder we now call Taho.

Taho is one of the popular Filipino breakfasts item sold by street vendors in the morning. It consists of soft tofu, arnibal (sweet syrup), and sago pearls.


In China, they mixed it with almond syrup and beans, creating a culinary sensation. Over time, it traveled to the Philippines through the country’s long history of cultural and economic ties with China. However, Filipinos put their own spin on it, swapping almonds for sugar to create a richer, sweeter syrup known as “arnibal.”


As we wrap up this blog post, we sincerely hope we’ve guided you through an exploration of 10 beloved Filipino dishes that are a must-try in Qatar. So, when your travels bring you to Qatar, make sure not to pass up the chance to relish these Filipino culinary treats that have established a popular presence in the Middle East.

Suggested Read: A Must-Visit Filipino Restaurant in Qatar


We want to extend a warm invitation to you to visit Shore Time Pinoy, our Traditional Filipino restaurant in Qatar, where we’re eager to offer you these delectable dishes and a variety of other delightful Filipino culinary creations.

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