What transforms an ordinary party into a colorful Pinoy fiesta? Is it the lumpia, a Filipino version of spring rolls, the chatter of relatives coming together and exchanging anecdotes, or is it the selection of skewered meats at the grill? Whatever the hallmark of a Pinoy fiesta is, there’s no doubt that it brings warmth, family, and celebration to mind.
More than anything, food, and sharing is the love language of Filipinos. To a Filipino, nothing shows care and concern better than a bowl of hot, steaming rice and chicken adobo or a meal shared between friends. In the Filipino language, it is even common to greet newly arrived friends or even strangers with the phrase ‘MANGAON TA’ which literally translates to ‘let’s eat.’
If you want to throw your own authentic Pinoy fiesta, the key ingredients aren’t complicated -invite some pals over, grab some San Miguel beers, and bring out the classic Filipino fiesta recipes.
Here are eleven of the best Pinoy fiesta dishes to get you started:
- Chicken Inasal
It’s a very poorly kept secret that Filipinos love to grill, and just about every Pinoy fiesta has a grill smack dab in the middle of it all. Whether it’s chicken skewers, whole stuffed fish, or pork belly, it’s not a Filipino party without grilled food. But nothing says grilled Filipino food like chicken inasal.
Chicken inasal is a crowd favorite and is second only to the universally loved adobo. There is not a single Filipino who will pass up the chance to chow down on some inasal, and having it on the menu makes for an instant hit at your Pinoy fiesta.
It’s also effortless to prepare -marinate the chicken legs the night before and prepare the basting oil, then grill on the day after. At the end of the day, collect compliments, and enjoy your ice-cold beer.
- Pork Adobo
It’s not a Pinoy fiesta without pork adobo, arguably the most famous Filipino dish globally. While some people say that pork adobo is far from being the healthiest dish around, it’s aromatic, and the flavourful appeal is universal. And let’s be honest, the unhealthiness of it all is part of what makes it so good.
Like all braised meats, this dish tastes even better the day after, so I would highly recommend cooking the night before the party.
- Kinilaw (Raw Marinated Fish)
Kinilaw is probably the least known dish on this list and is also one of the most underrated Filipino dishes of all time. Reminiscent of ahi poke, kinilaw is the Filipino version of ceviche but with lemongrass, fresh ginger, chopped onion, fresh chilli peppers, calamansi juice or lemon juice, and a bit of cane sugar to infuse it with that distinct Asian flavor.
Sisig is one of those dishes that is intimidating to newbies at first but quickly becomes a fast favourite for anyone attending a Pinoy fiesta, whether you’re a Filipino or a foreign guest. There’s no mistaking the sound of chopped pork bits sizzling on a hot plate and the sight of a freshly cracked egg on top to cook right at the table.
As iconic as it gets, sisig is very rich and is not for the faint of heart. It is the quintessential Filipino dish made for sharing between friends, the perfect partner for an ice-cold beer, and the ideal dish for catching up with friends.
- Crispy Pata
Crispy Pata is lechon’s baby brother and is just as welcome at any Pinoy fiesta. Pata directly translates to the leg, and is basically an entire pork leg that is boiled, dried, and deep-fried to perfection. In fact, it’s more common to find crispy pata at Filipino parties since not all gatherings call for an entire spit-roasted pig.
Sublimely crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, crispy pata is best served with a dipping sauce made up of a mix of soy sauce and vinegar, fresh chillies, garlic, and onion. Topped with rock salt, and you might have the perfect pork dish.
- Taba ng Talangka Fried Rice (Crab Fat Fried Rice)
What separates Filipino fried rice from all the different kinds of fried rice dishes in the world?
As always, Filipino dishes are just as extra as a Pinoy fiesta. Filipino food is always slightly richer, just a little stronger, and just a little more indulgent, and nothing says indulgently quite like fried rice made with Taba ng talangka or crab fat.
That’s right, the main ingredient in one of the most popular Filipino fried rice dishes is crab fat. You can buy this bottled and ready to use at any Filipino grocery store, making it a straightforward dish to prepare for your Pinoy fiesta. Throw in some crab meat and spring onion, and you’ve got one winner of a dish.
- Pancit Palabok (Rice Noodles with Shrimp)
Pancit or noodles has been a staple in Filipino cuisine for such a long time that it is easy to forget it was the Chinese who introduced them to the country all those years ago. The capturing flavour of pancit palabok is way different from other Filipino noodle dishes that even every region or city has its own version of how to cook it.
The pancit palabok is made up of layers and layers of ingredients, with the first layer being the rice noodles and the last layer being the garlicky cooked prawns. Somewhere in between is the creamy sauce made from crab, sliced eggs, scallions, and chicharon or deep-fried crispy pork fat, making for a genuinely unique noodle dish.
Every Southeast Asian culture has an entry in the sour soup category, and the Philippines doesn’t disappoint. Best made with the fatty milkfish or bangus, this soup is rich with tamarind and fresh green chillies. A real crowd-pleaser, sinigang is the go-to dish of Filipinos and non-Filipinos alike.
If you want to make this soup even more decadent, you can trade the milkfish for pork belly or even beef ribs.
- Inihaw na Panga ng Tuna (Grilled Tuna Jaw)
Want to go simple but strong at your Pinoy fiesta? The inihaw na panga ng tuna or grilled tuna jaw is both impressive but very easy to make. All it takes is a marination of soya, oil, and calamansi juice (or lime juice if calamansi isn’t available) and a searing hot grill.
Serve with a simple dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, and fresh chillies, and you’ve got yourself a winner.
10. Garlic Butter Crab
Don’t let the name fool you; this dish is just about as Filipino as it gets and can turn any party into an authentic Pinoy fiesta. Made with lots of garlic, lots of butter, a touch of chillies, and lemongrass, this rich and flavorful dish is perfectly matched with steaming jasmine rice.
In the Philippines, you’ll often find this dish being devoured near the local markets where people buy their crab fresh, then bring them directly over to cooking stalls to have them prepared into garlic butter crab. Don’t be afraid to get down and dirty with this one; it’s best eaten with your hands.
If you want to go a little extra for your Pinoy fiesta, why don’t you put together a do-it-yourself Halo Halo station? Halo Halo means to mix everything, and it is a dessert made up of crushed ice, fruits, and milk at its most basic.
All it takes are some sliced bananas, evaporated milk, Leche flan or custard cake, and any other dessert toppings and fruits you can find along with an ice crusher and either mango or ube (purple yam) ice cream on a table. Your guests can build their own delicious iced creations and have fun doing it.
Having these dishes at any table, whether it’s for two or twenty, is a great way to set the tone for a party. Nothing quite brings people together in the same way as creamy and delicious food does, and Filipino food is always prepared with that purpose in mind. At the heart of it all, that’s what an authentic Pinoy fiesta’s all about – having friends over, having some laughs, filling the stomach, finding comfort in good company, and leaving with a lot of good memories in tow.
For a relevant topic in a Cebuano Bisaya language, please listen to Barok and Takya Bisaya Podcast Episode: Pinoy Fiesta or check out other Podcasts Apps like Podbean, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, and Spotify.
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