Philippine Food Trip: 11 Unique Dishes in Mindanao

The last installment of our Philippine Food Trip focuses on the country’s second largest island: Mindanao
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The last installment of our Philippine Food Trip focuses on the country’s second-largest island: Mindanao

The cuisine of the Philippines is profoundly influenced by the abundance of resources and ingredients that can be found in each region. The cuisine of Mindanao has a flavor profile that stands out when contrasted with the food of the rest of the nation. It’s noteworthy to note that countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which are located in close proximity to Mindanao, have had a significant impact on the food there.

Because the cuisine of Mindanao is sometimes underappreciated, we have created a list of some of the most delicious dishes that can be found in the region for your pleasure!

These are the 11 unique dishes in Mindanao

The hidden treasures of Filipino food

Have you ever encountered any of these mouthwatering specialties from the region?


11 unique dishes in Mindanao
Photo from Yummy PH

The Tausug’s beef curry meal, Beef Kulma, is similar to the South Asian cuisine Korma, which consists of braised meat or vegetables in yogurt, water, or stock, and spices that create a thick sauce or stew. The dish’s roots may be attributed to Zamboanga, particularly the Muslim ethnic group known as the Tausug. Although beef kulma is commonly cooked during Ramadan, its consumption is not limited to the holy month of fasting. The dish is cooked in coconut milk along with peanuts, tomato, and curry spices.

Find a recipe here: 


11 unique dishes in Mindanao
Photo from Ang Sarap

Tiyula means “soup” in Tausug, whereas itum means “black” in the language—and this dish is just that. The signature black color from burnt coconut. Yes, it is burnt until it’s charcoal-like. This unusual ingredient is quite common in Mindanao and gives a nutty flavor. In Tausug culture, it’s a staple during weddings, Hari Raya (breaking of the fast), and other celebrations. The dish is so regarded that it is commonly referred to as “the food of royalty,” and it is served as such to royalty on a regular basis. Tiyula itum is made using goat or beef because pork is not permitted by the Muslim religion of the Philippines.

Try a recipe here:


11 unique dishes in Mindanao
Photo from Barbecue Bible

Chicken pyanggang is another dish that uses burnt coconut in its preparation. In this traditional Maranao recipe, the chicken is marinated in a mixture that includes charred coconut paste, along with chilies, ginger, and sakurab, all of which are used to produce a condiment known as palapa.  Maranao The cooking process for the chicken is finished off with a grilling. Chicken pyanggang is a dish that is popular among members of the Muslim community in certain areas, such as Sulu, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi.

Learn a recipe here:


11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from Chef Nik’s Food to GO’s Facebook

Satti is a delicious dish often eaten for breakfast in the island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu. Skewers of barbecued beef, chicken, and liver are served over a sweet and spicy red sauce. In addition to the sauce, the Satti dish is served with rice that has been cut into square bits and arranged on a leaf of coconut. The primary ingredients, which are beef, chicken, and chicken livers, are flavored with turmeric, curry, pepper, and garlic; however, the method by which satti is prepared differs from place to region. 

Try a recipe here:


11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo by Obsidian Soul on Wikipedia

Steamed rice is topped with minced meat in this Maguindanao delicacy known as pastil. Meat shredded into little pieces can be chicken, beef, or fish (called kagikit in the Maguindanao area). To prepare the beef, brown it in a skillet over medium-high heat with onion, garlic, and soy sauce in a little amount of oil. The rice and meat are traditionally wrapped in banana leaves in order to enhance the taste of the dish.

Get a recipe here:


11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from: Maranao Recipes | Blogspot

For many Filipinos, rice is something that should never be absent during meals, especially breakfast. And no one can really blame them for their love for it because it just goes well with any viand there is; fried or steamed, rice is really just a special and important part of any Filipino family’s dining table. But the plain white rice that most Filipinos are familiar with is not that popular for the Maranao people, an ethnic Muslim cultural-linguistic group that resides along the provinces of Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, which are located within the rich islands of the Mindanao region. 

These indigenous people have found a way to turn plain white rice into a savory and bright-colored cuisine. Kuning (or kyuning), which refers to a Malay word that literally translates to “yellow,” is the Maranao’s much-preferred version of rice. It is named kuning because parallel to its English translation, it has a unique yellow color; it is steamed with kalawag (turmeric) added to it.  It also resembles another rice dish from Indonesia referred to as “nasi kuning” due to its color and appearance; the only difference is that nasi kuning uses coconut milk, while its Filipino counterpart does not. 

