Decoding the Filipino Menu: Popular Pinoy Favorites

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Any experienced traveler knows the wisdom of that old adage by heart. If you want to get the most out of your trips, go find the locals and follow their lead. Where do they hang out? Where do they shop? Where do they eat? What do they eat? Speaking of eating, that is the national past time in the Philippines. And if you are new to the country, let me first greet you, “Mabuhay!” (Long life!) before I give you a list of the most loved Pinoy must-eats to authenticate your trip to the country, in ways that your visa stamp can’t. 

(A disclaimer though: this is not a list of the best Pinoy food; we’ll reserve that for another article.)

It’s been said that there are only two countries in the world where McDonald’s is not number one. The Philippines is one of those countries. If only for that feat, any first-timer here must try Jollibee especially what made it number one---and it’s not their burger. It’s Jollibee Chickenjoy.

jollibee fried chicken
Image Source: Jollibee

Sure, you’ve been to so many McDonald’s that you might scoff at having to bother with it but it is only in this country where you can find McDonald’s McSpaghetti. However, if you’re looking for that Italian pasta taste, keep walking. Pinoy spaghettis are almost always sweet and loaded with sliced hotdogs.

mcdonald's spaghetti
Image Source: McDonald's Philippines

Pinoys love gravy so much that if other people eat chicken with gravy, we drink the gravy! In fact so many do this that some KFC outlets have to remind their customers that it is not a soup while others have resorted to chaining the gravy jug to the condiments counter.

kfc philippines gravy
Image Source: KFC Philippines

If you have any Filipino friends abroad waiting for your return, make the wait worth their while by giving them the ultimate pasalubong (gift): Goldilock’s Classic Mamon---the (almost) national sponge cake.

goldilocks mamon
Image Source: Mariel Tan

There was a time when no Pinoy ever had to think of what brand of ice cream to eat as there was only one---Magnolia. It has long suffered in the competition but it still is a classic Filipino brand. Try its ube and other Filipino flavors.
magnolia ube ice cream
Image Source: Magnolia Ice Cream

This is the pride and joy of the Philippines when it comes to the local food and beverage industry. San Miguel Beer has been around for more than 100 years and is still going strong that it will probably be around for another 100 years.

san miguel pale pilsen
Image Source: San Miguel Corporation

Max’s Fried Chicken is the favorite venue for birthdays and graduations which has been serving its “sarap to the bones” (good to the bones) chicken since the 1940s.

max's restaurants
Image Source: Max's Restaurants

rc cola
Image Source: Sarsi / Wikimedia
If you are a soda drinker, ditch Coke and Pepsi during your trip and lap it up with homegrown brands---Sarsi, RC Cola and Royal Tru-Orange. For that really authentic Pinoy experience, sip it from a plastic bag at the sari-sari store (corner store).

Zesto Juice Drink revolutionized the way Pinoys drink as far as ready-to-drink juices are concerned. This despite the difficulty of inserting its straw in its foil packaging. I’ve ruined several straws and just opted to stab it from the bottom.

zesto big 250
Image Source: My High School Life

A lot of chicken barbecue restaurants have come and gone but Aristocrat remains strong and proud of its 75-year history. If you want to visit, I suggest going to their flagship restaurant at Roxas Boulevard.

aristocrat barbecue
Image Source: Aristocrat Restaurant

M&M’s, Hershey’s, and Toblerone have nothing on Chocnut when it comes to popularity. As much as Filipinos go ga-ga over those imported brands, they don’t come close to the nostalgia that Chocnut brings especially to a balikbayan (immigrant) or overseas Filipino worker. Even Tony-award winning actress Lea Salonga longed for it during her Miss Saigon days in London.

Image Source: 365 Great Pinoy Stuff

Jack N Jill Snacks and Clover Chips are a staple of Pinoy childhood for most urban Pinoys 45 years and under. KFC even has a tie-up with Clover chips for its chicken.  Dunk it with their gravy, then you double your Pinoy experience!

Image Source: Universal Robina Corporation

Betcha when you’re done eating and drinking all this Pinoy comfort food, you’ll find yourself pointing with your lips….

-The Paranoid Traveler


  1. This news looks OK kahit hindi related sa Philippine aviation news.

    1. We publish aviation and travel news. Airplanes carry tourists so we publish content that is of benefit to the travelling public, not just aviation industry enthusiasts. Thanks for your support!

  2. Really, they are a must? Chickenjoy, yes, but most of the items in the list are not. If I were the tourist, I wouldn't be thrilled.

  3. Zesto? Chippy? LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL!

  4. Bakit wala ang Moby, Snacku, Iced gem, Dirty Ice cream??? :-)

  5. As a foreigner living in the Philippines find this list embarrassing if not shameful. No wonder obesity and tooth decay is rampant in the countries. The Philippines has significantly better things to offer to tourists as far as food goes....

  6. I am glad you take pride in what you write. This makes you stand way out from many other writers that push poorly written content. nex food singapore


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