By Gian Franco 2021-06-27

Beyond Adobo: Unique Flavors of Mindanao

When compared to the rest of the Philippines, Mindanao cuisine has a notable distinction in flavor that resonates with the influences of Spanish and Malay heritage. To be sure, there were other regional cuisines before the Spanish colonizers introduced adobo—nowadays the lazy stand-in for Philippine cuisine. Before we became a nation, our indigenous culinary traditions were already in place and forming the identity of regions and its peoples.  


The cuisine is distinguished by the use of coconut milk and spices such as chili, onion, ginger, and other spices in its preparations. A striking feature of Mindanaon cuisine is the use of burnt coconut as a condiment. Used as a flavoring agent, burnt coconut or “pamapa itum” gives off caramel notes and smoky flavor of toasted coconut.


As the country's second-largest island, Mindanao is composed of regions and major cities having its own distinct culinary culture and tradition. The dishes are rooted in native histories and local narratives of the indigenous tribes in the southernmost island of the nation. The names, meanwhile, impart that the dishes hold identity of its own.



Piyanggang Manok of the Tausugs, for example, translates to the process of grilling the chicken after being marinated in coconut milk with spices that include lemongrass and spicy black paste made with burnt coconut. The meat blackens in the process and results to a dish that is a literal labor of love. The dish is traditionally served as the main dish at weddings and other special occasions.