ulam ideas for lunch

crispy pata ulam ideas for lunch


“Ulam” refers to the main dishes in Filipino cuisine, which are the heart and soul of every Filipino meal. These dishes are rich in flavor and variety, often served with rice, and they play a significant role in Filipino culture and daily life. Having a diverse range of ulam ideas for lunch not only keeps meals exciting but also ensures they are nutritious and balanced. In this article, we will explore various ulam ideas, ranging from traditional dishes to modern twists, and provide practical tips for preparing these delicious meals.

Traditional Filipino Ulam

Filipino cuisine is a mosaic of rich flavors, textures, and aromas, deeply rooted in the country’s diverse cultural history. Traditional ulam dishes often feature a harmonious blend of sweet, sour, salty, and spicy flavors. Here are some classic ulam dishes that have stood the test of time:

Classic Ulam Dishes

adobong baboy ulam ideas for lunch
Adobong baboy

Adobo: Adobo is arguably the most iconic Filipino dish. Made with chicken or pork (or a combination of both), it is simmered in a mixture of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, bay leaves, and black peppercorns. The result is a savory and slightly tangy dish that pairs perfectly with rice. Variations include adding potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, or coconut milk for a richer flavor.

sinigang bangus ulam ideas for lunch
Sinigang bangus

Sinigang: Sinigang is a sour soup, often considered the ultimate comfort food in the Philippines. It’s typically made with pork, shrimp, or fish and flavored with tamarind, tomatoes, onions, and various vegetables like kangkong (water spinach), radish, and eggplant. The sour broth is both refreshing and invigorating, making it a popular choice for lunch.

kare kare ulam ideas for lunch
Kare kare

Kare-Kare: Kare-Kare is a rich and creamy peanut sauce stew, traditionally made with oxtail, tripe, and vegetables like eggplant, banana blossoms, and string beans. It is usually served with bagoong (fermented shrimp paste) on the side, which adds a salty contrast to the dish’s mild, nutty flavor.

pinakbet ulam ideas for lunch

Pinakbet: Pinakbet is a vegetable medley sautéed with bagoong. This Ilocano dish typically includes bitter melon, eggplant, okra, squash, and string beans. It’s a flavorful and nutritious dish that showcases the vibrant produce of the Philippines.

Top 10 Pinoy Ulam Ideas

Lechon kawali ulam ideas for lunch
Lechon kawali

For those seeking inspiration for their next lunch, here are ten highly recommended Pinoy ulam ideas:

  1. Lechon Kawali: Crispy deep-fried pork belly, seasoned with salt and pepper, and served with a tangy dipping sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, and chopped onions. The crispy skin and tender meat make it a crowd favorite.
  2. Bistek Tagalog: This dish features thinly sliced beef marinated in soy sauce and calamansi (Philippine lime) juice, then pan-fried with onions. The result is a savory and slightly tangy beef dish that pairs well with rice.
  3. Chicken Inasal: Grilled chicken marinated in a mixture of lime, pepper, vinegar, and annatto oil. This Bacolod specialty is known for its distinct yellow-orange hue and smoky, tangy flavor.
  4. Laing: A spicy and creamy dish made from taro leaves cooked in coconut milk, chili, and dried fish or shrimp. It’s a Bicolano delicacy that offers a unique blend of flavors and textures.
  5. Pancit Canton: Stir-fried egg noodles with a medley of vegetables, meat, and seafood. It’s a versatile and satisfying dish that can be customized with different ingredients.
  6. Tinola: A comforting chicken soup made with ginger, green papaya, and chili leaves. It’s a simple yet flavorful dish that’s perfect for a light and nourishing lunch.
  7. Dinuguan: A savory stew made from pork blood, meat, and spices. This dish is rich and hearty, often served with puto (steamed rice cakes).
  8. Paksiw na Bangus: Milkfish simmered in vinegar, garlic, and spices. The sour and tangy flavors make it a refreshing and appetizing dish.
  9. Gising-Gising: A spicy dish made from chopped green beans cooked in coconut milk with ground pork. The name “Gising-Gising” literally means “wake up, wake up,” referring to the dish’s spicy kick.
  10. Caldereta: A tomato-based stew with beef, potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers. This hearty dish is often made special with the addition of liver spread or cheese, giving it a rich and savory flavor.

