PAMPANGA: Your Awesome Journey to Pampanga Food Trip (Infographic)

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Pampanga 101: A Taste of Kapampangan Food Culture
written by Anton Diaz for the Awesome Life Planner 2012 

Pampanga is regarded as the culinary center of the Philippines. It is a haven for foodies, where good food is a minimum requirement and where great cooks are born. Most of the best places to eat around the country can trace back their roots to Pampanga.

This province ignited my passion for food. Sometimes, I wish I grew up in a Kapampangan household because of its yummy food and culinary traditions. When exploring the province, I recommend seeking out its home-based traditional cuisine and going where the locals love to hang out.

Here is a first-timer’s foodie guide to experiencing the best food in Pampanga:

1. Bale Dutung by Claude Tayag is an immersion in how Kapampangans celebrate and enjoy good food at home. Claude and his wife Mary Ann warmly welcome guests to their home called Bale Dutung (“House of Wood”) and offer probably the longest slow lunch (5+ hours!) you’ll ever experience in the Philippines. It is a degustation of authentic Kapampangan food made from traditional recipes. The dishes are well-presented and served in small but filling portions. You have three menu options: All-Kapampangan Menu, the 5-Ways Lechon Menu and the Anthony Bourdain Menu (it is composed of the dishes served during Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations Philippines episode).

Our personal favorite is the 5-Ways Lechon Menu, which showcases how Kapampangans celebrate special occasions with great food. The dining experience starts with Pampanga’s appetizer classics — Ensaladang Pakô (fiddle head fern salad), Piniritong Lumpiang Ubod sa Claude’9 Oriental Sauce (fried all-vegetable spring roll with lemon coriander Thai basil sauce), Inasal na Manok at Claude’9 Talangka Rice (BBQ chicken wings with lemon grass marinade and crab fat rice), and Talangka Sushi Hito at Balo-Balo Sushi (sushi of crab fat and catfish). The star of the menu, lechon, is first served with the skin — Balat ng Lechon at Liver Sauce (crispy roast pork skin), followed by a self-service wrap — Lechon Tortilla (crispy roast pork flakes on a tortilla). Then, the ribs are cooked inasal-style — Inihaw na Tadyang na Lechon at Ensaladang Talong (grilled pork ribs with eggplant salad). The soup course is the traditional sinigang but with lechon — Sinigang na Lechon (pork meat in sour soup). Finally, there’s Lechon Sisig (pig’s cheeks with onion and liver sauce), a dish that made Pampanga famous. The meal ends with Claude’s signature dessert called PARADISO. It is composed of three balls of yam, coconut, and egg yolk in carabao’s milk.

Bale Dutung is an educational and unique gustatory experience you should not miss! 


2. Everybody’s Cafe is one of the oldest restaurants in Pampanga, having been around since right after World War II. Check out the main branch in San Fernando where the cozy canteen-type ambiance has been maintained. The Kapampangan classics are best eaten here, like the Pritong Hito (fried catfish) wrapped in mustasa leaf with Buro (fermented rice with shrimp). The establishment is also known for its Morcon, which is meat loaf with chorizo, duck eggs, and other special ingredients.

For adventurous diners, try the Fried Camaru (rice field crickets that taste like bacon), Betute (stuffed frogs that taste like stuffed chicken — just don’t mind how it looks), and Pindang Tapa (fermented carabao’s meat), which goes really well with rice and carabao’s milk for breakfast.


3. C’Italian Dining is a superb Italian restaurant in the Philippines. The man behind it, Chef Chris Locher, decided to call Clark in Angeles City his home. He is known as the original creator of the Panizza, a thin-crust pizza cut into strips that you roll with arugula leaves and alfalfa sprouts, and eat like a rolled sushi. Most of the pasta, meat and seafood items in the menu are delicious.

In the foodie circle, Chef Chris is known for his freestyle dining experience. You just have to let him know what you like in general and what sort of food adventure you’re after. His best creations come to light when you give him free reign to create his own magic with the menu, the food, and the overall service. The food is served family-style in a homey setting. The best way to savor each dish is to share it with family and friends over good conversations. This fun dining experience could easily last 3+ hours.


4. Sisig in Pampanga should be part of your must-eat list. The province is considered the home of this much-celebrated dish. Sisig is actually a Kapampangan term meaning “to snack on something sour” and it also refers to a method of preparing pork with calamansi or vinegar, seasoned with salt and pepper. It became known as the national pulutan (favorite dish when drinking) when Aling Lucing’s in Angeles put chopped parts of a pig’s head (ears, cheeks, snout) and liver on a sizzling plate in the 1980’s. This dish spread throughout the country with different variations – some were topped with eggs, some with mayonnaise, etc.

When in Pampanga, drop by Mely’s in San Fernando for the original version, which is just grilled, lightly spiced and seasoned with vinegar. The classic version is not crunchy and you can order “choice cuts” or “style” to get the best pieces of the pig’s head.

Another favorite is Mila’s in Angeles City, home of the crunchy sisig, which is like chopped, crunchy lechon kawali.


5. Atching Lillian is one of the gatekeepers of authentic Kapampangan cuisine. She ensures that the traditional recipes are preserved for generations to come. She entertains guests in her ancestral house in Mexico, Pampanga on a private dining-reservation basis. Atching Lillian serves the best Kapampangan breakfast and provides a culinary demo of the province’s cuisine. You should not pass up hearing her story about the San Nicolas biscuit and how to make it using biscuit molds that have been passed down from generation to generation.


6. Spend the Holy Week in Pampanga to experience the Good Friday Feast. This is the best time to visit the province to immerse yourself in its food and religious culture. You’ve never really experienced Pampanga until you witness the 3 p.m. Crucifixions in Cutud in San Fernando, which is part of an old tradition of dramatizing the passion and death of Jesus Christ called Via Crucis.

