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Food Trip: Must-try Food in Zamboanga City

Zamboanga City, multicultural society in Zamboanga Peninsula, offers a lot to tourist. The colorful tradition that transcends from one generation to another. Its distinct culture which remains visible in their spoken languages, treasured heritages, and growing beliefs. And the delicious gastronomy that gives excitement in each trip.

A journey would not be complete without tasting the local cuisine of the place. Ranging from scrumptious seafood delights to fusion of Hispanic, Asian, and American cuisine, from all-time favorite desserts to traditional Zamboangueño, Tausug, Sama Banguingui and Muslim snacks, Zamboanga City is sharing a big contribution in promoting authentic gastronomic cuisines not just in Mindanao but the Philippines as a whole. With that, here are my picks for the must-try foods in "Asia's Latin City."


Curacha and Zamboanga City are synonymous. One can't be in Zamboanga City without trying its famous Curacha like no other. Curacha, a highbred crustacean spanner crab, is a crossbreed of a giant sea crab and the big spiny lobster which can only be found in waters of Zamboanga and Sulu and nowhere else in the world. Its size is unusual and has a reddish-pink in color.

Many restaurants serve Curacha on their menu. Some create a twist for the better taste. Two of the best Curacha I have tasted are served in Alavar's Seafood Restaurant and La Vista del Mar. The deep-fried or steamed spanner crabs poured with a sauce made of coconut milk, and secret spices are best to eat using bare hands to get the delicious meat underneath the shell of the crab.

So when in Zamboanga, go for Curacha!


Satti de Zamboanga or Satti Ayam or also known as Satay, is a breakfast meal to the locals of Zamboanga. Roasted strips with 3 versions made of beef, pork and chicken or liver. Satti serves with tamo (sticky rice) with a bowl of thick semi-sweet, hot and spicy sauce which gives a complementary taste to tamo. Satti roadside shops open as early as 4 am.



Being colonized by Spanish, several Hispanic flavors have been infused into dishes. One of which is Paella, a Spanish rice dish characteristically seasoned with saffron, chicken, seafood, and vegetables served in a large shallow pan. Zamboanga-based restaurants come up with an idea to create their own version of Paella. The Arroz Valenciana and Paella Negra are Zamboanga City's new kind of Paella.


Zamboanga White, a combination of cream and lychee, is the favorite drink of locals in Zamboanga City. The shake is served in restaurant and hotel including Alavar's Seafood Restaurant and Garden Orchid Hotel. Zamboanga White Shake surely quenches your thirst.


First introduced by homegrown resto Palmeras Restaurant, Knickerbocker, a local version of halo-halo of Zamboanga, is a dessert made of sliced fruits (apple, watermelon, pineapple, mango, melon), gelatin cubes, creamy milk topped with strawberry ice cream. I can say that among all the desserts Zamboanga has, Knickerbocker Glory is the most popular. More so, it is perfect for the tropical weather.


Zamboanga is near Sulu, Basilan and Tawi-tawi. The ethnic groups from different nearby provinces have settled in Zamboanga City. Groups like Tausug, Sama Banguingui, Yakan and among any other have contributed in the rich culinary cuisines of the region. Many have brought their traditional snacks and now considered as the snacks of Zamboangueños too. The famous snack in Zamboanga City is Jah or Lokot-lokot. A wafer-roll like made of glutinous rice and brown sugar fried in a pan.

Other Muslim snacks are Baulu Mamon, Baulu Tapung, Kalling or Hantak, Panganan, Pitis Patani, Tamal or Tamales and Panyalam.


Chicken Pastel Pyanggang, a Tausug dish, is a grilled chicken flavored with spices and served with coconut milk cooked with toasted coconut meat. Fused this particular delicacy by using chicken strips and baked it using an over cooked to top it with Pastel, a mixture of butter, flour, and egg. The rich flavor of Chicken Pastel Pyanggang is lingering on my taste buds. It tastes splendid. You can never go wrong if you try it.


