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Pampanga Food Guide: What and Where to Eat

Filipinos love food but it’s beyond just sustenance. A lot about it — from preparing, cooking to eating is deeply rooted to the rich Filipino culture and history. Almost each province, town or city boasts its own unique culinary delights anchored on their unique experiences. However, experiencing them all would take ages. To savor the best of Filipino flavors, it is best to head to the Culinary Capital of the Philippines, Pampanga. This province serves some of the most remarkable dishes in the country. Ready for a gastronomic adventure? Let this Pampanga Food Guide lead you to a top-notch culinary experience.

Understanding the Kapampangan Gastronomy

Pampanga is hailed as the Culinary Capital of the Philippines. This reputation stems from a rich culinary heritage influenced by both culture and history, including the devastating eruption of Mt. Pinatubo and the fact that most of the notable Filipino dish originated from the province. Its bustling markets, roadside restaurants and eateries offer a feast of flavors embodying its culinary heritage. This is what makes Pampanga a haven for food enthusiasts seeking authentic Filipino flavors and hospitality.

Kapampangans have preserved their traditions reflected on their cusines that they elevate characterized by intricate flavors and meticulous cooking methods. Traditional Kapampangan houses feature spacious kitchens, reflecting their deep-seated love for cooking and communal dining. They take pride in the time-intensive preparation of their dishes, a practice that enhances flavors and ensures their food stands out as truly manyaman — a Kapampangan word meaning delicious.

Must Try Kapampangan Dishes

Original Kapampangan Sisig

The original Kapampangan sisig

Sisig is a Kapampangan term that means to snack on something sour. In 1970, it was reinvented by Lucia Cunanan, the woman behind Aling Lucing Restaurant, thought of giving it a twist. Seeing pig heads often disposed by the commissaries preparing meals for the Americans at Clark Airbase, she found a way to turn them into a new dish. This dish soon became a hit at local night spots.

This Kapampangan dish is made with pork, including the pig’s ears and cheeks (locally known as ‘maskara’ sometimes with pork belly and is iconically served in a sizzling plate or not which is known as Sisig Matua. Filipinos best enjoy this dish with mayonnaise and a sunny-side-up egg on top to make it creamy, but definitely not in Pampanga. “Ala yang egg ampo mayonnaise!” as the Kapampangans would always say meaning no egg and no mayonnaise. This is what makes Kapampangan sisig stand out. Their secret is to cook it add one some pig brain or chicken liver. Besides this, Kapampangans take pride in the meat preparation process. Before pan-frying with the other ingredients, the meat is boiled and grilled to perfection.

While Kapampangan sisig is available around Pampanga, one of the best places to experience it is at Aling Lucing’s Sisig.


Catching frogs used to be a game of farmers’ children back in the time. When their parents were busy in the rice field, the children would play this game until it has become a tradition. Then, they learned how to make dishes out of it that soon holds a significant place in their culture and culinary tradition.

The name is a playful twist on “butete,” the Kapampangan word for tadpole. To make sense, betute is an exotic food made of farm frog stuffed with minced pork and finely cut carrots and onions deep-fried until golden. It used to be stuffed with minced farm frog until its meat became expensive that they had to improvise; hence, the ground pork. Either, Betute is still manyaman.

Among the best places to try betute along with the other Kapampangan dishes is Apag Marangle in Guagua, Pampanga.


Another testament to Kapampangan culture and culinary tradition is their authentic dish called Camaru. It was so significant that it has its own dedicated festival. This festival is celebrated every 24th of August in the town of Magalang. It also concides with the feast day of their patron saint, Saint Bartholomew.

Camaru is a dish made of mole crickets that are either crispy fried or cooked as adobo. Like Betute, the children of farmers used to catch them especially during the harvesting season at the rice field as these mole crickets feed on the roots. They would then hand it over to their mothers to do the magic over it at the kitchen.

One of the top recommended places to try camaru is at Apag Marangle.

Balao-balao or Tagilo

Kapampangan’s version of buro or fermented dish is locally known as Balao-balao or Tagilo . It is a fermented rice dish typically made with cooked rice mixed with salt. Balao-balao usually comes with shrimp while Tagilo comes with fish. The mixture is left to ferment in earthen jars for several days to develop its distinctive tangy and pungent flavor. It is best enjoyed as a condiment or paired with fried or grilled dishes, enhancing meals with its savory and sour notes.

Tagilo may be found even in market!

Tokwa’t Baboy

What sets Kapampangan tokwa’t baboy apart is its unique preparation method and distinct flavors. Typically, it includes pork belly and tofu cut into cubes, marinated, and deep-fried to achieve a crispy texture. Kapampangans often add pig ears to enhance the dish’s richness and depth of flavor. Additionally, some variations incorporate a twist by preparing it akin to sisig, where the ingredients are finely chopped and seasoned with spices, creating a flavorful and savory dish that is both satisfying and distinctive to the Kapampangan culinary tradition. For an exceptional taste experience Mila’s Tokwa’t Baboy or at Nanay’s Cuisine by Royce Hotel & Casino. These establishments are renowned for their outstanding interpretations of this flavorful Kapampangan favorite.

