Ulam recipes from across the Philippines
As the Philippines is dotted with thousands of islands, Filipino cuisine is an exciting hodgepodge of diverse ingredients from several cities, provinces, and regions. Our recipes for our main dishes, or ulam, come in a colorful variety of ingredients, unique for their emphasis on balancing salty and sour flavors.
To help you recreate your favorite ulam from the different regions of the country, here are 10 ulam recipes ranging from staples such as pork sinigang to kansi, a fusion of sinigang and bulalo native to the Western Visayas.
– Nationwide ulam recipes –
1. Sinigang na Baboy – a sour mix of pork and vegetables
Image adapted from: @kikicooks_
A staple dish in the kitchen of Filipinos, sinigang na baboy (pork sinigang) is a mix of pork and vegetables in a sour soup. Sampaloc (tamarind) is often used as the soup’s souring agent, but you can use kamias fruit (fruit from the cucumber tree), guava, and calamansi (kalamansi) as an alternative.
We love the soup’s sour taste so much, that while we use pork in the dish most often, we also cook other meats and fishes such as baka (beef) and bangus (milkfish) with the soup.
- 500g pork spare ribs (or pork belly or ham), chopped
- 1l water
- 1pc red onion, chopped
- 2 pcs medium-sized tomato, sliced
- 200g gabi (taro), chopped
- 8 pcs sitaw (string beans), sliced into 2” pieces
- 1 pc labanos (radish), sliced
- 7 pcs okra, sliced
- 1 pc eggplant, sliced
- 2 pcs green finger chili
- 1 bundle kangkong (water spinach) stalks and leaves
- 1 pack of 40g sampaloc powder or paste
- Place the pork spare ribs in a medium pot with one liter of water, then boil. Don’t cover the pot to allow the scum, or denatured protein from the meat, to float up to the surface. Once the scum appears, remove it with a spoon or spatula.
- Add the onions and tomatoes. Cover the pot until the pork ribs become tender.
- Add the gabi, then cover the pot and simmer again for 5 minutes.
- Add the sitaw and labanos. Cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the okra, eggplant, and the kangkong stalks. Cook until they turn dark green.
- Add the green finger chili, kangkong leaves, and the sampaloc powder to the mix. Stir the mix to spread the paste or powder mix.
- After simmering for a minute, the dish should be ready to serve.
Recipe adapted from: Knorr
2. Pork Adobo – marinated pork in soy sauce and garlic
Image credit: @angelanavatojavier
Another Filipino kitchen staple, adobo is a dish made up of pork slices dipped or marinated in soy sauce and crushed garlic, then sprinkled with dried bay leaves and black pepper. Known for its combination of saltiness and tanginess, it is named after the Spanish word adobar that means “to marinate”.
The tangy taste is due to vinegar, added either during the marinating process or later during cooking.
Adobo also has many variants across the Philippines, and sinigang is considered to be one of them. Chicken adobo, for example, has chicken as the marinated meat, while adobong dilaw (yellow adobo) includes turmeric or luyang dilaw in its recipe.
- 2 lbs pork belly
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 2 tbsp garlic, minced or crushed
- 2 cups water
- 1 tbsp peppercorn
- 5 pcs dried bay leaves
- 4 tbsp vinegar
- A pinch of salt (optional)
- Marinate the pork belly in soy sauce and garlic for at least 1 hour.
- Place the marinated pork belly in a heated pot. Cook for a few minutes.
- Pour the remaining mixture from the marinade.
- Add water, peppercorn, and dried bay leaves, then boil. Simmer the mixture for 40 minutes to 1 hour till the pork is tender.
- Pour vinegar. Simmer for 12 to 15 minutes.
- If the mix needs more flavor, sprinkle some salt to taste as a finishing touch.
Recipe credit: Panlasang Pinoy
3. Beef Kare-Kare – beef and vegetables in thick peanut sauce
Image adapted from: @imhungrybaker
Kare-kare is a dish with meat and veggie slices coated in peanut sauce. Like the previous dishes, it comes in different variations – such as beef kare-kare featuring beef chuck as its meat, or pork kare-kare made with pork belly or shank.
Many enjoy this dish – now considered a gathering and Christmas party must-have – with a side of bagoong (shrimp paste).
