The Lent season is a very important time for the Filipino Catholic population. It’s a time of religious gatherings, prayers, going to mass, and remembering the passion of Christ. Internationally, the Lent Season is a month-long event that begins on Ash Wednesday and ends before Easter Sunday. But in the Philippines, ceremonies and customs during the Lent season are compressed within one week known as Holy Week.
One of these customs that is observed during the Holy Week is abstaining from eating meat, as per the Catholic Church’s instructions. This is done to practice self-discipline and as a means to participate in the season of penitence. Filipinos and many Catholics all over the world would abstain from eating any type of meat as this was seen as a luxury. Exceptions would include eggs and seafood.
So for the first Wednesday to Friday on the Lent Season, Filipinos would have to alter their eating habits from the typical meat-based diet to a pescetarian based one. The more religious Filipinos would even adapt this new diet throughout the whole Lent Season.
We all know that Filipinos love their meat but there are plenty of Filipino dishes out there that are already pretty delicious without. There are also plenty more Filipino recipes that can be altered to not include any meat or meat-based products. It doesn’t have to be a struggle to come up with a meal plan for the Holy Week that would follow religious customs.
So with that said, here are the best Filipino recipes for Lent season.
Sinigang is highly considered one of the best contenders to be the national dish of the Philippines so abstaining from meat won’t stop Filipinos from having this dish during the Holy Week. The good news is that sinigang is a versatile recipe and can use loads of different ingredients. Seafood sinigang is a classic sinigang recipe that’s both healthy and delicious with its sour flavors.
What’s more, is that it can be eaten during the Holy Week. Fish sinigang and hipon or shrimp sinigang are also huge favorites.
Inihaw na pusit or grilled squid is a nice treat to have any day of the year. But during the Holy Week where it’s customary to not have meat almost a week serves as a great excuse to go that extra mile and serve grilled squid. Filipinos love calamari but they love grilled squid even more, partly because it’s seldom available for everyday consumption. Rather than making the everyday calamari, inihaw na pusit has the squid stuffed before cooking it up on the grill.
Tortang talong is the Filipino recipe of an eggplant omelet. It’s a deliciously healthy Filipino dish that’s typically eaten for breakfast with lunch along with white rice and a side preferred condiments. The eggplant is first toasted to remove the skin. The meat or core of the eggplant needs to be mushy and lay flat on the plate. Then the eggplant is cooked into a layer of scrambled eggs mixed with chopped aromatic ingredients like garlic, onions, and tomatoes.
See also: How to Cook Tortang Okra (Lady’s Finger)
Along with sinigang, adobo is another popular contender to being the national dish of the Philippines. And similar to sinigang, adobo is a very versatile Filipino recipe that Filipino can pick and choose any ingredients to use to their liking as long as the core ingredients are there. Adobong pusit sa gata or squid adobo cooked in coconut milk is one of the many variations of adobo there is. This version of the adobo is chewy and creamy in texture because of its main ingredients.
See also: Adobong Hipon Recipe
One of the simpler Filipino dishes on this list, daing na bangus is a milkfish that has gone through a process called daing. This is where the fish is split in half, marinated with vinegar, peppercorn, and salt, then left to be sun-dried. This process can be done to many different fish species as a means to preserve the food and it gives the fish a stronger flavor.
Daing na bangus is simply fried and served with white rice and condiments.
Shrimp is a very popular food in the Philippines. Filipinos can do practically anything with this ingredient in include it any recipe they can think of. Shrimp increases even more and popularity amongst Catholic households during the holy week. Buttered garlic shrimp is just one of the many popular ways to prepare shrimp in the Philippines. And it’s also one of the simplest which led to its popularity. The creamy flavor along with the acidity of the shrimp serves for a simple but simple dish.
Browsing through this site, you’re probably already familiar with various lumpia recipe, the fried ones, which we’re going to discuss shortly. But for this entry, we have the lumpiang sariwa. It’s virtually an unfried version of the standard lumpia but predominantly uses vegetables and proteins wrapped around a lumpia wrapper as a kind of crepe then sweet sauce is poured over the lumpia.
The standard lumpiang sariwa recipe typically has cuts of meat in them but the recipe can easily be altered to exclude it and still result in a delicious meal.
See also: Vietnamese Lumpiang Sariwa Recipe
Pinakbet is a deliciously healthy indigenous Filipino dish that originates from the northern regions of the Philippines. Its name came from the Ilocano word pinakebbet that translates to “shriveled” or “shrunk”. This Filipino dish has a unique flavor with its main use of shrimp paste along with the vegetable ingredients. It’s the perfect dish for the Holy Week to consume because it hardly needs any meat to prepare. Many people simply use shrimp.