Ulam Ideas for Different Meals

Filipino cuisine offers a wide range of dishes suitable for different meals throughout the day. Here are some suggestions for lunch and dinner, as well as daily menu ideas to keep your meals varied and interesting.

budget ulam pinoy adobong manok filipino food

Ulam Ideas for Lunch

For a quick and satisfying lunch, here are some easy-to-prepare ulam ideas:

  • Adobong Manok: Chicken adobo, quick to prepare and deeply flavorful. This dish can be made in large batches and stored for several days, making it a convenient option for busy weekdays.
  • Tinolang Tahong: Mussels cooked in a ginger broth, perfect for a light but nutritious lunch. The combination of fresh mussels and aromatic ginger makes this dish both refreshing and invigorating.
  • Tofu Sisig: A vegetarian version of the popular sisig, made with tofu and seasoned with onions, chili, and calamansi. This dish is not only delicious but also healthy and easy to prepare.

Ulam Ideas for Dinner

Dinner calls for heartier, more filling meals:

  • Beef Mechado: A savory beef stew with potatoes, carrots, and a rich tomato sauce. This dish is perfect for a comforting and satisfying dinner, especially on cooler evenings.
  • Crispy Pata: Deep-fried pork knuckles, crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. This indulgent dish is often served with a soy-vinegar dipping sauce and is perfect for special occasions.
  • Sinampalukang Manok: Chicken cooked with young tamarind leaves, giving it a unique sour taste. This dish is similar to sinigang but uses tamarind leaves instead of tamarind fruit, providing a distinct flavor profile.

Ulam for Today

Here are daily suggestions to keep your meals varied:

  • Monday: Pork Sinigang – Start the week with a comforting and sour soup that’s both refreshing and hearty.
  • Tuesday: Chicken Afritada – A tomato-based chicken stew with potatoes, carrots, and bell peppers, perfect for a midweek boost.
  • Wednesday: Lumpiang Shanghai – Crispy spring rolls filled with ground pork and vegetables, great as a main dish or a side.
  • Thursday: Ginataang Kalabasa – Squash cooked in coconut milk with shrimp or pork, offering a rich and creamy flavor.
  • Friday: Bangus Sisig – A twist on the traditional sisig, using milkfish instead of pork, for a lighter and healthier option.

Specialty Ulam Categories

Filipino cuisine is incredibly diverse, with various categories of ulam catering to different tastes and dietary preferences. Here are some specialty ulam categories to explore:

Pork Ulam Ideas

Pork Binagoongan  ulam ideas for lunch
Pork Binagoongan

Popular pork dishes in Filipino cuisine include:

  • Pork Binagoongan: Pork sautéed in shrimp paste, often served with eggplant and green beans. The salty and savory flavors of the shrimp paste complement the tender pork perfectly.
  • Inihaw na Liempo: Grilled pork belly, marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi juice, garlic, and pepper. The smoky flavor from the grill enhances the natural sweetness of the pork.
  • Pork Menudo: A tomato-based stew with pork, liver, potatoes, and carrots. This dish is often served during fiestas and special occasions.

Healthy Ulam Ideas

tinolang manok  ulam ideas for lunch
Chicken Tinola

For nutritious and balanced options:

  • Ensaladang Talong: Grilled eggplant salad with tomatoes, onions, and salted egg. This dish is both refreshing and healthy, perfect for a light lunch.
  • Poached Fish with Vegetables: Light and healthy, packed with nutrients. This dish features fish fillets poached in a broth with a medley of vegetables.
  • Chicken Tinola: A soothing chicken soup with ginger and green papaya, offering both comfort and nutrition.

