Filipino Seed Snacks

Among many Filipinos’ fondest memories is gathering around a bowl of dried watermelon seeds with a piece of old newspaper on hand ready to be piled with discarded shells. Ahhh… butong pakwan!!

Filipino Seed Snacks

Dried seeds are old-time favorite Filipino snacks. Fun and addictive to snack on, satisfying one’s oral fixations, unshelled seeds boast a fairly low “calorie to bite” ratio — what with the amount of effort involved in carefully extracting each seed’s kernel from out of the shell. In terms of nutritional value, seeds run a close second to traditional nuts as a source of potassium, manganese and zinc.


Among many Filipinos’ fondest memories is gathering around a bowl of dried watermelon seeds with a piece of old newspaper on hand ready to be piled with discarded shells. Parents and older relatives take on the task of cracking open the buto (“seed”) for young children who have yet to develop the skill of extracting the kernels as whole as possible.

Snacking on butong pakwan happens when family and friends are just hanging out, chatting or watching television. It’s a great “busy food” to give bored hands something to do. The ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia are known to do this type of snacking over the Lunar New Year or during a funeral wake. The seed-eating session usually only ends once you’ve run out of seeds or your lips and tongue have become too painfully sore from the salt.

Paning's Butong Pakwan

Butong pakwan does have a distinctive flavor beyond mere saltiness, brought about by the addition of sanque, which is star anise (Illicium verum), and it is not uncommon to find one or two of the beautifully desiccated anise flowers still mixed in among the black seeds, providing a subtly sweet enhancement. Watermelon seeds come in packets that are sometimes labeled simply as “melon” seeds. Popular brands include Captain Sid’sPaning’sAling Conching and Tropics.


Outside the Philippines, pumpkin seeds have become a common snack food and are even sold already shelled. Filipinos refer to them as buto ng kalabasa although the calabaza squash is a different variety of gourd from the American pumpkin.

The kalabasa popularly grown in the Philippines is Cucurbita moschata, a species that likely originated in Central America and was brought over to the islands during the Spanish colonial period. The pumpkin more commonly seen in the United States is the species known as Cucurbita pepo.

The shape of squash seeds, particularly those of larger sizes, makes them ideal to be fed into a mechanical seed dehuller. That is why squash seeds are not infrequently sold already shelled. The only other seasoning usually added to buto ng kalabasa during processing is plain salt.

Aling Conching brand of Buto ng Kalabasa

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The Origin of Filipino Adobo

There is much debate among hoi polloi about the origins of the Filipino adobo, occasionally dubbed the national dish of the Philippines.

“Hey, the name of the dish is a Spanish word. There’s that verb adobar. It’s a Spanish dish obviously. The Spaniards introduced it during their 400 years of colonial rule in the country.”

CNN recently weighed in and casually declared that the Filipino adobo is of Mexican origin.

Savvier eaters chime in: “There’s soy sauce in it. It has to be from China. The Chinese have been on the islands for at least a thousand years.”

Among food historians and culinary experts though, the consensus is clear: Filipino adobo is Philippine in origin. 

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The Best Filipino Cookbooks?

When pressed to define Filipino food in one word, we’re apt to say “fusion.” Philippine cuisine bears the influence of our neighbors in Asia and the Pacific, as well as our colonial rulers from far-off lands throughout history. Our dishes and snacks incorporate recipes, ingredients and cooking styles with roots in Malay, Chinese, and Iberian (Spanish & Portuguese) cultures, among many others. These rich layers of influence make our food somewhat unique.

But our cuisine doesn’t merely reflect foreign influence — it of course showcases our local values as well. The enduring appeal of Filipino dishes like adobo, sinigang, and kare-kare is proof that our meals are focused on the ulam being traditionally served at the center of a table in sizes to share. This social, family- oriented approach to meals is truly Filipino.

