photo by All Good

For those who are not familiar with Filipino cuisine and Tagalog terminology, we’ve provided you with a cheat cheat. (Note: while Tagalog is the official language spoken in the Philippines, it by no means is the only one. There are actually many many dialects and languages: 120 to 175 languages, according to Wikipedia).

—Lisa and Irene Yadao


Busog, adj.: satiated, full

Kain tayo, phrase: Let’s eat!

Kamayan, noun: style of eating with hands instead of Western utensils

Kusina, noun: kitchen

Lasa, noun: taste or flavor

Mabuhay, phrase: term deriving from buhay, meaning life; usually used as a greeting or exclamation. Live! Cheers! Welcome!

Masarap, adj.: delicious

Merienda, noun: light meal or snack usually in the afternoon between breakfast and lunch or lunch and dinner

Pagkain, noun: food

Pinoy, noun: term for a Filipino, esp. one living abroad

Pulutan, noun: term deriving from the word “pulutin” (something that is picked up), meaning finger foods; used to describe snacks, appetizers and sometimes entrees

Salamat: Thank you

Salu-salo, noun: Get-together, party

Sariwa, adj.: fresh, new, recent (food-related)

Sawsaw, verb: to dip, as in dipping pan de sal (bread) in kape (coffee), as Americans dip Oreos in milk or Spaniards dip churros in hot chocolate

Tsibog, noun: slang for food, grub

Turo-turo, noun: Also called point-point, a no-frills type of eatery in which the pre-cooked foods are laid out (such as in a cafeteria) and chosen by pointing.

Ulam, noun: a main dish eaten with rice.

Walang anuman, phrase: You’re welcome. Nothing whatsoever. No worries.





Halo-halo photo by flickr user Garrett Ziegler


Kakanin: Derived from the words “kain” (to eat) and “kanin” (rice), kakanin is an umbrella term for sweet snacks or desserts made of glutinous rice and coconut milk and slow-cooked. There are many different kinds of kakanin, the most popular of which are suman, puto, kutsinta, bibingka, and sapin-sapin.

Halo-halo: Translates to mix-mix, this is a dessert comprising shaved ice, sweet beans, jello, coconut, jackfruit, ube ice cream and evaporated milk. Add a piece of flan for good measure. Best described by The Actor’s Diet blogger and actress Lynn Chen as a structure of sweetness that you mix-mix, and famously enjoyed by Anthony Bourdain.

Ginataang bilo-bilo: Ginataang are dishes cooked in coconut milk and prepared in various ways, both savory and sweet. One of the more popular ways, ginataang bilo bilo, consists of bilo-bilo (rice balls, think mochi), coconut milk, sago pearls (think boba) and jackfruit.

Leche Flan: Same as Mexican flan, leche flan is custard made of eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla.

Ube: Purple yam with a distinct color and flavor, it is an ingredient used mostly in sweet treats and bread, such as halo-halo (topped with ube-flavored ice cream), ube puto (ube-flavored puto), ube cheesecake and pan de ube (ube-flavored bread).




Isaw photo by flickr user anna_d
Isaw photo by flickr user anna_d













Dinuguan: A stew of meat and offal cooked in a dark gravy of pig blood, garlic, vinegar and chili; also referred to as blood pudding stew.

Balut:  Duck embryo that is boiled and eaten in the shell, often with salt or a sauce made of garlic and vinegar.

Isaw: Street food made from barbecued pig or chicken intestines, usually dipped in vinegar sauce.




Pancit Bihon photo by flickr user Allan Reyes
Pancit Bihon photo by flickr user Allan Reyes












Adobo: Meat (usually chicken or pork) slow-cooked in vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and spices. Can also be made with seafood or vegetables.

Sinigang: A stew of meat and vegetables in a sour tamarind broth. Seafood can substitute or may also be included with meat.

Lumpia: Filipino spring rolls typically made of a mixture of ground pork or beef, minced onion, carrot, and bonding egg, wrapped in crepe-thin pastry and fried. Usually eaten with vinegar and garlic dipping sauce or soy sauce. Another variation is turon, a sweet fried lumpia with slices of banana and jackfruit.

Pancit: Pancit,a dish of noodles and shrimp, fish, meat, or vegetables, and is made in a variety of ways. Pancit luglog is shaken in hot water and flavored with sauce; pancit malabon is prepared with shrimp, oysters, and squid; pancit Canton uses egg noodles; and pancit bihon is characterized by rice noodles.

Silog: any breakfast dish consisting of sinangag (garlic fried rice) and itlog (egg), the most common variations being tapsilog (with tapa), tocilog (with tocino), and longsilog (with longanisa).

Sisig: A term originating from the province of Pampanga, sisig means “to snack on something sour.” Sisig refers to a method of preparing fish and meat (usually pork) by marinating the meat in vinegar or the juice of lemon or calamansi (Philippine lime), and cooking it in three phases: boiling, broiling and grilling.

Definitions and information were compiled from Wikipedia,,, NIU Center for Southeast Asian Studies’ Filipino Food/Cuisine Glossary,, and our nanay (mom).

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OtM logosThis story is a part of Off the Menu: Asian America, a multimedia project between the Center for Asian American Media and KQED, featuring a one-hour PBS primetime special by award-winning filmmaker Grace Lee (American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs), original stories and web content.