Zamboanga Food Hunt: Where's My Mee Goreng?

Zamboanga Food Hunt

We were in the middle of our festive boodle fight lunch in Zamboanga City’s Pink Sand Beach, I munched on some green mangoes that I dipped into bagoong. My eyes widened when I got to taste some coconut cream in the dip. I exclaimed, “You put coconut cream to almost every food here and it works!”

If there’s one thing that’s remarkable from my previous trips in Zamboanga City it’s got to be the delicious and very diverse selection of food. The city is a melting pot of Spanish, Malay, Chinese-Chavacano, and Muslim cultures, so you could just imagine their rich and complex cuisine flavors.

Our recent four-day family trip to Zamboanga City, Asia’s Latin City,  brought old and new food favorites. But four days is not enough, ‘coz even though we have three meals for dinner and numerous snacks in between, we still didn’t get get to try other stuff. Well, as they say, that’s always a good reason to come back.


Island Hopping Lunch
Malay-Inspired Meals
   • Tinis Restaurant
   • Pettit Barracks Night Market
   • Ole Ole Restaurant
   • Lapan Lapan Halal Restaurant
   • Sir Kyle’s Satti House
   • Knicker Bocker
   • Taho
   • Chicken Patil
   • Apa
   • Local Fishballs
   • Salvaro
   • Balut and Beef Chicharon
   • Okoy and Pastil


Our son, Akira, is a water kid so we specifically included island getaways on this trip. iTravel Tourist Lane helped us in our two chosen excursions and included in those trips was the buffet lunch in boodle-fight style.

Once Islas Island Hopping Tour Zamboanga City

During our Once Islas Island Hopping Tour we feasted on grilled fish (tuna), grilled squid, grilled pork, steamed prawns, steamed crabs, veggie salad, mangoes with bagoong, bananas, and watermelon. Akira was so fascinated that they used banana leaves on the buffet spread and as wrapping on the steamed rice. Everything was fresh and really good!

Pins Sand Beach Zamboanga City

The buffet spread from our Great Sta. Cruz Island Excursion or the famous Pink Sand Beach was equally good as we truly enjoyed the grilled chicken skewers, grilled fish, grilled squid, steamed prawns, and steamed crabs. This time around, I noticed how coconut cream was incorporated in the alavar sauce and the bagoong or sauteed shrimp paste dip that we have.


Malaysia has always been our go-to place whenever we feel the need to escape the Philippines because it isn’t actually expensive to go there and the food is really great. We certainly love Mee Goreng, Kopi Ais, and Roti plus Curry—all in just one meal. Haha.

So on our very first day in Zamboanga, we specifically looked for a place that has these Indo-Malay dishes. And we got to try four different places where we tried these.

Tinis Restaurant

We were walking along NS Valderosa Street Road when we chanced upon a restaurant that serves Brunei and Malaysian Food. It was crowded at five in the afternoon. We went inside and saw that almost everyone was having our favorite noodle dish, Mee Goreng.

Tinis Restaurant Brunei Malaysian Food Zamboanga City

We went to the counter and ordered Mee Goreng Chicken (₱85), Roti Telur with Curry dip (₱55), and Nasi Goreng Special Chicken (₱95).

Tinis Restaurant Brunei Malaysian Food Zamboanga City

The noodle dish was different from its Malaysian counterpart but there were some hints of the same spices. The Roti though was definitely spot-on. I enjoyed the Roti so much that Akira was enticed to try it as he saw me having fun eating it.

Tinis Restaurant Brunei Malaysian Food Zamboanga City

As for the Nasi Goreng, it didn’t taste close enough to what we had in Indonesia and Malaysia before. It’s like your regular fried rice meal in a carinderia anywhere in the Philippines.

Pettit Barracks Night Market

On our first night, we chance upon the Pettit Barracks Night Market where they sell new and second-hand clothes and other stuff.

Pettit Barracks Night Market Zamboanga City

There’s a section that was devoted to food stalls. We saw one that was selling Mee Goreng, so we bought one for ₱35. Christian liked it but for me, it tasted like instant noodles with sweet soy sauce or kecap manis in Indonesia.

Ole Ole Restaurant

On our third day, we asked the receptionist from our hotel about her favorite Mee Goreng restaurant and she mentioned Ole Ole. It was 4:30PM when we reached the restaurant and the photo menu was totally very enticing. The guy manning the counter wasn’t friendly at all but nonetheless, we decided to stay and order.

Ole Ole Malaysian Restaurant Zamboanga City

We ordered Mee Goreng Special Chicken (₱65), Nasi Goreng Udang (₱85), and Kopi Ais (₱75). The Mee Goreng was so good that right after the first bite, I immediately asked for another serving because the portion size is only good for one person. We ordered the seafood version the second time around.

Ole Ole Malaysian Restaurant Zamboanga City

Ole Ole Malaysian Restaurant Zamboanga City

The Nasi Goreng on the other hand tasted nothing like the original ones we tried in Indonesia and Malaysia. It’s more of another version of a Pinoy silog meal and there’s totally nothing special about it.

The Kopi Ais was spot-on and went perfectly well with the noodles, as well as the intense heat outside.

Lapan-Lapan Halal Restaurant

It’s almost eight at night and we were already full when we saw another Mee Goreng place in downtown Zamboanga City, or pueblo as the locals call it. We wasted no time and went directly to the counter and ordered our food.

We had Mee Goreng Chicken (₱100), Bakso (₱130), Kahawa-Sug Native Brewed Coffee from Sulu (₱15), and Teh Tarik (₱40).