On Good Friday, Kapampangan families hold their annual reunions as well. They join the traditional Good Friday procession of the Santo Entierro, with each family bringing out their sponsored carroza with various saints and disciples around the heritage district of San Fernando.

After the procession, you can hop from one ancestral house to the next in a meet-and-greet session with different families. Kapampangans celebrate this day with a feast of good seafood and vegetable dishes while abstaining from meat.

You have to be invited by a Kapampangan family to experience this Good Friday feast. It is quite a treat to experience this unique tradition.


7. Historic Camalig Restaurant is the home of Armando’s Pizza — “Ang Pambansang Pizza” — in Angeles City. It is located in a camalig (an ancestral rice grain depot) built 100+ years ago and restored in 1970. This proudly Pinoy pizza is made from handmade dough, which is baked to crispy perfection with a variety of toppings. 

Order the ALL THE WAY Pizza with pepperoni, ground beef, green pepper and mushroom OR, for the ultimate experience, try ARMANDO’S BEST Pizza, which has the same toppings as ALL THE WAY but with extra pepperoni, double ground beef, double green pepper, double mushroom and extra Canadian bacon. For a Kapampangan pizza experience, check out DOY’S KAPAMPANGAN with lungganisa (Kapampangan sausage), ebun buru (salted duck egg), onion, and pickle relish.


8. Abe’s Nature Farm in Magalang, Pampanga (near the foot of dormant Mt. Arayat) is a cool, quiet escape for Manilenos looking for decent Kapampangan food, quiet “bahay kubo” ambiance, and a relaxing spa experience. This farm is owned by artist Emilio “Abé” Aguilar Cruz, the father of the LJC Restaurant Group known for good Filipino food (its signature restaurants are Cafe Adriatico in Malate and Abe Restaurant in Serendra). You need to have a reservation to be accommodated in this private farm.


9. Kapampangan Desserts come in various shapes, sizes, and forms. When you travel to Pampanga for a food trip, you must make sure it ends on a sweet note. Here are the province’s Top 10 Desserts:

  • Susie’s Tibok Tibok – Rich carabao’s milk pudding topped with latik. It has a very smooth, velvety texture like panna cotta.
  • Rosing’s Pastillas – Sweet milk candies made from pure carabao’s milk.
  • Imang Salud Ensaymada (San Fernando)Big 6-inch ensaymadas with a rich, buttery flavor balanced with shredded toppings of queso de bola.
  • Medina’s Ensaymada (Arayat) – This big ensaymada is a bit heavy in taste. Its queso de bola-infused buttery dough is generously sprinkled with sugar and topped with butter.
  • Aurely’s Special Brazo de Mercedes – A cupcake-size inverted brazo, where the custard filling is topped on the sponge-like soft meringue.
  • Ningnang Mais by Mrs. Emelita Galang – Brazo de Mercedes with meringue that has been piped and broiled to simulate the appearance of grilled corn.
  • Doren Tayag’s Decadent Cake with Caramel Sauce – Soft and moist chocolate cake with luscious chocolate icing, topped with rich caramel sauce.
  • Must be Mom’s Ensaymadas – Small, melt-in-your mouth ensaymadas topped with creamy butter and cheese with pastillas filling.
  • Nathaniel’s – Known for their sweet Buko Pandan Salad and their Puto with pork asado filling topped with itlog na maalat.
  • Pampanga’s Halo Halo – See more below. 🙂


10. The Halo Halo of Pampanga deserves a separate entry in this list. Kapampangans are known for their sweet tooth, which is probably why the province is home to the best versions of this wonderful cold treat in the country. Their halo halo uses fine, shaved ice and simple but quality ingredients cooked to sweet perfection. The best ones are:

  • Razon’s Halo Halo (Guagua) – This sweet halo halo has its own cult following because of its simplicity: fine crushed ice infused with milk and three sweet ingredients cooked traditionally well — macapuno at the bottom, saba banana and leche flan with dayap rind on top. The original home store in Guagua is now closed but the Razon families created their own Razon Halo Halo versions and franchised the concept.
  • Kabigting’s (Arayat) – Kabigting’s Halo Halo is richer and also has three signature ingredients: mashed white kidney beans cooked to the consistency of halaya, sweet cream corn kernels, and carabao’s milk pastillas topped with hand-shaved ice and carabao’s milk. It is best to eat in their main branch in Arayat, but if it is convenience you’re after, they already have branches in Robinson’s Mall and Marquee Mall in Pampanga, and they are also expanding outside the province.
  • Halo Halo sa Corazon (Angeles) – This halo halo made from the heart has more ingredients: specially cooked saging saba, sweet corn, a combination of sweet crushed beans, macapuno, and pastillas de leche. Its main house along Corazon St. in Angeles is still a favorite because of its garage-converted ambiance in a quiet neighborhood.


I envy Kapampangans for growing up in a yummy household and that is why they are the foodies’ best friend.

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12 thoughts on “PAMPANGA: Your Awesome Journey to Pampanga Food Trip (Infographic)

  1. I come from a family of Kapampangan cooks and according to my Nanay, the secret of the delicious recipes is on the marinade or sangkutcha as they call it.

  2. Hi Anton,
    Thanks for spreading the good word regarding some of Pampanga’s best dishes and places to eat. I’m proud to be a kapampangan and I’ve learned how to cook at a very young age so even here in the US, my co-workers always request filipino food either cooked by my mom or myself 🙂
    I stumbled upon your blog in ’09 and have been following it eversince. I always list down the restaurants that you feature that interests me and try to visit them whenever I come home to the Philippines (yearly), so thanks for not getting tired of blogging and featuring new restaurants and places to visit.
    More power to you and God bless! 🙂

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