Journey of Indian Cuisine in the Philippines


Over the years, the Indians coming to Philippines have brought with them not only their business acumen, but more importantly, their glorious cuisine. Let us take a glance at how Indian cuisine made way in Philippines

An alchemy of harmonious tastes, ingredients, and techniques, Indian cooking is as diverse and grand as its country and people. Over the past decade, India’s colorful culture and cuisine have been gaining momentum and have been making their way into the mainstream. Indian chai can now be found in various permutations at your local coffee house, while chicken tikka masala, naan sandwiches, pita wraps, and even hybrid items like chapati quesadillas sit comfortably on global menus. From street stalls to food trucks, to Michelin-starred kitchens, Indian flavors have found new homes with their unique taste profile.

Through extensive travel, both real and virtual, the Filipino palate has also grown bolder and more adventurous. Diners young and old are eager to try ethnic cuisines, once considered intimidating and exotic. And, with the growing interest in leading healthier lifestyles that includes the practice of yoga and Ayurvedic medicine, there is no vegetarian cuisine quite like Indian.

The growing number of Indian immigrants and expatriates over the past 50 years in the Philippines has also helped popularize their cooking. Initially there were fewer families in different parts of Philippines and no Indian groceries nor restaurants to be found. However, the availability of fresh produce similar to what they had in India—fish, vegetables, pulses, and even mutton— allowed these families to enjoy the same food they had grown up with back home. The seasonings, however, were not as accessible. So most of them would ask their relatives to send spices etc by sea once or twice a year. Over the years this gap also got filled and now there are many Indian stores, like Assad on U.N. Avenue or Jupiter Street in Makati, and many ingredients can even be found in large groceries.

It is undeniable that the masterful and extensive use of spices, or spice blends called masalas, is what sets Indian cuisine apart from all others—cumin, cinnamon, peppercorns, carom, cloves, coriander seeds, fennel, mustard seeds, nutmeg, ajwain, and green and black cardamom, to name a few. From centuries of experience passed through generations, Indian cooks know not only how to blend these intensely aromatic spices, but the best way to extract their flavors.  And then, of course, there are the nuances of each dish: Some call for the use of ground spices while for others, the spices should only be used in their whole form.

Another popular part of the Indian cuisine are the delicious mouth-watering sweets. In the initial days in Philippines people mostly used to make sweets at home as they were not available at any store. However today Indian pantry stockists and restaurants like Legend of India sell ready-made sweets for takeaway. They can also be found from the vendors that line the street outside the Sikh Gurdwara, Khalsa Diwan Sikh Temple, in Manila.

We can safely say that the journey of Indian cuisine in Philippines has been an enriching one with both the Indians and the Filipinos enjoying the taste of this delicious cuisine. Today, there are a number of restaurants in the city that serve Indian cuisine, making the tastes and flavors of India much more accessible, and thus, much more popular.

Here are a few of our favorite Indian stockists and restaurants:

MANTRA BISTRO Grand Midori, G-7, Bolanos Street, Legaspi Village, Makati, 776.0318

ROYAL INDIAN CURRY HOUSE 5345 General Luna Street, Makati; 801.4435

ASSAD MINI MART Unit 1-A Eurocrest Building, 126 Jupiter Street, Bel-Air, Makati, 897.2543; 1268 Midtown Executive Homes, United Nations Avenue, Paco Manila, 526.5034

KASHMIR Festejo Building, 816 Arnaiz Avenue, Makati, 844.4924; San Antonio Plaza, Forbes Park, Makati; Merchants Center Building, Padre Faura Street, Ermita, 524.6851;

SPICES The Peninsula Manila, 1226 Ayala Avenue corner Makati Avenue, Makati, 887.2888

QUEENS BOLLYWOOD 3/F Greenbelt 3 Ayala Center, Makati