- 4 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 2 tsp garlic, minced
- ⅛ tsp ground black pepper
- 2 lbs beef chuck, chopped
- 1 ½ cup ground roasted peanuts or peanut butter
- 1 beef cube
- 1 bunch sitaw, cut into 2-inch lengths
- 1 bundle of cabbage leaves
- 1 large Chinese eggplant, sliced
- 2 to 3 tsp patis (fish sauce)
- 1 to 2 tsp atsuete (annatto) powder
- ½ cup water
- 2 tsp glutinous rice powder
- Pour the oil into a pot, then heat. Add the onion and garlic. Fry.
- Sprinkle some black pepper and stir it with the mix. Add the beef chuck and cook until it turns light brown.
- Put the ground peanuts, or peanut butter for a smoother texture, into the pot. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.
- In a separate pot, add 4 cups of water. Place the beef cube then boil for 5 minutes or until the cube melts. Pour the resulting beef broth into the main pot.
- Cover and simmer the mix for at least an hour until the meat gets tender.
- While waiting, prepare to cook the vegetables in a separate pot. First, pour 4 cups of water into the pot, then boil. Once the water is boiling, put the sitaw in for 2 minutes.
- To blanch the sitaw, remove them from the boiling water and plunge them into a bowl with ice and cold water. After they cool, drain the water from the bowl.
- Do the same for the remaining vegetables.
- Check the beef in your previous pot. Once tender, sprinkle a few drops of fish sauce into the pot. Add the atsuete for coloring along with the ½ cup water and rice powder. Stir them with the rest of the mix. Cook until the sauce thickens.
- Lastly, place the blanched vegetables onto the thick sauce.
Recipe adapted from: Panlasang Pinoy
– Ilocos region ulam recipes –
4. Pakbet Ilocano – vegetables in anchovy sauce
Image adapted from: Kusinerong Arkitekto
Tracing its name’s origin to the Ilocano word pinakebbet that means “shrivelled,” pakbet or pinakbet is a mix of vegetables such as ampalaya (bitter melon), okra, and talong (eggplant) cooked in bagoong balayan (anchovy sauce) and sprinkled with small slices of lechon kawali or pork belly.
This dish from the Ilocos region has a Tagalog counterpart, called the Pakbet Tagalog, that is cooked instead with bagoong alamang (shrimp paste).
- 1½ cups of tomatoes, sliced
- A pinch of salt
- 3 tbsp oil
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, sliced
- 1 cup lasona (Ilocano shallots)
- 4 tbsp bagoong balayan (anchovy sauce)
- Any seasoning of your choice, such as Maggi Magic Sarap
- Chopped bagnet (deep fried pork belly) to taste
- 1½ cups water
- 2 medium-sized eggplants, sliced
- 3 medium-sized kamote (sweet potatoes)
- 1 bundle sitaw
- 2 bundles okra, sliced
- 1½ cups birch flower (himbabao)
- Siling duwag to taste
- 1 large ampalaya, sliced
- Place the slices of tomatoes in a pot. Sprinkle some salt and compress the salt onto the tomatoes to release the juice from the fruits.
- Pour oil. Add slices of garlic, ginger, and shallots.
- Sprinkle the anchovy sauce and the seasoning of your choice to taste.
- Add slices of bagnet.
- Pour in the water.
- Prepare to add your main vegetables. Add slices of eggplant, kamote, sitaw, okra, and the bundle of birch flower.
- Add siling duwag to taste.
- Top your mix with slices of ampalaya.
- Cover the pot. Boil to medium-high heat for about 8 minutes.
- Shake the pot upwards and downwards.
- If the vegetable mix needs more flavor, sprinkle some salt to taste
- Cover the pot. Simmer for 4 more minutes or until the kamote gets tender.
Recipe credit: Kusinerong Arkitekto
– Pampanga ulam recipes –
5. Sisig – pig face and chicken liver sprinkled with various flavorings
Image adapted from: @movingfeasts
Originating from the recipe of Lucia “Aling Lucing” Cunanan of Angeles City, Pampanga, sisig is a mix of chopped parts of a pig’s face such as the cheeks, head, and ears, with chicken liver sprinkled with salt, pepper, red chilli pepper, onion, and calamansi.
It has become a favorite pulutan among Filipinos and adapted into several variations such as tuna sisig and bangus sisig.
- 2lbs pig face (snouts, ears, jowls)
- 1 cup vinegar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- 1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed
- 1 tsp peppercorn
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 6 Thai chili peppers, stemmed and minced
- ½ cup calamansi juice
- 1 tsp liquid seasoning of your choice
- ½ cup liver spread
- Pepper to taste
- In a pot, mix the pig face with vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, peppercorn, bay leaves, salt, and water.