La Vista Del Mar, an innovative restaurant located at the Upper Caliran in Zamboanga City, has accidentally invented a dish called Ensalada Chamba. A dish made of ripe mango,  salted egg, tomato, onion, bagoong or bagon as the locals call it, steamed eggplant, alamang and fish sauce. So far, Ensalada Chamba is the best Ensalada I have ever tasted. The sweet taste of mango well-complemented the taste of other ingredients.


One of the delectable dishes provided in Sta. Cruz Island is Chupa Kulo. A traditional viand made of squash and coconut milk. The only way to get the meat of the snail out from its shell is to suck it, that's how you do it.


Oko-oko, rice cooked in sea urchin or tehe-tehe as the Sama Bangungui ethnic group call it, is the delicacy of Sama people. Before putting the rice inside the tehe-tehe, the spines are removed and cleaned. Ground up some spices and sauteed the rice before being stuffed inside and sealed with leaf then boiled. The salty taste of tehe-tehe blends with the rice made the dish more flavorful. The proper way of eating the oko-oko is like cracking a hard-boiled egg. The preparation of oko-oko is rare and tedious; it requires an individual skill.

I can say that the rich culinary cuisines of Zamboanga are as colorful as their culture. More so, the gastronomic scenes of the region are the next big thing in Zamboanga Penisula Tourism.

Written by: Allandale M. Antenero

DISCLAIMER: This trip is courtesy of Department of Tourism - Region IX: Zamboanga Peninsula.

If you want to know more about Zamboanga City, visit www.zamboanga.gov.ph.


Allandale Antenero

A very odd, highly inquisitive and usually curious. I search, I wander, and I travel the ethereal beauty of the world has to offer. Aside from traveling, I write my own stories through travel experiences. I write to write, to inspire and to make a difference. Join me as I actualize my inner wanderlust to explore the unseen, capture the scene and share where I have been at www.utopianwanderer.net.

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  1. Zamboangueño is the name of an Ethnicity whose mother tongue is Chavacano. and Chavacano is not an Ethnicity but a language of the Zamboangueño Ethnic.

    I think "Chupa Culo" is a Zamboangueño Food, not a Tausug Food. The name itself is already Zamboangueño "Chupa" --> Suck "Culo" --> Butt

    Further; Tausug, Sama, Yakan and Zamboangueño are NOT Tribes BUT "Ethnic Groups" or "Ethnolinguistic Nations".

    The term tribe is also known as "Sub-Ethnic". IF you'll label them as a mere tribe, it's an insult. In case they are a mere tribes, the question is, Of what main Ethnicity do they belong?

    One thing we have to consider is that the Philippines, is a country of many nationalities. at current, there are about more than 175 Ethnolinguistic Nations, and the Zamboangueño Ethnic, Tausug Ethnic, Yakan Ethnic & Sama Ethnic, are just one of the more than 175 Ethnolingusitic Nations.

    Ademas, muchas gracias por este bien informativo articulo. :-)

  2. Also our BAGÓN, we do NOT call it BAGOONG but "BAGÓN". I think, it is precise to call it "BAGON". as it is also quite different from the Bagoong of the Tagalogs or of other Ethnolinguistic Nations.

    Tamal is a Zamboangueño food, not Tausug food.
    Curacha is also a Zamboangueño food.
    Chupa Culo is a Zamboangueño Food, not Tausug. Though the difference is that, Zamboangueño Chupa Culo is cooked and prepared with Leche de Coco with the Shells "Sabilan" or "Chupa Culo", and added other ingredients to it.

    You also forgot to mention the Delicacies & Food of the Zamboangueño Ethnic, like: Alfajor, Rebosa(d)o, Torón, Sicalañg, Estofado (cooked in Pimentón con mucho tomates Fresco), and more.

    1. hindi po ma-tatray lahat haha, kung ayun ba lang naman ang offered e baka next time :D

  3. Lastly, you mentioned the term "dialects". they are NOT dialects but "LANGUAGES" spoken by their respective Ethnolinguistic Nations, where each of these Ethnolinguistic Nations has their own Culture, Identity, Literature, Music, Beliefs, History, Foods, Dance, et.al. that is/are distinctively unique with the other Ethnolinguistic Nations in the Philippines.

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