Explore and discover the true Filipino goodness of the cuisine we call our own. Recreate classic recipes at home and find ingredients to bring your meals to life. 🙂

Filipino cookbooks with recipes from the Philippine islands

Each region of the Philippines has its own distinct food culture, just like the regional differences so common in the United States. The Filipino Cookbook is a collection of 85 tried-and-tested recipes, including from Pampanga, the Visayas, and Mindanao — pinakbet (sauteed vegetables with shrimp paste), paella (rice and seafood medley), morcon (stuffed beef roll), pininyahang manok (pineappled chicken)…

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Filipino Food Bloggers

We have made every effort to remove from this list those bloggers who have received sponsorship from Ramar Foods, the American company that unethically appropriated the Magnolia brand from the Philippine corporation San Miguel. If we have overlooked a name, please let us know.

Filipino American food bloggers have received funding from Ramar Foods to create a “non-profit” movement, ostensibly to promote Filipino food… It is essentially a PR tactic to deflect attention from Ramar’s unethical piracy of a prominent Philippine trademark.

Click here to check out the list of Filipino food bloggers!

OMGpeke: Magnolia Ice Cream USA

OMGpeke: Magnolia Ice Cream USA

#OMGpeke is a reaction to the #OMGMagnolia use of Ramar Foods, a Northern California company that “legally” pirated the Magnolia trademark from the Philippine originator San Miguel.

Ramar Foods started using the Magnolia brand for its ice cream in the 1970s without any licensing agreement with San Miguel, which had been developing the brand in the Philippines since the 1920s… Presumably, the Northern California company was duping Filipino Americans into thinking that they were affiliated with Magnolia in the Philippines.

Then in the 1990s, while San Miguel was preoccupied with its restructuring problems, Ramar managed to register the Magnolia trademark in the United States for ice cream. So now “legally” Ramar owns the Magnolia brand identity (with the logo it did not create) in the United States, while San Miguel is shut out from using it. Continue reading “OMGpeke: Magnolia Ice Cream USA”

Ingredients in Mang Tomas Sauce

Mang Tomas is the brand of an all-purpose sauce that Filipinos love to use with lechon. The original variant comes in a yellow-labeled bottle that contains 11.64 fluid ounces.

Many eaters often wonder what it’s made from. The crucial ingredient is liver!

Ingredients in Mang Tomas Sauce

Water, Sugar, Bread Crumbs, Vinegar, Salt, Liver, Spices, Pepper and Sodium Benzoate as a Preservative
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Bottled Haluhalo?

Sweet fruit & bean mixtures ready to go!

The most famous icy concoction of the Philippines could well be Haluhalo. To align with Western meal concepts, it’s been referred to as a “dessert” when it used to be mainly enjoyed on hot summer afternoons. These days, almost any occasion can be used as an excuse to enjoy this cold treat, particularly after lunch or dinner.

Haluhalo consists of a blend of fruits, sweet preserves, and evaporated milk, topped with shaved ice and optionally a scoop of ice cream. The name literally means “Mix-Mix” in the Tagalog language, in reference to the hodgepodge of ingredients needing to be mixed throughly before enjoyment.

Typical ingredients are kaong (palm fruit), macapuno (young coconut), langka (jackfruit), munggo (mung beans), saba (plantain), ube (purple yam), mais (corn), nata de coco (coconut gelatin), garbansos (chickpeas), pinipig (crisped rice), and sago (pearls similar to boba).

You can buy these ingredients separately, and that was what had been done by haluhalo makers for decades. Families kept several jars of the different sweet preserves, scooping an ingredient from each of the containers a little at a time, assembling them in a serving glass.

Recently, however, companies have made the procedure more convenient by combining various ingredients in one bottle!

Bottled Halo-Halo

For example, the Masagana brand of halo-halo mix includes the following in one jar: macapuno strings, purple-yam jam, sugar palm fruit, white beans, red munggo beans, chickpeas, nata de pina, and nata de coco.

Bottled Haluhalo

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Buy Filipino Food Online at Hmart

Asian online store provides more options for buying Filipino food.

First, there’s our affiliate and everyone’s trustworthy store Amazon, which unknown to many Pinoys, has tons of Filipino food and grocery items, and of course is the safest e-commerce site around.

And now H-Mart, a well-regarded chain of Asian stores with an online shop, is carrying more and more items from the Philippines.

Click here for a list of Filipino food available at Hmart!