- Bring to a boil. Remove the scum from the pork that floats on the liquid’s surface. Lower the heat and cover the pot.
- Simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is tender. Drain the liquid from the pot.
- Chop the pig face into huge slices. Grill the parts for about 7 to 10 minutes or until they are slightly charred and crispy.
- Chop the grilled parts into smaller pieces. Mix the pieces in a bowl.
- Add the onions, Thai chili peppers, calamansi extract, liquid seasoning, and liver spread. Mix.
- Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe credit: Kawaling Pinoy
– Southern Luzon ulam recipes –
6. Bulalo – beef shank and beef marrow bones in a light-colored soup
Image adapted from: @jorgepmata
A favorite among the locals of Batangas and Tagaytay, bulalo is composed of beef shank and beef marrow bones and vegetables in a light-colored soup.
Simmered for hours, the comfort dish is distinct for its soup’s flavor, coming from a mix of melted collagen and fat from the beef shanks and marrow bones.
- 1 lb beef shank
- 2 beef marrow bones
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp black peppercorn
- 2 tsp patis
- 2 cobs corn, sliced into 2-inch chunks
- 1 chayote, peeled and cubed
- 3 bok choy, leaves separated
- Boil water in a large pot.
- Add the beef shank and marrow bones. Continue boiling for about 10 minutes or until there’s no more blood coming out of the shank and bones.
- Using tongs, remove the meat cuts and wash them under cold water to remove any scum. Drain the water from the pot and rinse the pot.
- Place the meat cuts back into the rinsed pot. Sprinkle the onions, garlic, peppercorn, and fish sauce. Pour water into the mix and boil.
- Lower the heat and cook for 1½ hours in a pressure cooker, or simmer for 4-5 hours or until the meat cuts get tender in the same pot. Remove excessive build-ups of fat on the soup’s surface.
- Add the chunks of corn and chayote. Simmer for 20 more minutes or until both are tender. Add salt to taste. Finish it off by adding the bok choy and cooking it for 2 to 3 minutes.
Recipe credit: No Recipes
7. Laing – taro leaves in spicy, creamy coconut milk
Image credit: @ethicureaneats
Laing is the Bicolanos’ combination of dried taro leaves and slices of pork belly cooked in creamy coconut sauce and sprinkled with garlic, onion, ginger, and chili. If you don’t have pork belly on hand, this dish can also be topped off with shrimp, crab meat, and dried fish.
Like other Bicolano dishes such as pork adobo with coconut milk and Bicol Express, the dish is served with a rich amount of coconut milk as coconut trees are abundant in the Bicol region.
- 2 oz dried taro leaves
- 2 lemongrass stalks
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 thumb-sized ginger, minced
- 1 lb pork belly, diced
- 1 tbsp shrimp paste
- Pepper to taste
- 4 cups coconut milk
- 8 Thai chili peppers, chopped
- 1 cup coconut cream
- Salt to taste
- Shred the dried taro leaves into pieces.
- Remove the darker layers of the lemongrass. Chop the lighter layers into pieces.
- Pour oil into a pan and heat over medium heat. Add and mix in onions, garlic, and ginger.
- Add and mix in the slices of pork belly until pork belly cuts are light brown. Sprinkle pepper to taste.
- Add and mix in the shrimp paste. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes.
- Pour the coconut milk then simmer.
- Add lemongrass and chili peppers. Stir.
- Push down the dried taro leaves into the mix.
- Lower heat, cover the pan, and cook for about 25 to 30 minutes or until the slices of pork belly and leaves get tender.
- Pour coconut cream. Continue cooking for about 10 to 15 minutes until the leaves appear sticky with the mix. Sprinkle salt to taste.
Recipe credit: Kawaling Pinoy
– Western Visayas ulam recipes –
8. Kansi – fusion of sinigang and bulalo but with sour flavors of batuan fruit
Image credit: @babas_homemade
Popular in Bacolod and Iloilo, kansi is often likened to sinigang because of its sour broth and also reminds some of bulalo for its beef shank and beef marrow bones.
But what makes this dish unique is its souring agent, called the batuan – a sour fruit that mostly grows in the Western Visayas – and the addition of slices of langka (jackfruit).
