5 Asian cuisines Cebuano palates should check out

Photos by Line Arias

IN THE past decade, there have been no shortage of great restaurants serving delicious food in Cebu. As you may have noticed, we now have most of the major international fast food chains on the island. Who hasn't gone to KFC, Kenny Rogers Roaster, Pizza Hut, Shakey's, and of course, the world's largest food chain, McDonald's? And recently, Burger King in Ayala just opened.

So yes, we have all these international food chains in Cebu. But most of them are actually just the same American fare, that are sometimes given a Pinoy twist to suit the Filipino palate.

Are you aware, though, that the island has so much more to offer than those world popular restos? As a matter of fact, we have a ton of Asian restaurants that are worth as much of our hard-earned peso as McDonald's.

So if you're tired of all the French fries, burgers, and fried chickens, then perhaps, you should sample the following scrumptious Asian cuisines.

1. Chinese

Tofu - Chinese cuisine

Buchi and Siomai
Buchi and Siomai

Dumplings and Steamed Chicken
Dumplings and Steamed Chicken

This is one of the yummiest cuisines to the Filipino palate, in my opinion. It has some of the locals' all-time favorites such as egg noodles, lumpiang shanghai, chop suey, and of course, siomai. Many of the Cebuanos I know who don't have high tolerance for foreign cuisines usually love Chinese food. This is probably because the Chinese culture has been integrated into our own country's culture for centuries. The Chinese are among the first foreigners to come to our island, after all -- even way before the infamous Magellan expedition team.

Spicy steamed fried rice, siomai, lumpiang shanghai, steamed fish, vegetable spring rolls, ube buchi, choco Bavarian creme

Harbour City Dim Sum House (Ayala Center Cebu and SM City Cebu)
Ching Palace (Salinas Drive, Lahug)
Ding Qua Qua (JY Square, Lahug)
Hainanese Delights (Cybergate, Fuente Osmeña
Choi City Seafood Restaurant (Banilad Town Centre)
Manila Foodshoppe (Manalili Street, SM City Cebu, and Parkmall Cebu)

2. Japanese

Japanese food - rolls

Japanese food - Gyoza and Sumo Sam
Gyoza and Sumo Sam

Japanese food - Rolls and Ramen
Rolls and Ramen

I've been curious about Japanese culture, especially the food, since I was in grade school and started watching my first anime series, which I think was Voltes V. Haha! Ramen and tempuras looked sooo good even in animated cartoons. No joke! But it had only been after I graduated from college that I was able to sample their cuisine.

You see, I always had this notion that Japanese restos are a bit pricey. And I wasn't entirely wrong. Like other American and European restaurants, there are rather expensive Japanese restaurants in Cebu. Thankfully, there are also those with an affordable enough menu. My personal fave places to visit whenever I crave Japanese food are Teriyaki Boy and Tokyo Joe's. But the rest on the list below certainly have their own epicurean appeal.

Gyoza, ramen, kani salad, yakimeshi rice, yasai itame, makis or rolls, chicken teriyaki, tonkatsu, and green tea ice cream

Joed's Lutong Hapon (Pres. Quirino St, Cebu City, Cebu - Mabolo)
Japengo (Cybergate, Fuente Osmeña and General Maxilom Avenue - near National Bookstore)
Teriyaki Boy (Ayala Center Cebu)
Nonki Japanese Restaurant (One Pavillion - Banawa)
Red Kimono (Ayala Center Cebu)
Tonkatsu by Terazawa (Ayala Center Cebu)
Tokyo Joe's (Ayala Center Cebu - Food Choices and SM City Cebu)
Sumo Sam (Ayala Center Cebu)

3. Indian

Indian food - Samosas

Indian food - Baklava and tea
Baklava and tea

Indian food - Butter chicken and Gulab Jammun
Butter chicken and Gulab Jammun

In my opinion, curry is among the most interesting adventures a palate can experience. That's probably why I love all kinds of curry dishes so much. And where else can you get the best curry in the world but in Indian cuisine, right? And who doesn't love roti, especially with a bowl of spicy yellow curry? I think the best meal would be a bowl of butter chicken, a cup of rice, and maybe a couple of roti bread with a pot of Turkish tea. Then after that, you chew on some gulab jammun or baklava. I promise, you will finally understand Robert Browning's line; "God's in His heaven - All's right with the world!"

Butter chicken, egg fried rice, gulab jammun, samosas, chicken masala

Firozian Indian Tea House (Don Jose Avila St, Cebu, 6000 Cebu - near CDU)
Mr. India (Gaisano Country Mall, Banilad)

4. Thai

Thai food - Sticky rice with mangoes and buko pandan
Sticky rice with mangoes and buko pandan

Thai food - Chicken curry and Pad Thai
Chicken curry and Pad Thai

Another great source of spicy curry dishes, I guess I just can't help but be partial to Thai cuisine as well. But more than my love for curry, the reason I just can't help but crave Thai dishes every now and then is because they have a lot of similarities with Filipino cuisine -- not to mention, they have several healthier options for people trying to curb their usual "red meat" diet. So yes, veggies and curry -- you can't go wrong with that!

Pad (phat) Thai, pineapple fried rice, Thai bagoong rice, spring rolls, sticky rice with ripe mangoes, chicken curry

Siam (Ayala Center Cebu)
Krua Thai (Gov. M. Cuenco Ave, Cebu City, Cebu and SM City Cebu)
Mae Krua (F. Ramos Street - near Diplomat Hotel)
Lemongrass (Ayala Center Cebu)

5. Korean

Korean food - Omellete rice
Omellete rice

Korean food - Kimbap and Korean appetizer
Kimbap and Korean appetizer

Korean food - Veggie pizza and Ramyeon
Veggie pizza and Ramyeon

The past few years, Cebuanos can't deny the phenomenon dubbed by many as the Korean invasion. From entertainment and fashion to quaint business establishments such as boutique cafes, there's no denying that we can see noticeable influences of the Korean culture here in our humble island. So it would only make sense that they'd also be bringing their cuisine along with everything else. Yay, more yummy food! And as it happens, they also have curry dishes. :D But more than that, I just can't get enough of their bibimbap! Seriously, my friends and I even tried to make this dish ourselves. It turned out great! And the secret is... their yummy chili paste (Gochujang sauce). *wink wink*

Bibimbap, kimbap, kimchi, ramyeon, samgyeopsal, bulgogi, jajangmyeon

Noodle House (corner F. Cabahug Street - Mabolo)
Korean Samgyupsal (Pope John Paul Avenue - Mabolo)
Chosun Chicken (Banilad Road - near USC-TC)

How about you? What Asian, or other international, cuisines have you enjoyed here in our humble city (or island)? Which restaurants would you recommend? I bet your fellow Cebuanos would love to know. ^_^ (HangingRice.com)


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