We all know the Philippines is home to world-famous flavors such as the Adobo, Sisig, and the Jollibee Chickenjoy, but did you know that the country has dishes that prove to be more than meets the eye – or rather, the tongue – when it comes to food? In this article, we’ll be going on a culinary journey, exploring 10 underrated dishes found on the island of Mindanao!
Hailing from the Tausug tribe of the island, this dish at first glance, seems to look like a burnt piece of chicken. Worry not though, its appearance is due to one of its key ingredients: palapa itum. Crucial to palapa itum is burnt (not grilled, toasted, or singed) coconut meat! The burnt meat is extracted from the shell as a substance nearly akin to a powder, providing the dish with almost a nutty flavor due to the spicy palapa itum paste. One of Mindanao’s absolute must-tries!
Another notable dish that extensively uses burnt coconut as one of its key ingredients is Tiyula Itum. It’s a sort of dinuguan-esque dish that doesn’t use any blood at all but rather burnt coconut to provide the deep flavor profile that the dish is well known for. Additionally, with the dish being treated culturally the same way the Luzon and the Visayas treat exquisites like lechon, you’re definitely going to see it served during special occasions like festivals and Muslim weddings. A true delight that’s unique to its origin.
Yet another culinary delight from the Tausug tribe of Mindanao is Beef Kulma – a beef curry dish cooked in coconut milk and a mix of spices such as curry, paprika, cinnamon, and chives. It’s similar to Kare-kare in that it uses peanut butter to provide the nutty flavor. Considering its cultural significance, you’re likely to see it pop up during important events such as the Ramadan!
The Tausug tribe evidently has their flavor priorities on point, with another famous dish of theirs being considered one of the hidden gems of Mindanao cuisine! Piyassak is a viand made primarily from beef liver and various spices such as onion, ginger, garlic, and black pepper. Coconut elements are also incorporated into the dish, with the meat being burnt and the milk meant to be absorbed into the beef to further deepen its flavor.
Curacha is the name the Chavacano-speaking people of Zamboanga have bestowed on the spanner crab that seems to be a cross between a lobster and a large sea crab. The dish’s name is also derived from this, with its preparation being a simple one! It’s steamed over some heat, with a special sauce called Alavar, a blend of coconut meat, crab roe, and other spices, being added to it to enhance its flavor.
Also known locally as pater, patir, patel, or patil, Pastil is a dish that’s composed of two key elements: the combination of jasmine and glutinous rice mixed into one, and seasoned chicken that’s either sauteed or grilled. Both of these ingredients are then wrapped together in bamboo leaves almost similar to a Japanese onigiri. It’s traditionally served with a vegetable pickle, with greens such as mung bean or tomatoes to counteract the savoriness of the meat.
Stemming from the act of tapping or ‘tagtag,’ Tinagtag is a confectionary that is made from rice, sugar, and water and is especially famous among the Maguindanaoan people. They say that it’s best enjoyed with coffee and coconut milk!
Sayongsong is a Surigainon soft ube treat that’s packed into cones using banana leaves and is a local favorite! It’s made with a mixture of regular and purple rice, peanuts, coconut milk, and sugar. A delectable local treat that serves as a source of pride for its people.
Also called pipaparan and piarun, Piaparan is Maranaoan dish that incorporates both red meat and seafood in a coconut milk broth with spices like onions, garlic, and chillies added onto it. It also has shredded coconut meat that’s colloquially known as ‘piaparan’ as one of its main ingredients, and is also the dish’s namesake! A hearty dish boasting a spicy but pleasant taste, piaparan is sure to fill your stomach.
A unique twist to the famous barbecue dish, Satti is a favorite amongst its Zamboanga locals! Often seen as one of the dishes that emerged from the harmony between Christian and Muslim people, Satti is a chicken or beef barbecue dish that’s served with sweet, spicy gravy.
With Mindanao’s intricately woven symphony of culture and history, it’s no surprise that it has tons of diversity in terms of food and flavor to offer to the table. Visit Mindanao and experience it’s rich culture through the bites you take!