Suam Mais

Suam Mais, a traditional Kapampangan soup, blends white corn, garlic, onion, ginger, and spices in either chicken or pork stock. It features chili leaves for zest and is garnished with crispy chicharrón. During the rainy season, Kapampangans enhance it by sautéing shrimp or pork. This hearty soup is cherished at Kapampangan tables, enjoyed especially during lunchtime.

Pindang Damulag, the Kapampangan Tocino

Kapampangan tocino stands out due to its distinctive sweet and savory flavor profile, which differs from other varieties of Filipino tocino. It is typically made from thinly sliced pork marinated in a mixture of sugar, salt, and various spices such as garlic and pepper. What sets it apart is its slightly different balance of sweetness and saltiness compared to tocino from other regions in the Philippines. Further, Kapampangans have their own version of Tocino called Pindang Damulag. It is made from carabeef except that it is a bit hard and sour. However, their procedure for curing is still the same.

The Kapampangan version often has a richer color and deeper flavor, making it a beloved choice for breakfast or as a key ingredient in dishes like tocino fried rice or tocino with garlic rice.

Kapampangan Longanisa

Kapampangan longanisa features lean pork cuts marinated in a sweet and tangy blend of vinegar, sugar, garlic, and black pepper. It gets its vibrant red-orange color from annatto and blends sweet, nutty, and peppery flavors. The meat remains silky and tender, enhancing its appeal.

Kapampangan Suklati King Batirul

Suklati king batirul or suklati batirul represents the Kapampangan take on hot chocolate. This drink is a blend of pure cacao with a twist of peanut flavor, stirred traditionally with a batirol. We may not know Pampanga for cacao production but the Kapampangans’ tradition of putting cashew is what makes it remarkable and creamier.

In the Spanish Colonial era, when servants were tasked with serving Tsokolate, they had to choose between two types. Tsokolate Ah (or Tsokolate Aguado), a thin and diluted version typically served to ordinary guests, or Tsokolate Eh, a thick and creamy one. Either is best enjoyed with bread and cakes.

Putung Babi

Putung Babi, translated as “pork bread” in Kapampangan, is a beloved all-day comfort snack made from white bread. Kapampangans prepare it using pan de sal, which is topped with mashed sweet potato cooked in pork lard, pan-fried, and then baked in the oven for a satisfying treat. You can best enjoy Puting Babu with a hot cup of suklati king batirul.

L.A. or LBS Bakeshop Cheese Bread and Spanish Bread

The debate continues to this day: which of the two offers the best cheese bread and Spanish bread? L.A. and LBS Bakeshop are two of the most famous bakeries in the province, known for their exceptional cheese bread and Spanish bread. Though owned by the same family, each bakery has its own distinct techniques, making the title hotly contested. One thing is common between them: their cheese bread and Spanish bread melt in your mouth in the most literal sense. The best place to try both is at San Fernando City’s Public Market. It’s not just about deciding which is better, but also about enjoying some of the best bread you’ll ever taste!

LBS Bakeshop and Kitchenette’s Palabok

Palabok is a classic Filipino noodle dish featuring rice noodles topped with a rich, flavorful sauce made from shrimp, pork, and various seasonings. It is typically garnished with an array of toppings such as hard-boiled eggs, crushed chicharrón (pork rinds), shrimp, scallions, and sometimes smoked fish flakes or squid. A squeeze of calamansi (a small citrus fruit) is often added to enhance the dish with a fresh, tangy flavor. Palabok is enjoyed as a hearty snack or meal and is a popular choice at gatherings and celebrations.

Although you can find it in many places, there’s one spot you shouldn’t miss, as its Palabok has a distinct taste that sets it apart from the rest.

LBS Kitchenette‘s Palabok is a must-try dish, distinguished by the subtle addition of coconut milk to the sauce. Typically, Palabok sauce doesn’t include coconut milk, but this unique twist sets LBS Kitchenette’s version apart, adding a delicate richness to the flavor.

Pampanga Food Guide, In a Nutshell

Experience Pampanga

Some journey to escape and marvel the nature’s splendor, others to chase adrenaline. Some seek cultural immersion and deep human connection, while others pursue the ultimate culinary experience. Though our travel motives vary from one another, we all crave something new and unique in our destination. This is why Pampanga is among the best places to be as it caters to every desire, offering a harmonious blend of all these elements. Here, they serve a feast of flavors that encapsulates the essence of the region.

This Pampanga Food Guide only mentions few of the many authentic Kapampangan food in general that you must-try. A foodie or not, you will surely enjoy a gastronomic adventure in the province. You’ll definitely go home happy with added weight but loads of gustatory experience and stories to tell.

To make the best out of the Culinary Capital of the Philippines, you may also try to experience the following:

Anne Elizabeth Gumiran, also known as Queenie, is a 20-something, full-time public school teacher, a part-time travel blogger and a freediver. She started putting her stories of adventures and misadventures into words and pictures in 2017 and continues to do so as she shares her advocacy, Sustainable Traveling.

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