Lapan Lapan Halal Restaurant Zamboanga City

Lapan Lapan Halal Restaurant Zamboanga City

The food arrived after five minutes and we were surprised by the serving size of the noodles, it was huge. There was nothing special about it though, it tasted like a bigger serving of a normal street-bought Mee Goreng with loads of kecap manis or sweet dark soy.

Lapan Lapan Halal Restaurant Zamboanga City

The Bakso was far from what we tried in Indonesia years back but the soup itself was good. I was excited with the Teh Tarik only to realize that it was an instant rather than a legit tea. The Kahawa-sug though was great I remember our Sulu trip in 2013 when we enjoyed unlimited cups of it.

Sir Kyle’s Satti House

It was, again, the receptionist from our hotel that pointed us to this Satti house because it’s quite near to our place. Satti is a typical breakfast meal for people not only in Zamboanga City but also in the island provinces of Tawi-Tawi, Basilan, and Sulu.

A dish that is compared to its Southeast Asian counterpart of Satay or skewered meat, the thick sauce is a mixture of turmeric, curry, pepper, garlic, and more.

Sir Kyle’s Satti House Zamboanga City

It was six in the morning on our last day when we had breakfast at Sir Kyle’s Satti House. The place was crowded with breakfast diners and we settled on an available table. We ordered a Chicken Satti with Tamu or rice (₱83), Beef Satti with Tamu, (₱45), and extra skewered beef liver (₱20).

Satti Zamboanga City

The bits and pieces of tamu slowly peeked from the overflowing sauce of satti. The skewered meats were slightly dipped into it. I really liked the taste of the fermented beef better than the chicken but I still don’t get the overflowing sauce. I know it’s an acquired taste but I'm not a fan of drooping sauces.


Knicker Bocker

One of the famous must-eats in Zamboanga City is the Knicker Bocker. And even though the recipe is patented, there are still versions that has popped out in the city. When we were at Paseo del Mar, we got to try it on one of its original stores for ₱95.

Knicker Bocker Zamboanga City

The scoops of strawberry and vanilla ice cream were mixed with different fruits such as watermelon, peach, mango, gelatin, and some other stuff. The generous amount of cream blended everything well. Overall, it was a yummy treat, perfect for watching the glorious sunset that afternoon.


It was during our breakfast at Sir Kyle’s Satti House when we saw a taho vendor. Akira regularly eats this so we bought one at ₱10.

Taho Zamboanga City

I got to try it first and the first thing I noticed was the coconut cream that was incorporated in the sugary sauce. I actually liked it as well as Akira.

Chicken Patil

Patil—or pastil, patel, patir, or pater in other places—is usually a cheap breakfast in Mindanao wherein dry shredded beef, chicken, or fish with steamed rice is wrapped in banana leaves.

Chicken Patil Zamboanga City

We see this often on the street and got the chance to try it when we went to R.T. Lim Boulevard. At ₱15, it was quite filling with yummy steamed rice and bits of shredded chicken. Of course, the first thing I tasted was the coconut cream infused in the rice or maybe in the chicken.


It was during my first trip to Zamboanga in 2012 when I tried this crispy waffle-inspired snack. Apa is somewhat reminiscent of the ice cream cones used by sorbetes vendors but it’s actually thicker.

Apa Zamboanga City

For ₱20, we were handed with five delicately rolled Apa and Akira loved it as much as I did.

Local Fishballs

We were at Paseo del Mar when we noticed the locals who were enjoying some fish balls while on the boardwalk. We knew we had to try it so Christian went ahead and bought some.

Fish balls Zamboanga City

At ₱10 per stick of six fish balls, it’s quite cheap and tasty although I tried better versions in other provinces in the country.


There was this one evening when Christian suddenly showed me a crispy snack that he bought from a nearby store. He said he wanted to try it so he got some.

Salvaro Zamboanga City

Salvaro is what they call these crispy fried cassava crisps that were dabbed with sugar coat was the perfect snack after lunch or dinner. I actually liked it but not as much as I like the Apa.

Balut and Beef Chicharon

We were at R.T. Lim Boulevard when we saw some locals enjoying their time with family and friends over Balut and Beef Chicharon. We didn’t have the urge to actually eat at that moment but we felt that it was a perfect time to chill there. And so we did.

Balut Beef Chicharon Zamboanga City

What actually drew us more was the prime spot of the low stools and tables as well as the funky-named vinegar dips. We bought Balut, Penoy (₱27 each), and Beef Chicharon (₱15) then tried the different dips while enjoying the beautiful sunset that day.

Okoy and Pastil

We were about to head back to our hotel that night when we passed by the busy market at the pueblo. We saw a stall that sells different snacks and bought some Pastil Veggies, Pastil Noodles (₱5 each) and Okoy (₱5).

Okoy Pastil Zamboanga City

The Okoy was like a miniature version of those we have on the streets of Manila and the Pastil is like an empanada with veggie or noodle fillings, both of which were paired with a special vinegar-based dip.

Veggie Pastil Zamboanga City

Noodle Pastil Zamboanga City

I dunno if it’s because of its cold state or the taste itself but I didn’t like any of the things we bought there. Maybe next time, we’ll try it in a different stall or restaurant.


Given that we had more time, I’m sure that we’d be able to sample out more foodstuff in Zamboanga City. Hopefully, in the near future, when we visit Basilan and Tawi-Tawi Provinces. Crossing my fingers that this will happen very soon.

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