Easy to Cook Ulam Ideas

Simple and quick recipes for beginners:

  • Tortang Talong: Eggplant omelet, a simple yet delicious dish that’s easy to prepare. The eggplant is roasted and then dipped in beaten eggs before frying.
  • Chicken Adobo: The classic adobo made easy. This dish requires minimal ingredients and cooking time, making it perfect for busy days.
  • Ginisang Munggo: Mung bean stew with pork or shrimp. This hearty and nutritious dish is easy to make and can be served with rice.

Ulam for Different Occasions

Lumpiang Togue ulam ideas for lunch

Ulam Ideas for Kids

Kid-friendly and appealing dishes:

  • Spaghetti: Filipino-style sweet spaghetti with a rich tomato sauce and hotdogs. This dish is a favorite among Filipino children and is often served at birthday parties.
  • Fried Chicken: Crispy and golden, a universal favorite. Filipino fried chicken is often marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi juice, and spices before frying.
  • Lumpiang Togue: Vegetable spring rolls filled with bean sprouts, carrots, and green beans. These crunchy rolls are both healthy and delicious.

Affordable Ulam Ideas

Budget-friendly meals without compromising taste:

  • Sardinas with Misua: Sardines and thin wheat noodles in broth. This simple and affordable dish is both satisfying and nutritious.
  • Ginisang Ampalaya: Sautéed bitter melon with egg and tomatoes. Despite its slightly bitter taste, this dish is a nutritious and affordable option.
  • Tinapang Bangus: Smoked milkfish, affordable and tasty. This dish is often served with rice and a side of tomato and salted egg salad.

Ulam Ideas for Baon (Packed Lunch)

Embutido ulam ideas for lunch
ulam ideas for lunch

Convenient and portable options for packed lunches:

  • Embutido: Filipino meatloaf, great for slicing and packing. This dish can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Chicken Pastel: Chicken pie with vegetables, often baked in a flaky crust or cooked in a creamy sauce. This dish is both filling and convenient for lunchboxes.
  • Pork Tocino: Sweet cured pork, perfect with rice. This dish is easy to prepare and can be cooked quickly in the morning.

Weekly Ulam Menu Ideas

A week’s worth of meal planning for variety and balance:

  • Monday: Chicken Adobo – A classic dish that’s easy to prepare and always satisfying.
  • Tuesday: Sinigang na Baboy – A comforting and sour soup to brighten up the week.
  • Wednesday: Beef Caldereta – A rich and hearty stew to keep you going through the week.
  • Thursday: Pinakbet – A nutritious vegetable dish to balance the week’s meals.
  • Friday: Bangus Sisig – A flavorful and healthy option to end the week.
  • Saturday: Laing – A spicy and creamy dish perfect for a weekend treat.
  • Sunday: Kare-Kare – A special dish to enjoy with family and friends.

Lunch Menu Ideas

Comprehensive lunch menus combining different ulam options:

  • Grilled Pork Chop with Ensalada: A hearty and balanced meal with grilled pork chop and a refreshing eggplant salad.
  • Sinigang na Hipon with Rice: Sour shrimp soup paired with rice for a light and satisfying lunch.
  • Lumpiang Sariwa with Soup: Fresh vegetable spring rolls with a light soup for a nutritious and filling meal.

Best Ulam for Lunch

beef tapa ulam ideas for lunch

Highlighting the most popular and beloved lunch dishes:

  • Lechon Kawali: Crispy deep-fried pork belly that’s a hit with everyone.
  • Chicken Inasal: Smoky and tangy grilled chicken that’s perfect for lunch.
  • Beef Tapa: Marinated beef slices, usually served with garlic fried rice and a sunny-side-up egg, making for a hearty lunch.

