Sabroso: A Backpacker’s Guide To Eating In Zamboanga City

I arrived in Zamboanga City with the sun’s radiance greeting me in its most elegant form. The city is not known for food but wandering around and asking your friends who had been to the city would really help a lot.

Country Chicken

This is actually a group of different restaurants in one compound. The central building is La Oliva that specialises in Italian cuisine. The cook is Mr Ric Manzano, a cousin of the actor Edu Manzano.We were treated to an appetiser named Salsa Diablo and another one with shrimp. Salsa Diablo is made up of shredded turkey meat with olive oil. It was served with toasted baguette. It was so yummy that I never thought of halting myself from eating. I was already full when the main dish was served. But it did not stop me either from getting the best out of my taste buds. The crispy pata was so good and made crispy the way it should be.

There was also the grilled vanggacious (a Vietnamese catfish) that delighted me not only because of its unique name but also its one-of-a-kind taste. I also made a remark that the pinakbet of Zamboanga is the same as that of the Ilocanos – without squash. But the wife of the cook told me that they only ran out of stock of squash.

The closing set – dessert – was composed of apple pie, extra dark chocolate ice cream and the rare peanut butter ice cream. Take note, home-made ice cream.

Location? The restaurant is in Pasonanca, near the Pasonanca Park. You can treat yourself here after trekking and finishing the fourteen stations of The Way of the Cross at the Mt Pulong Bato. You can take any tricycle to take you there.

Mang Paeng’s Inasal

This is owned by one of the sisters of renowned Filipino scientist Rafael D Guerrero III. It was only opened in April 2011 but customers are already flocking to the restaurant. Since the city has a lot of restaurants of chicken, the owners needed to find something unique to outstage other competitors. I must say that they made a jewel out of the chicken panggang and its counterpart, chicken inasal. 

Chicken panggang (Image credit: Promding Chamimay; Related article: here) is a Malaysian-styled dish, with the extraordinary combination of sweetness and exciting spiciness. The meat is superb and the sauce makes everything magical. Every bite to the meat is so overwhelming that you would stop everything that hinders you from eating. Be sure not to leave Zamboanga without trying their version of chicken inasal. The clam soup is also very delicious. The restaurant is located at Brgy Sta Maria.


Owing to the location of the city, people can always get everything in affordable prices – including the wildly popular curacha! This is a crab, a different kind. It thrives in sand so its body structure is very different from the usual crab that we know of.

I also saw chicken in a black sauce. Their bananas are super sweet. A friend suggested Alavar and Jimmy’s satti. Another friend also mentioned ube loaf in front of the Fort Pilar Shrine. I will check on them the next time I cast my footprints over the land of Zamboanga City.

And as the locals say, “Sabroso!” for foods with good taste.


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