- 4 tbsp atsuete (annatto) oil
- 7 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2lbs beef shank
- 8 to 10 cups water
- 1 medium yellow onion, wedged
- 1 plum tomato, wedged
- 1 piece of beef cube
- 2 stalks lemongrass, tied into knots with thick end crushed
- 3 cups jackfruit, sliced
- 3pcs green finger chili
- 3pcs red chili pepper, optional
- 3-4pcs batuan, crushed into powder mix
- Pour annatto oil into a pot then heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the crushed garlic in. Cook until it begins to brown.
- Add the beef shank. Cook each side of the meat for 30 seconds to one minute.
- Pour water and boil.
- Add the onion, tomato, and the piece of beef cube. Stir. Add lemongrass.
- Cover the pot. Cook for 30 minutes if you’re using a pressure cooker, 2 to 3 hours if you’re using a regular pot.
- Remove the cover and apply heat to bring the mix to a boil.
- Scatter the jackfruit, stir, and cook for 5 minutes.
- Scatter the peppers. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Pour the batuan powder into the mix, then stir. Add fish sauce. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes.
Recipe adapted from: Panlasang Pinoy
– Cebu ulam recipes –
9. Lechon Cebu – salty roasted pig
Image credit: @houseoflechon
Lechon is a roasted suckling pig dish served in the Philippines during celebrations and named after the equivalent Spanish word. The most popular type of lechon in our country is the Lechon Cebu, known for its juicy insides brushed with soy sauce and stuffed with various flavoring ingredients such as lemongrass, onions, garlic, and salt.
It’s also characterized by the crispiness of its skin, often brushed with the soft drink Sprite. Vinegar is often used as a condiment by cooks to complement the meat’s saltiness.
Aside from in the Philippines, roasted suckling pig is also a beloved dish in many Spanish-speaking countries.
- 1 whole pig (18-20KG)
- Salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste
- Soy sauce to taste
- 8 pcs saba bananas, cut
- ¼ cup star anise
- 2kg green onion
- 5 cups garlic, crushed
- 6 bay leaves
- 10 bundles lemongrass, tangled
- 4.5 cups Sprite
- Clean the pig – remove its internal organs, scrape the bristles off the skin, and rinse the pig with water. Drain.
- Rub the insides and skin of the pig with salt and pepper. Brush the insides with soy sauce.
- Stuff the belly with saba bananas, star anise, green onion leaves, crushed garlic, and bay leaves. Finish with tangled bundles of lemongrass. Sew the belly up with kitchen thread.
- Skewer the whole pig into a mid-sized bamboo stick.
- Roast over hot charcoal. Turn constantly until the meat is tender and the skin crisp.
- Occasionally, brush the pig’s skin with Sprite.
- Chop the lechon into several pieces to serve.
Recipe credit: Taste Atlas
– Davao ulam recipes –
10. Bulcachong – slices of carabao meat simmered with spices and ginger
Image adapted from: @eleefoodie
Characterized by its red-orange stew and aroma, bulcachong is a dish composed of carabao meat simmered with various spices and ginger.
A favorite among Davaoeños, it’s a recipe invented by Chef Chong from a restaurant in Gen. Luna St. in Davao also named Bulcachong.
- Cooking oil
- 400g carabao tendons
- 800g carabao shanks
- 1 large white onion, chopped
- 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, thinly sliced then pounded
- 3 stalks lemongrass, white part
- 4 stalks spring onions, cut into 1-inch sections
- 2 tbsp liver spread
- 1 tbsp flour
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- 3 tsp atsuete powder
- 2 tsp paprika
- In a pot, heat oil. Place the slices of carabao tendons and shanks in the pot. Cook until they are brown, then remove from the pot.
- Sauté garlic, onions, and ginger in the same pot.
- Place the meat cuts back into the pot, then pour the beef stock.
- Scatter the lemongrass and spring onions. Pour water enough to cover the meat.
- Boil the mix, then cover the pot to let simmer for 1½ hours.
- Add the liver spread, flour, turmeric powder, atsuete powder, and paprika. Mix.
- Sprinkle some black pepper and add fish sauce. Continue to simmer for 30 minutes or until the meat cuts are tender.
Recipe credit: Ang Sarap
Pinoy ulam recipes to try at home
You’ll indeed never run out of Pinoy ulam recipes to follow at home, given that each region in the Philippines has distinct culinary traditions.
Whenever you’re missing dishes from Luzon down to Mindanao, you can always recreate these gastronomic delights that balance a fusion of tastes for the family at home.
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