Cebu Island, listed as the 127th largest island in the world, is a province in the Central Visayas region of the Philippines. While Cebu may be known for Sinulog Festival, churches, and water adventures, at the heart of its culture is its sumptuous local cuisine that will satiate your taste buds.
Cebu lechon is the most popular food to try, but there are more for all kinds of travelers. Whether you are here to explore historical sites in Cebu City, the country’s oldest city, or go island hopping, these are the top Cebu specialties you’re likely to find on your table.
Rico’s Lechon sealed an unparalleled reputation in Cebu, the Lechon Capital of the Philippines, for pioneering the spicy version of lechon. Add to that the crispiness of the skin and the oozy, tender, tasty meat inside. They have branches at Mactan Promenade in Lapu-Lapu City, Mabolo, and Talamban.
Tuslob Buwa, which means “dip in bubbles,” is a signature food in Pasil, the biggest seafood market not only in Cebu but also in Visayas. Tuslob Buwa is made of—prepare for it—pig’s brain and liver, sautéed with onions, garlic, and spices. You need to dunk pieces of puso (“rice balls” or cooked rice wrapped in weaved coconut leaves) into the froth to enjoy this authentic Cebu street food.
If you’re in Oslob for whale shark watching, don’t forget to eat sutukil by the beach for an unforgettable seafood experience. Sutukil is a wordplay that combines the first syllables of the different methods fish is cooked: su for sugba or grilled; tu for tula or stew; and kil for kilaw or food bathed in vinegar.
Head to Larsian at Fuente Osmena, Cebu for a barbecue feast. Larsian is a cluster of cheap food stalls that offer grilled meat and seafood. Open 24 hours, Larsian can give you real Cebuano dining experience.
When it’s raining and you can’t go to your favorite islands in Cebu yet, try the highly recommended stew in Cebu to keep you warm. Pochero, or puchero in Spanish, is a beef stew garnished with potatoes, pechay or bok choy (Chinese cabbage), black peppercorns, and onions.
Bull’s testicles, genitals, and skin are the main ingredients of Lansiao, a soup introduced by the Chinese and is believed to be an aphrodisiac. Lansiao can be found in many eateries in Cebu, but the best one according to many tourists is found at Bisdakaon Republic in Cebu City.
Ngohiong or ngoyong is a type of lumpia or spring roll. Wrapped in rice paper, ngohiong is made of ubod (heart of palm), singkamas (jicama), onions, garlic, and spices. This deep-fried snack is commonly sold in the streets and also in restaurants.
Siomai Sa Tisa
The influence of the Chinese in Cebu can be traced back to the presence of Chinese merchants in the province during the pre-Spanish area. Aside from business influences, some Chinese foods have been adapted by Cebuanos, like the tasty Siomai Sa Tisa. The siomai stalls that can be seen everywhere have originated in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City. Because of the food’s popularity, Barangay Tisa now holds an annual Siomai sa Tisa Festival.
Often mistaken as Philippine adobo (a popular national dish made of meat or fish marinated in vinegar and soy sauce), humba is a stew of liempo (or pork belly) that stands out because of banana blossoms which are not used in adobo. Humba also has brown sugar, soy cause, bay leaves and tausi (or douchi, Chinese fermented black beans).
Nobody leaves Cebu without the famous bulad (dried fish) as pasalubong, which in Filipino tradition means gifts or food that travelers bring back home. The Taboan Public Market in Cebu City is popular for selling dried fish items, like danggit (rabbitfish), dried squid, dried fish bones, dried shrimp, and even fish tocino and fish tapa.
Another food item to add to your list of to-buy pasalubong is the famous dried mangoes of Cebu. These are slices of ripe mangoes that were dried out under the sun. They are best known for their sweetness and rubbery texture.