The many flavors of the Philippines: how local cuisine is putting the country on the global map

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Philippines might be known as a tropical paradise with its pristine beaches, but something else is readily putting the country on the global map -- its food.

Local dishes have started attracting international attention, including in the United States.

The Washington D.C.-based restaurant Bad Saint, run by Filipino-American chef Tom Cunanan, ranked second in Bon Apétit magazine's "America's Best New Restaurants" list in 2016.

The sweet Filipino staple ube -- perhaps in part thanks to its Instagrammable color -- is also "invading the dessert world," as GQ wrote.

The late chef, host, and globetrotter Anthony Bourdain predicted that sisig would "win the hearts and minds of the world." Filipino chef Claude Tayag credited him for jumpstarting the global fame of Filipino food; others also thanked him for kickstarting their careers when he featured their food.

Under newly appointed Secretary Bernadette Romulo Puyat, the Department of Tourism plans to take advantage of the world's newfound curiosity for Filipino food. Puyat, previously an Agriculture Undersecretary, plans to focus on farm and culinary tourism during her term.

"We always believe that tourism is the ultimate boost to economic growth... But of course that's only one dimension," Puyat told CNN Philippines in an interview.

"For me... food is the most apolitical. It's there on the table," she added.

In recent years, hybrid cuisine has emerged and new food parks gathering different stalls and dishes have sprouted across Metro Manila.

Rob Capuyoc of Crave Park Marikina says these parks create a new niche for culinary tourism.

Al fresco settings allow diners a refreshing outdoor experience, and the affordability of the menu attracts more people to indulge in this trend.

The influx of tourists to Manila has also allowed neighboring provinces like Cavite and Laguna to step up in developing their local dishes.

But perhaps the most significant aspect of Filipino food is not only its composition or its origin, but how it is shared. Meals are the focus of gatherings, either among family members or friends. Filipinos are known worldwide for their hospitality, and one of its manifestations is the invitation to eat -- "Kain tayo" -- even when there is not a lot of food to go around.

The Philippines has a rich culture, landscape, and history -- and its food captures all that and more.