Prepared and cooked using the adept combination of olive oil, salt, lemongrass, turmeric, and laurel leaves, the Maranao people serve this tasteful yellow rice dish either on a normal day or during special occasions.


11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from: thermomix

Next up is rendang. The name kind of has a foreign sound to it right? Well, it is because rendang is a non-native Filipino dish.  Originally from the tropical lands of Indonesia, rendang is a flavorful meal that has made its way to the Southern Philippines through commerce and migration. Because of this, it has since established itself as a Maranao community specialty; customarily, this dish is paired with steamed plain rice.

Often compared with the Indian curry, rendang is identified as a curry dish with caramelized beef as its main ingredient. The caramelized taste and texture of the beef are made possible by coconut milk that is intentionally reduced to a sweet and darkish consistency. Filipinos may also compare this delicacy to the more well-known beef caldereta, and the only difference is that rendang has curry and latik incorporated into its ingredients. 


11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from: Ang Sarap

Popular in the regions of Visayas and Northern Mindanao, sinuglaw is a delightful dish that is often described as a perfect mixture of pork and fish. Sinuglaw comes from the fusion of the terms sinugba and kinilaw, which are two different cuisines popular in the Visayas and Mindanao regions. Kiniliaw, often considered the Filipino version of the Latin American dish called ceviche, is a vinegar-soaked raw fish; but in Mindanao, they use a mixture of suwa and tabon-tabon (tropical fruit native to Mindanao) instead of vinegar.

Sinugba, on the other hand, can be simply described as grilled pork. The incredible balance of roasted and citrusy taste of the cooked and raw ingredients, along with the added spice of ginger, chili, shallots, onions, and pepper, is what makes sinuglaw unique. And while it can be paired with steamed rice, Mindanao natives often prefer to eat this dish as they enjoy their favorite alcoholic drinks.

Learn a recipe here:

The Tuna Capital of the Philippines

General Santos is hailed as the Tuna Capital of the Philippines

11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from Philfresh Corporation

The title “Tuna Capital of the Philippines” is often given to General Santos City. It is no doubt that it is one of the 11 unique dishes in Mindanao and indulging in some fresh tuna or other tuna-based specialties at one of the city’s countless food establishments is an absolute must for everyone traveling to GenSan. When it comes to catching tuna, the large fishing vessels based at GenSan go to the waters of Indonesia, Micronesia, and Papua New Guinea.

At least 120,000 people in the city live off the fisheries sector, which includes six tuna canneries, large commercial fishing boats, and other fishing companies. About $57.89 million worth of tuna exports are sent out of this port each year, according to city officials.  In addition to fresh tuna, the city is well-known for producing a variety of food items based on tuna, such as tuna chicharron, tuna hotdogs, tuna longganisa, and tuna tocino.

The King of Fruits finds its throne in Davao

The perfect soil and climate help the fragrant fruit thrive in the city

11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo by Kalai on Wikipedia

One of the city’s most well-known specialties is durian, which has been given the title of “King of the Fruits.” The volcanic soil and tropical temperature of Davao make it a perfect location for the cultivation of this notoriously pungent fruit. The area’s reputation for producing high-quality fruit results in prices that are far cheaper than those seen in any other part of the country. The Philippines are home to an uncommon kind of thornless durian that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Durian-flavored foods may be found in abundance throughout Davao City, from street vendors to souvenir shops. There are candies, ice cream, cheesecake, and many more made with durian.

An unusual kind of lechon

How adventurous of a foodie are you? Interested in a taste of this unique twist on the lechon?

11 unique dishes in mindanao
Photo from YouTube Channel Best Ever Food Review Show

This novel spin on the traditional and much-loved lechon was presented to the general public for the first time in 2011 during the “Croctoberfest 2011” event held at the Davao Crocodile Park. The concept was the creation of Davao businessman Sonny Dizon. The saltwater crocodiles used in lechon buwaya are roasted using the same method that is used for other types of lechon. 

Its preparation method is what makes it unique. Beer, pineapple and calamansi juice, coco syrup, chilies, peppercorn, and a variety of other spices are used to marinate the whole crocodile for an entire night. It has been noted that crocodile meat is low in fat, low in calories, and rich in protein. In appearance, this unique lechon resembles a combination between roasted beef and pig, and in flavor, it is similar to that chicken.

When visiting one of Mindanao’s beautiful cities, don’t forget to sample some of the local cuisine’s most delights. Establish a connection with the people who call this island home by attending to their culinary customs with reverence and partaking in the one-of-a-kind dishes they prepare.


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