What’s on these Pinoy chefs’ table

In celebration of Filipino Food Month, here are the favorite local dishes of the most prolific personalities in the Philippine culinary scene

At a glance

  • Many of our heirloom food products and practices are slowly disappearing in the face of globalization. —Jam Melchor

FILIPINO FOOD CHAMPIONS Clockwise from top left: Don Baldosano, Jam Melchor, Josh Boutwood, Kalel Chan, Kevin Navoa, Tina Legarda, Rafael Jardeleza jr., Thirdy Dolatre, and Myke Tatung

Food is the flavor, aroma, and texture of our identity. Our happy-go-lucky nature, hospitality, and cultural richness as Filipinos are thrown into every pot, bowl, platter, or skewer we serve at the table. Dining ultimately brings us together. Although the Philippines is a cluster of islands thousands-strong, its people are unified as a nation of food lovers. We love food so much that we even dedicated April as Filipino Food Month to preserve and appreciate our culinary heritage. For those unaware, Filipino Food Month came to fruition with the efforts of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement (PCHM), enacted through the Presidential Proclamation No. 469, in 2018.

This month also honors where our food comes from, including the farmers, the fishermen, as well as those who make them, the heroes in our kitchen. Here are some of the Filipino dishes the biggest names in the local culinary industry would personally enjoy.

Jam Melchor

Founder of the Philippine Culinary Heritage Movement

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Kare-kare is hearty and delicious. It isn’t something you would cook every day, but it is easy enough to make more often. I’ve tried different nuts for the sauce, cashew, pili, pecan, name it.

Thirdy Dolatre

Proprietor and chef of Hapag

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My answer is always the same, chicken inasal. It’s a humble dish, very simple and comforting. I can eat it every single day. A freshly grilled inasal served with bagong saing na kanin (freshly steamed rice) topped with some chicken oil, sinamak with calamansi (spiced vinegar with Philippine lime), soy sauce, and labuyo (bird’s eye chili) beats any Michelin meal in my book.

Kevin Navoa

Proprietor and chef of Hapag

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Nueva Ecija's culinary gem, Tinumis (Arcie Cortez)

My favorite Filipino food would have to be tinumis because it is both comforting and familiar to me. It feels like home. Tinumis comes from Nueva Ecija, which is where my mom’s family is originally from. The sour blood stew is sort of like sinigang with pork blood. There’s a sour taste but with a dinuguan feel to it. And it’s really good with white rice. It reminds me of family get-togethers. Whenever my mom cooks tinumis, my entire family would make sure to come to the house for dinner.

Not many people know about tinumis so I occasionally cook it at Hapag. I always cook it with a lot of heart because it’s just that good. It is also the only dish that my mom could cook better than me.

Rafael Jardeleza jr.

Ilonggo heritage cuisine advocate

Mongo with kalubay (squash) and alugbati (vine spinach), from the book Flavors of Iloilo

I love and enjoy with gusto ginataang mongo, especially with a thick broth and fall-off-the-bone tender pata ng baboy (pork hocks).

Paired with fried fish, it lights up my day. The mongo brings back childhood memories, of the days our cook Tya Lourdes would prepare it for the family. As a small child, I used to wish that every day was Friday so I could have my mongo and fried fish.

At home, we don’t gisa (sauté) our mongo but instead, boil the mung beans and pork hock together with the whole onions and garlic all at the same time until the meat and beans are cooked. We then put the kalabasa (pumpkin) and talong (eggplant) in the mix until they are soft enough. Add the gata (coconut milk) and let it simmer for a few minutes. Then the talbos ng kamote (sweet potato peels) come in. Again, let it simmer to slightly cook. Finish it with a tablespoon of sesame oil before serving.

Myke Tatung

Celebrity chef and proprietor of Lore and Azadore


I love adobo more than anything else. It’s comforting and versatile. It pleases everybody. I grew up with two culinary traditions. My father’s family is from Luzon and my mother’s is from Cebu. I also know two kinds of adobos. The first one is the traditional cooked with soy sauce and vinegar and the lesser-known adobo Bisaya is cooked without soy sauce and rendered until you achieve a golden crisp outer layer. I remember the delicious, crispy outside, moist, tender, and flavorful inside of the adobo Bisaya we used to prepare at home.

We did not slaughter the entire pig to make the adobo to keep for months like they did when there were no refrigerators. But we tried to replicate that old-fashioned adobo using chunks of pork belly and bottles of pork lard we got from our suki (patron) in the wet market. Now we render our pork fat and cook Cebuano-style adobo at home. Nothing compares to the aroma of crispy pork cooked in pork fat.

Don Baldosano

Proprietor and chef of Linamnam

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Caldo of fish fat, Don Baldosano's take on the Ilongo dish

A Filipino dish that really resonates with me is caldo, an Ilongo dish reminiscent of arroz caldo, except that it’s more runny in consistency. Instead of native chicken, Ilonggo caldo is often cooked with a fatty fish. Growing up, Sunday is usually a day to eat seafood for our family and caldo would usually be the main dish. The warm bowl of the familiar fishy porridge doused in calamansi juice and fried garlic is the perfect thing to eat after having a nice briny oyster and sweet and salty lato and shrimp. Dad’s caldo would almost always consist of freshly butchered catfish cooked with white rice with tons of lemongrass and finished with freshly-picked chili leaves. This dish that can give nostalgia and also a little wonderment that there is so much more to Filipino food. Every Filipino must have it.

Tina Legarda

Proprietor and chef of Bamba Bistro


Sinigang na baboy was the only dish I cooked for myself when I worked in another country. I could only describe how I was feeling on my first month living alone as either exhausted from work or extremely homesick.  So on one of my rest days, my only plan was to sleep for 10 hours and wake up to make sinigang. I would buy the ingredients after my shift around 1 a.m. at one of the 24-hour groceries near my condo.

Away from home, I realized how much I loved sinigang. I find it even more fun that there are so many different ways to get that “asim (sourness)” going, from tamarind to miso, batwan to pakwan (watermelon), and bayabas (guava)—all so different from each other but also all so powerful in their own right. I remember my flatmates giving me a weird look when they smelled what was cooking. I asked them to grab a spoon and try our famous broth and well, we ended up making more rice and another extra bowl of my favorite sawsawan (seasoning) of patis (fish sauce), calamansi, and sili (chili). Really nothing quite like it.

Kalel Chan

Corporate chef of Raintree Restaurant Group


My favorite is everything inihaw (grilled). I categorize it as celebratory food because you don’t get to fire up a charcoal grill every day. I like the charcoal-smoked taste of chicken, pork, and fish paired with ensaladas and spiced vinegar. Everything has balance, even the play of hot and cold temperature in your mouth.

Josh Boutwood

Proprietor and chef of Savage, The Test Kitchen, Ember, and Helm

Kapampangan pride, sisig

It’s a tie between sisig and sinigang. Both are very popular dishes yet represent our culture so well. Sisig uses every part of the animal in combination with spice and umami. Sinigang, on the other hand, is soul warming much like our hospitality. The sourness paired with a protein of choice balances perfectly.