By Mel Fernandez

“Through the years, several people have tried to describe what Filipino cuisine is all about,” says Karen Flores of, “and most of them say the dish that best defines our country is adobo, or meat (from pork and chicken to seafood and offal) braised in garlic, vinegar and soy. Each household, town, province and region has a different way of preparing this otherwise simple viand.”

More often than not a foreigner’s first introduction to Filipino cuisine is the taste of adobo – on board Philippine Airlines flights or at hotel cafés when they land in the country. The irresistible fragrance of adobo with its melting pot flavours makes it the Philippines most lauded dish and it may well be helping to make Filipino food popular internationally.

“I loved the dish the first time I tasted it,” say Lynne Rosseto Kasper and Sally Swift in their popular blog: The Splendid Table. “With its simmer sauce of vinegar, garlic and soy sauce, adobo is the hallmark dish of the Philippines.”

If adobo is so palatable to neophytes then it is disappointing to hear that some cafes and restaurants, with predominantly Pinoy clientele, tend to drop the unofficial national dish from their menu.

Guests of Pinoys or Kiwis who have no exposure to Filipino food may enjoy the taste of adobo and be more inclined to try the other offerings on Filipino restaurant menus: pork tocino, chicken inasal, lechon paksiw, longganisa or sisig (but perhaps not dinuguan), with halo halo as a sweet conclusion.

At the Auckland Food Show in 2017 the Philippines stand offered visitors a taste of ‘balut’ and ‘durians’ as a way of introducing Kiwis to Filipino food. This campaign did not go down well – a TV 3 evening news reporter was shown dashing to the public toilet after bravely sampling these offerings.

Fortunately we recouped our losses in 2018. The Tres Marias (a distributor of Philippine products in New Zealand) stand at the Food Show offered visitors a taste of the more popular Filipino dishes – thanks to the Mama Sita (a leading manufacturer of condiments in the Philippines) team who flew in from Manila to fly the flag.

This begs the question – is there any chance that Filipino food may become the next big thing in the food scene in New Zealand? Actually, the signs are pointing to a boom in Filipino food. Filipino cafes and restaurants are opening up all over the country and Filipino food trucks are now featured in most night markets alongside the more established Asian vendors.

Filipinos are obviously delighted with this turn of events, because now they are spoilt for choice and frequent these outlets in droves. As Filipino food is now more accessible Kiwis may be tempted to give it a go. Hopefully in the not too distant future there will be a flavour explosion and Filipino cuisine might become as popular to the locals as other mainstream cuisine.

Please note: The Ensalada Cafe featured in our video has since closed its doors.