See also: Vigan Pinakbet Recipe
Kangkong or water spinach is a hugely popular vegetable in the Philippines. It’s used in a lot of Filipino dishes as a secondary ingredient, especially in meat-based recipes like sinigang. But kangkong itself is a delicious ingredient. Filipinos love sauteeing it in oyster sauce with garlic for added flavor. This makes for a filling healthy dish that’s easy to prepare and quite affordable as well. We recommend adding tofu to this recipe for the Holy Week.
10. Fish Sisig
Sisig is one of the most loved Filipino dishes not just in the Philippine but worldwide as well. It’s a meat recipe that is regularly consumed during parties and as a pulutan dish whenever groups of friends go out for a drink. During the Holy Week, Filipinos aren’t deterred from consuming sisig, they just substitute the pork with fish instead. It’s a fairly easy alternative. Fish sisig is just as delicious although a fair bit saltier than its pork counterpart.
11. Rellenong Bangus
Another bangus or milkfish dish on this list. Rellenong bangus isn’t an everyday Filipino dish, at least not in our household. The process of preparing rellenong bangus can be complicated where the fish meat is removed and the fish’s skin is stuffed with a mixture of bell peppers, carrots, tomatoes, and the fish meat. It’s like stuffing a chicken but much it’s a much more delicate process. But what better excuse to prepare rellenong bangus than during the Holy Week?
12. Ginisang Munggo
This dish is a very healthy one indeed. Ginisang munggo is a vegetable soup full of munggo or mung beans, shrimp, and various other leafy greens. Add in some tomatoes for some sweet flavors. This dish is sure to fill you up during the Holy Week without indulging and it comes with great health benefits as well. Our recipe for ginisang munggo has chicharon on the list of ingredients but that can be easily excluded.
Filipinos can go without meat for a whole week and more if they wish to but that doesn’t mean they have to sacrifice having a flavorful meal. Sweet and sour is probably the best description of the Filipino’s palate and what better way to embody those flavors than with a sweet and sour dish? This sweet and sour fish recipe not only provides the best flavor combination for Filipinos but it can also be devoured during the Holy Week without breaking any customs.
14. Fish Lumpia
Here’s the lumpia that we’ve mentioned above. Lumpia is a simple enough recipe that has a mixture of ground meat and vegetables wrapped in lumpia wrapper and fried until golden brown. It’s a very popular dish in Filipino households for lunch and dinner. But during the Holy Week, people need to abstain from meat. So a great alternative is fish lumpia where the ground meat is substituted with fish meat, easy.
15. Baked Tahong
This next entry probably isn’t the most common treat among Filipino household, partly because the recipe for this dish needs an oven. Which the majority of Filipino households don’t have. Baked Tahong or mussels simply have the mussels’ meat brushed with butter after cleaning, baked in the oven, and served. Most Filipinos order this from food businesses rather than cook it at home. It’s a nice treat to have during the Holy Week.
Now we’re back to a more common Filipino dish that’s regularly served for everyday meals. Ginisang amaplaya at itlog simply translates to sauteed bitter melon and eggs. This is a great meal for breakfast as it can easily wake anyone up with its bitter but delicious flavor. Children may make a fuss if this is served for breakfast but they easily grow to love it. Plus, it’s an extremely healthy dish and just right for the Holy Week.
Tilapia is one of the most popular fish in the Philippines to consume and we imagine that it’s consumed a lot more during the Holy Week. The most common recipe for tilapia is simply soaking it with some artificial flavoring and frying it in a pan. The condiments of soy sauce and calamansi juice will bring out the needed flavors. But this ginisang pechay with fried Tilapia alleviates the standard fried Tilapia dish in terms of flavor and nutrition.
Ensaladang talong simply translates to eggplant salad. This dish is more of a snack than a full out meal on its own but it’s worth a mention as its a perfect dish to consume during the Holy Week. The eggplant is first grilled to loosen up the skin and smashed in a bowl. Other ingredients for the salad are added and the ensaladang talong is ready. This can be eaten as a snack or as a side dish to more filling non-meat recipes like fried fish.
See also: Gulay at Prutas na Ensalada Recipe
Yum! Another different way to cook tilapia during the Holy Week. Ginataang na tilapia means cooking the tilapia is a delicious concoction of coconut milk plus other healthy and flavorful ingredients like turmeric, garlic, onions, and calamansi juice or lemon. The refreshing coconut milk brings out the delicious taste of the tilapia and provides a creamy texture that goes great with the Tilapia’s fluffy meat.
20. Pinangat na Isda
This last entry for the best Filipino recipe to consume for the Holy Week is the flavorful pinangat na isda. Pinangat is a cooking technique that hails from the southern Philippines and results in sour flavors similar to the likes of sinigang. Pinangat recipes traditionally make broths from tomatoes and various souring agents like tamarind, calamansi, bilimbi, or santol. The most common recipe for a pinangat dish uses fish as we have here, and hipon or shrimp.
See also: Pinangat Recipe