For most of us in Australia, breakfast is the first and arguably most important meal of the day. But over in the Philippines, breakfast plays a much larger role in daily life. “Breakfast is more than just a meal — it is a celebration of family and togetherness,” says Arone Dizon, owner and chef of Lazza. “Imagine waking up to a table with delicious breakfast dishes that are meant to be shared by the whole family — that is the essence of the Filipino breakfast experience.”

Dizon is part of a rising group of Filipino chefs who are looking to share the sentiment with Australian diners through traditional breakfast menus where you won’t find the usual avocado on toast. Hospitality speaks with Dizon and Rigibelle Montalban from Descanso about the nuances of breakfast dishes.

Rigibelle Montalban opened Australian– Filipino café Descanso in Sydney’s Inner West with her business and life partner Wilbur around seven years ago. At the time, Filipino breakfast dishes were not easy to find, which prompted the venue to test the offering before making it a permanent fixture.

“We started with just two dishes because we just wanted to see how the locals would receive it,” says Montalban. “Surprisingly, they were quick to try and liked it. They were curious about what we traditionally eat for breakfast in the Philippines and that got us inspired to expand our offering.”

Fast-forward to today, and the Descanso breakfast menu now lists an array of traditional dishes from across the Philippines. Montalban has focused on meals from the areas of Central Visayas and Southern Mindanao where she grew up. “A few of the dishes are recipes from my mum and grandma and we try to keep them as traditional as possible,” she says. “We do what we can to keep the taste as close to how we do it in our country using local produce.

One dish is an eggplant omelette called tortang talong which is a classic breakfast item across the Philippines. Each area has its own riff on the dish, with Montalban’s version inspired by the plates she enjoyed growing up. “The way we cook our eggplant is on a charcoal grill,” she explains. “It may look simple and basic, but I make sure it has the right aromatics and smoky flavour.” The omelette also contains onion and capsicum and is served with rice and salad.

Sisig originates from the Pampanga region in Luzon, and is a meat-based dish with pork cheek, ear, belly, and internal organs. But Montalban and the team went down a different route for their version, which retains the dish’s original flavour.

“When we decided to put sisig on the menu, we knew we had to shy away from the traditional ingredients,” she says. “So we chose pork belly that is well-marinated, roasted, and then sautéed.” The pork belly is accompanied by lime, chilli, and soy. “We wanted the roasted pork belly to be the signature taste of the dish, so we kept the rest of the ingredients simple.”

Another popular dish is adobo, which is perhaps the most familiar option for non-Filipino diners. “A Filipino menu is not complete without our unofficial national dish,” says Montalban. Adobo sees a slow-cooked protein — usually chicken or pork — marinated in vinegar, soy, garlic, and other spices. But Montalban admits the Descanso version has its own flair. “We chose to use a mix of chicken and pork, which is something most Filipinos are not used to. Since adobo is unique in every household, we made ours somewhat different by mixing the two meats together.”

A large part of the Descanso breakfast menu is comprised of variations of silog which is a traditional breakfast dish. “[The name] silog comes from combining sinangag (fried rice) and itlog (fried egg),” explains Montalban. “A silog meal will always come with fried rice and egg, but the meat that comes with it varies.”

The choice of protein is reflected in the dish’s title, with Descanso offering beef, chicken, pork sausage, or fish. “If the meal comes with tapa (beef) it will be called tapsilog, or if it comes with longganisa (pork sausage), it will be called longsilog.”

Lazza is located in Sydney’s Marrickville and has recently added breakfast to its core offering. The menu is made up of dishes Filipino-born team members have enjoyed throughout their lives. “We are passionate about sharing the classic Filipino breakfasts we grew up with, both the familiar favourites many Filipinos miss and the exciting discoveries for non-Filipinos to explore,” says Arone Dizon. “These are the dishes that make us feel like we’re back home.”

Silog forms a large part of Lazza’s breakfast offering. “We offer tapa (marinated beef), tocino (sweet cured pork), bangus (milkfish), longganisa (pork sausage), and our signature Lazza crispy pork sisig,” says Dizon. “We also add our home-made atchara (Filipino pickled unripened papaya) to go along with all the dishes.” For those in need of a substantial meal there’s the ‘mixsilog’ which Dizon describes as the “breakfast of champions” which features garlic rice, a fried egg, and a combination of bangus, tocino, tapa, and longganisa.

The venue’s ‘lugaw overload’ is another must-order, which sees the traditional porridge-like rice lugaw topped with chicharon bulaklak (deep-fried ruffled fat made from pig mesentery), crispy tofu, and lechon kawali (deep-fried pork belly). The dish also includes unlimited lugaw refills. “This warm meal hits the spot especially during cold days and nights,” says Dizon.

Drinks-wise, all the dishes on Lazza’s breakfast menu are served with unlimited Kapeng Barako coffee refills. Barako is Tagalog for a male stud bull or wild boar and references the strong flavour of the coffee which is grown in the Philippines. “We make sure we support local Filipino farmers,” says Dizon. “Traditionally, the coffee is served black to experience the full-bodied flavour, but we also have some sweeteners and milk.”

While the Filipino breakfast offering may look a bit different to eggs on toast, Montalban hopes its uniqueness will catch the attention of Australian diners. “We are not afraid to put a healthy serving of protein and carbohydrates on our breakfast plate,” says the chef and owner. “We don’t shy away from the big, bold flavours of our silog even early in the morning — it is something you don’t normally see in breakfast cafés and coffee shops.”

While the ingredients and flavour profiles might differ between Australian and Filipino breakfasts, warming hospitality is at the core of both offerings. “Filipino breakfast is not just a meal, it is a memorymaker,” says Dizon. “It will make your heart warm and your tummy full and bring you back to your childhood … we want that nostalgic feeling and warmth to be enjoyed here in Sydney.”