Pinoy Cooking Terms You Should Know

Adobo isn’t actually the name of a dish.

There are certain terms in Filipino cooking that you may not know the true meaning of. In fact, many of the names of dishes you know may actually be a description of how the dish or an ingredient was prepared rather than a name. Many times, it’s the name of the process of preservation of meats and other perishable food that has evolved into being the name of the dish.

Do you know what all these Pinoy cooking terms really mean? 

Photo by Riell Santos

1 Adobo

Adobo might be your favorite dish but over time, it has become the name of the dish that is arguably the country’s most famous ulam. However, this isn’t the true meaning of the word. In fact, it should be “inaadobo” because “adobo” means “to store in vinegar”. Vinegar has long been the main souring ingredient of many Filipino dishes. It not only makes the dish delicious in its sour way, but it also killed bacteria that may lead to spoilage. This is different from paksiw or pinaksiw which is a cooking method when using vinegar.

That’s why the original adobo dish may have been simply meat, whether chicken, pork, fish, or even beef, that’s been stored in vinegar and then braised in the vinegar with other ingredients into the delicious dish we all know and love.


2 Daing

The bangus is the most food we associate with daing. According to the Kulinarya, A Guidebook to Philippine Cuisine, dinaing or daing is a term used to describe the process of curing and preserving food in salt and vinegar. All this means is that the fish has been marinated for long-time storage and salt and vinegar are the main ingredients in the process.

Photo by Majoy Siason

3 Tinapa o Tapa

Another unique way of preserving bangus, tinapang bangus is translated as “smoked milkfish” but the root word, tapa, means “cured”. To make tapa means to preserve or cure the meat. The process of how the meat is cured can be by smoking it as in the case of the bangus or more simply, drying it under the heat of the sun or in an oven as with traditional tapang usa or tapang baka.

Photo by Majoy Siason

4 Relleno

This term, relleno, is Spanish in origin, and it means “stuffed”. For all the food we all love that is a relleno, including the rellenong talong, rellenog manok, and also the rellenong bangus, it’s all food that’s been stuffed with more ingredients to make it delicious and filling.

Photo by Shutterstock

5 Inasal, Inihaw, at Sinugba

It may be a different word in another dialect but all of these words mean “to grill”. So, while the recipe for each of these dishes may be different, all mean that the food has been cooked over charcoal. The most common way of grilling is usually via charcoal made from coconut husks which give these grilled dishes delicious flavor but all mean the same thing. It’s the recipe that is created that is grilled that makes it unique.


Recommended Videos

Photo by Shutterstock

6 Pinais o Binalot

For those in the south, there are dishes called pinais, including pinais na hipon, pinais na tilapia, and pinais na dilis. This basically means the same thing as binalot. Pinais or binalot means food that has been wrapped and cooked in banana leaves. This can be simmered in a flavorful broth or liquid ingredient or steamed in until cooked through.

Photo by Roselle Miranda

7 Nilaga

The dishes that are commonly known as the typical nilaga, such as nilagang baka, might be deceiving. The term “laga” according to the Tagalog Dictionary is actually the term for the tool used for boiling food rather than the cooking process. 


Thinking about what to cook next? Join our Facebook group, Yummy Pinoy Cooking Club, to get more recipe ideas, share your own dishes, and find out what the rest of the community are making and eating!

Got your own version of the classic dishes? Pa-share naman! Get your recipe published on by submitting your recipe here. is now on Quento! Click here to download the app on Android and IOS, and enjoy more articles and videos from us and your other favorite websites!

Most Popular Recipes

My Agile Privacy
We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on By continued use, you agree to our privacy policy and accept our use of such cookies. Find out more here.
Warning: some page functionalities could not work due to your privacy choices