Let’s Eat: Tawi-tawi Food

One thing I look forward during a visit to a new place is the food. My recent trip to the Philippines southernmost province, Tawi-tawi, was a feast not only to the sense of sight (for its endless stunning sceneries) but also a delight to the sense of taste. Here are 4 of my favorite dishes during my Tawi-tawi sojourn.


TIYULA ITUM: (Black Soup with Burnt Coconut)

Tiyula itum is a beef soup-stew of Tausug origin (Tausug is a tribe in Mindanao). According to a local, this dish is always served at weddings, or at any other celebration. It’s most striking characteristic is its black – dark grey colour, that may come across un-enticing. The dark colour is because of the burnt coconut which adds up to a more distinct taste to the stew. I have come to know that it is actually an ingredient unique to the Tausug cookery.

Tiyula itum’s meat seem to have been braised with fried onion and garlic. Turmeric, and ginger (this adds that sumptuous warm taste) are also added. No wonder, the taste of this dish is just oozing with flavors inside the mouth.

It’s my favorite from among the food we have tasted in Tawi-tawi. Though many of you may have never tried it, i guess its high time to step outside your comfort food ‘zone’ when you happen to be in Tawi-tawi.


SATTI: (Chicken or Beef or both)

Satti is a spicy dish well-known from among locals of Western Mindanao (from the Zamboanga Peninsula down to Taw-Tawi). It is served with sticky rice, and sticks of either grilled beef and chicken meat (or both) swimming in a thick, spicy, flavorful hot sauce. I believe it is the sauce that makes all the difference

Distinct taste (and smell) I have sensed are turmeric, curry, pepper, and garlic. It seems to me that it also has lemon grass and coriander in it making it more desirable to the taste. Oh how I love the things I have learned in Pharmacognosy!According to what I have read, tomatoes, and peanuts may optionally be added to tone down the zesty flavor of satti’s sauce.

Chicken Pyanggang
Credits to The Coconut Dude in IG for this photo of Chicken Pyanggang. My excitement and hunger hindered me from taking a personal photo of this dish when I was in Tawi-Tawi.

CHICKEN PYANGGANG (Chicken in Blackened Curry)

Chicken piyanggang is a Filipino dish made of chicken braised in turmeric, onions, lemongrass, ginger, finger chilis, garlic, coconut milk, and ground burnt coconut (just like tiyula itum). It originates from the Tausug people of Sulu. The dish is characteristically black in color to which one might initially perceive it as “dinuguan” a popular Filipino dish that uses blood. The chicken may also be grilled before adding the marinade.

Got to try this at a local stall while in Bonggao and during a trip in Zamboanga. I must say that the “gata” taste (or coconut milk) blends really well with the various spices used.


KILUR: Breadfruit

The first time I have tasted this exotic fruit was last year during a Batanes trip. This year, my palate and this fruit’s starchy taste meet again. The dish I have tasted in Batanes was cooked with coconut milk. This time, “kilur” as locals would call it, is turned into a sweet delicacy. At first, I thought we were served with cassava. But the fried kilur drizzled and cooked with sugar had a more distinct taste.

As what I have learned in Pharma school, breadfruit’s starch can actually be used as a substitute to any starchy root crop like potatoes. I was more convinced that the claim holds true as it is really starchy. I am guessing one can also turn these fruits into chips or maybe turn them into candied desserts.


MEE GORENG: Fried Noodles

This fried noodle dish popular from among our neighboring Southeast Asian nations (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) perhaps is one food that can also be found in the streets of Tawi-tawi. It is a flavorful and spicy noodle dish made with thin yellow noodles fried in oil topped with fried, crispy garlic and onion and even egg.Vegetables like cabbage may also be added. A special sauce that accounts for its spiciness, makes it a palatine-satiating meal.

Good thing there were stalls selling ready to cook mie goreng that I was able to bring home some.

So there! I have tasted other dishes but these are 5 of my favorite. And oh, did i mention I like their halo-halo too. I actually ate halo-halo on 5 occasions (not included are the 2 knicker bockers I ate in Zamboanga)… hahaha… Don’t be a wasted soul, be ‘juan’derlust. Take it easy ebri’juan’.



  1. Tiyula Itum was indeed a surprise. Unang tingin pa lang parang uling na nilagyan ng sabaw. Hahaha never judge talaga a book by its cover, kelangan tikman muna. Hehe! Ang sarap ng Tiyula Itum. At ang halo halo sa Sibutu ay winner talaga, never mind kung saan nanggaling ang yelo. Hahahaha!

    Liked by 2 people

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