Cebu, the Queen City of the South, is regarded as the second major capital of the Philippines. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan, and incredibly storied region with so much local flavor. Like many regional cuisines of the Philippines, Cebuano cooking is a reflection of the province’s unique landscape. Cebu City, for instance, has a mountain range to the north and Mactan Island to the south.
Cebu City’s food landscape has evolved so much since the ‘Ceboom’ of the 1990s. Iconic dishes can now be found in other parts of the country. Restaurants have grown into culinary empires. And food experiences such as night markets add vigor to the Cebuano gastronomic scene.
Whether you are a first-time visitor or grew up with fond family memories of the province, here is our 2021 foodie guide to Cebu.
Food writers Claude Tayag and Mary Ann Quioc describe ngohiong as “a fried vegetable spring roll filled with sauteed ubod or heart of palm.” The Cebuano original is coated in batter rather than in a paper-thin lumpia (egg or spring roll) wrapper. The delicious Chinese-influenced treat is best enjoyed with pusó, or rice wrapped in coconut leaves. Locals highly recommend Doming’s Ngohiong, which sells ngohiong for about 8 PHP a piece.
Doming’s Ngohiong at the ground floor of Pacific Tourist Inn (M. Gotianuy Building), Vicente Gullas Street, Balintawak, Cebu City, Cebu. The restaurant is open daily from 8:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m. To inquire, call +63 32 256 3054 or +63 917 315 2441.
At the top of Cebu
The lookout point on Cebu Tops Road, or Tops as Cebuanos call it, offers a stunning panorama of the city below. The best time to visit Tops is at night, when the wind is chilly and you have an amazing view of the night sky.
In recent years, restaurants have sprouted in and around the observation deck, the most notable of which is Top of Cebu. This restaurant offers delicious contemporary dishes in an amazing outdoor atmosphere. If you’re looking for regional fare, order the chorizo platter, aligue (crab roe) rice, pochero de Cebu (beef shank stew), and mango-otap (native puff pastry).
Enjoy an evening of contemporary Filipino food with a Cebu Tops observation deck dinner from KKday. Packages start at 1,340 PHP. Top of Cebu is at Cebu Tops Road, Cebu City, Cebu. The restaurant is open daily from 11:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. To inquire, call +63 906 297 6016 or send a message to email@example.com.
Filipinos traditionally eat with their bare hands. Enjoy a unique culinary experience that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Discover the delight of a ‘boodle fight’, where an assortment of local dishes is laid out on banana leaves. No spoons, forks, or knives at this feast.
Reward yourself with traditional hot chocolate and a lavish Filipino feast at a half-day Cebu food tour and boodle flight. Exclusive to KKday, this tour package starts at 2,491 PHP.
Fried rice paradise
Ding How’s steamed fried rice pot with peas, pork, and shrimp is often imitated, but never duplicated, by other restaurants in Cebu City. The Cebuano classic can be enjoyed in one of the many restaurants under the Harbour City Restaurants Group. Boomers vividly recall the original recipe from Ding How, which dates back to the 1960s. Gen Xers and Millennials, on the other hand, remember the dish from Harbour City.
Ding How Dimsum House has two branches in Cebu City:
- Central Bloc in Cebu IT Park, which is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
- Robinsons Galleria Cebu, which is open daily from 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
For more information, visit the Harbour City Restaurants Group website at harbourcitydimsum.com.
Heart of the city
Indulge in a delicious all-you-can-eat buffet at Pusô Bistro & Bar. Taste traditional Cebuano and Filipino specialties along with international selections. Delight in a variety of Filipino dishes that range from lechon (roast suckling pig) to sinigang (sour tamarind soup) to ube (purple yam) pancakes. Savor fancy hors d’oeuvres and a luxurious selection of meats and cheeses. Go for tasty Asian classics, such as sushi, and for dessert, try the stylishly crafted cakes and pastries prepared by top chefs! Dip your dessert into a chocolate fountain or choose from a variety of parfaits and flans.
Try local delicacies, international favorites, or Asian delights at Pusô’s generous buffet. Book your reservation now on KKday at rates starting at 560 PHP. Pusô Bistro & Bar is at Quest Hotel and Conference Center, Archbishop Reyes Avenue, Cebu City, Cebu. The hotel restaurant is open daily from 6:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m. To inquire, call Quest Hotel at +63 32 402 5999 or 230 5888.
Lechon roasting on an open fire
Ask a Cebuano about their favorite lechon, and you’ll get a wide range of answers. Some attest to Zubuchon, which American chef Anthony Bourdain declared as “the best pig ever.” Others favor Tatang’s or Rico’s. There are even those who say the tastiest lechon can be found not in the city, but in Carcar. But if there is one thing Cebuanos agree on, it’s that lechon Cebu is a far cry from its Tagalog cousins. It’s so flavorful (thanks to lemongrass) that you don’t need liver sauce.
But why stop at tasting lechon, when you can learn how to roast it the way the locals do. Learn how to cook lechon, Cebuano style, and taste the best pig ever at an unforgettable lechon-making experience. An afternoon of pig roasting costs 2,214 PHP for a group of at least four people.
Pochero is a Sunday lunch must-have. The beef shank soup is slow-cooked with onions, leeks, salt, and peppercorns. What makes pochero stand out from other meat-based soups is that it is served with corn on the cob. Our grandmother’s recipe will always be our all-time favorite, but give Sabel’s Pocherohan a try.
Sabel’s Pocherohan is at 1490 Villalon Drive, East Capitol Site, Cebu City, Cebu. The restaurant is open Sunday to Thursday from 9:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and on Fridays and Saturdays from 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 midnight. To inquire, call at +63 32 255 2779 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit sabelspocherohan.com.
To market, to market
Night markets with dozens of varying food stalls are quickly becoming a popular attraction, and Cebuanos have taken the concept of the night market to a new level with Sugbo Mercado. The weekend food market is even sponsored by a large telecommunications provider and endorsed by the Department of Tourism. At Sugbo Mercado, there’s a dish to quench any food craving, from ngohiong to ice cream and everything in between.
Sugbo Mercado is at Garden Bloc, Inez Villa Street, Cebu IT Park, Cebu City, Cebu. The night market is open from Wednesday to Sunday from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. To inquire, call +63 917 311 5777 or email email@example.com. Visit sugbomercado.com for more information.
*Featured image via Nhick Ramiro Pacis on Pixabay