Recipes and Cooking Tips

Ginisang Sitaw at Kalabasa ulam ideas for lunch

Easy Ulam Recipes

Step-by-step instructions for simple ulam dishes:

  • Ginisang Sitaw at Kalabasa: Sautéed string beans and squash. Start by sautéing garlic and onions, then add the string beans and squash. Season with salt and pepper, and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  • Tinolang Manok: Chicken soup with ginger and green papaya. In a pot, sauté garlic, onion, and ginger. Add chicken pieces and cook until lightly browned. Add water and green papaya, and simmer until the chicken is cooked through. Season with fish sauce and serve hot.
  • Tofu Stir Fry: Quick and healthy tofu dish with vegetables. Start by frying cubes of tofu until golden brown. In the same pan, sauté garlic and onions, then add your choice of vegetables. Return the tofu to the pan, season with soy sauce and oyster sauce, and stir fry until everything is well combined.

Ulam Recipe Ideas

Creative and unique ulam recipes to try:

  • Sushi Bake: A modern twist on sushi. Layer sushi rice, seasoned crab meat, and cream cheese in a baking dish. Top with nori and bake until golden brown. Serve with additional nori sheets for scooping.
  • Creamy Pesto Pasta with Chicken: A fusion of Filipino and Italian flavors. Cook pasta according to package instructions. In a pan, sauté garlic and chicken pieces until cooked through. Add prepared pesto sauce and cream, then toss with the cooked pasta.
  • Seafood Paella: A Filipino take on the classic Spanish dish. In a large pan, sauté garlic, onions, and bell peppers. Add seafood like shrimp, mussels, and squid, and cook until just done. Stir in rice, saffron, and broth, and simmer until the rice is tender and the flavors are well combined.

Tips for Cooking Ulam

Practical advice for preparing and cooking ulam:

  • Marinating: Essential for flavor, especially for grilled dishes. Use a combination of soy sauce, vinegar, calamansi juice, garlic, and pepper for a versatile marinade.
  • Balancing Flavors: Combining salty, sweet, sour, and spicy elements is key in Filipino cuisine. Adjust seasonings to suit your taste, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different flavor combinations.
  • Cooking Techniques: Mastering frying, stewing, and grilling will help you achieve perfect results. For frying, ensure the oil is hot enough to prevent food from absorbing too much oil. For stewing, simmer gently to allow flavors to meld. For grilling, preheat the grill and use a basting sauce to keep the meat moist and flavorful.


Ulam plays a crucial role in Filipino meals, offering a delightful array of flavors and textures. Exploring different ulam recipes can transform everyday lunches into exciting culinary adventures. Embrace the richness of Filipino cuisine and enjoy the journey of discovering new and delicious ulam ideas for your next meal. Whether you’re looking for quick and easy lunch options, hearty dinner ideas, or creative new recipes to try, there’s an ulam dish to suit every palate and occasion.

Frequently ask questions (Faqs)

What is the best ulam for lunch?

The best ulam for lunch often depends on personal preference, but some popular choices include Chicken Inasal, Adobo, Sinigang, and Kare-Kare. These dishes are flavorful, satisfying, and provide a good balance of protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables.

What are 10 good lunch foods?

Grilled Chicken Salad
Vegetable Stir-Fry with Tofu
Fish Tacos with Mango Salsa
Quinoa Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Turkey and Avocado Wrap
Shrimp and Vegetable Skewers
Caprese Sandwich with Tomato, Basil, and Mozzarella
Lentil Soup with Whole Grain Bread
Chicken Caesar Salad
Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

What are the top 10 Filipino dishes?

The top 10 Filipino dishes, based on popularity and cultural significance, are:
Chicken Inasal
These dishes represent the rich diversity of Filipino cuisine and are enjoyed by people both in the Philippines and around the world.

Which dish is good for lunch?

Many Filipino dishes are suitable for lunch, depending on personal preferences and dietary needs. Some popular choices include Sinigang, Adobo, Tinola, and Grilled Fish with Steamed Vegetables. These dishes are flavorful, easy to prepare, and provide a good balance of nutrients for a satisfying lunch.

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