The foodie scene in the Philippines is not bleak, as the Philippines is much more than only fish and rice these days. More and more Filipinos are enjoying food that was previously looked upon as foreign food. The vast majority of the new restaurants that have opened over the past 12 months in Bacolod City, where I live, are not serving Filipino Cuisine exclusively. An expat will not have any problem in mid-size and larger cities in the Philippines if ordering a nice steak, baked artichoke with ricotta cheese and other popular gourmet food dishes that are commonly found in other more developed countries.
The expat experience is different from one person to the next, as each person has their own needs and desires. Some expats want to live in the Philippines and still enjoy the things they enjoyed back home and it is possible to a great extent. Other expats dive right in and they want to go native, enjoying all the local food and drinks. Still, other expats want a balance in their lives in the Philippines, enjoying both the native food and drinks and those that they enjoyed back home. For me personally, I enjoy the balanced approach. I enjoy Filipino food but I don’t eat it every meal or even every day for that matter.
I have traveled extensively in the Province where I live, Negros Occidental, and I have surprisingly found tacos, steaks and other Western dishes in small Filipino restaurants in tiny municipalities. There are many dishes that expats enjoy which are also enjoyed by Filipinos, with the only difference being the seasoning and sauces used. Pork chops and ribs are two prime examples. They are commonly found even in small Filipino restaurants, specializing in the local cuisine. Pork chops in the Philippines are not often battered before deep frying and ribs may be served with sweet and sour sauce or plain soy sauce instead of the tomato based red BBQ sauce that many expats are accustomed to. Spaghetti is another common food that many Filipinos enjoy, however, a sweeter tomato sauce is used instead of Italian style sauce and hot dogs are often cut up in the dish instead of adding ground beef.
There is sometimes a difference in the English terminology used. If you want to order a hot dog at one of the many hot dog stands in the Philippines, it is best to order a “hot dog sandwich” if you want your hot dog on a bun or otherwise, your hot dog will be served on a bamboo skewer. Many of the local hot dog stands have common condiments, such as mustard, relish, cheese and chopped onions.
A number of my expat friends are really having to watch their weight because in many instances, the food they enjoy is available in the Philippines and at much cheaper prices, therefore, their foreign currency gets more mileage in the foodie scene. Bleak would not be an accurate description of the foodie scene in the Philippines, however bright would be an accurate description.