What is a Dampa?

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If you’re in the Philippines and you’re looking for fresh seafood, do yourself a favor and look for a dampa nearest you. What is a dampa, exactly? Well, to put things simply, a dampa is a place where you can select a fresh and large selection of seafood to get cooked in any method you want and have it served to you for eating afterward.

It’s an excellent place for a seafood diet, for sure. You’re doubly assured of the food quality as you can see the food getting cooked right in front of you. Plus, it’s a great place for some family bonding time.

Let’s take a closer look at this seafood feast experience that’s a hit with Pinoys!

Key Takeaways

  • Dampa is a type of seafood dining experience that’s popular in the Philippines.
  • The origin of the word “dampa” is unknown.
  • In a dampa restaurant, customers can select live seafood from tanks or displays and have them cooked to order.
  • Dampa restaurants typically offer a variety of cooking styles, including grilling, frying, and steaming.

What does dampa mean?

What is dampa, anyway? As in, what does it literally translate to, exactly? Well, the word “dampa” literally means “hut” or in Filipino, “kubo.”

You can also answer the question “What is dampa”? with an old Filipino game that involves rubber bands. So what do these two have to do with a place where you can get fresh fish to cook and eat? 

Well, we actually have no idea, just like we have no idea about some of the weird food names in the Philippines. There are plenty of theories though:

  • For example, it could be referring to the huts by the sea (common in the Philippines) where people live, catch fish, and sell them fresh or as cooked seafood.
  • Some think that it came from the word “dalampasigan”, or sea shore.
  • Humorously, you can also think of it as a combination of two words: DAMing (many) and PAgkain (food). Dampa in short, although that’s a stretch.
  • We also tried asking ChatGPT, and this is what it answered, although take note that this should be verified!

What does dampa mean in English? There’s no exact translation for it, to be honest. I guess English speaking people will have to get dampa as a loan word!

Going back, we guess we might never find out the true dampa meaning. But from now on, let’s just think that dampa=seafood. And not just seafood: fresh seafood.


What is the usual dampa experience?

So, how does the usual experience go? Let’s break it down!

  • First, you go to a store or stall in the wet market side of the venue. There are usually plenty, but they all offer the general same price. Pick the one you think has the freshest products.
  • Buy your preferred seafood ingredients in the amount you prefer.
  • After that, choose a restaurant where you want the ingredients to be cooked. Alternatively, if you don’t want to do step 1, some restaurants offer a buying service for an additional fee. Of course, you won’t have a choice in terms of ingredients.
  • Wait for the food to be cooked, and enjoy!

It’s that easy!

Some things to remember

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Here are some quick things to remember when dining at a dampa, especially if it’s going to be your first time:

  • Actual dampas are not a fine-dining experience. Expect the places to be crowded, noisy, hot, and feel like the usual wet markets in the Philippines. Some restaurants are now air-conditioned but that kind of takes the fun out of it.
  • Dampas are especially great for large groups. Rates are cheaper when you compare them to the usual restaurants, but you’ll have bigger servings.
  • Speaking of large groups, if you can, just bring 1 vehicle so that you can park faster, especially if the crowd is a lot.
  • It’s best to go to a dampa in the morning to ensure the freshness of the catch.
  • Make sure to have cash on hand. It’s 2023, but some establishments still don’t accept electronic money or credit cards.
  • Speaking of restaurants, they usually charge a service fee – don’t forget to include that in your computation.
  • If you or one of your companions is allergic to seafood, make sure to bring antihistamines! Of course, it’s better to just not eat seafood, but hey, seafood is delicious.

What seafood is available?

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What is dampa food, you ask? Well, as mentioned above, a variety of seafood! This includes the following:

  • Mantis Shrimp
  • King Crabs
  • Tilapa
  • Lobsters
  • Lapu-lapu
  • Mussels
  • Bangus
  • Mackerel or Galunggong
  • Anchovies or Dilis
  • Salmon

And a whole lot more. Get the restaurant cooks to grill, boil, fry, bake, cook with chili or with butter (and pretty much everything else you can think of) your seafood!

Is a dampa experience possible at home?

Now, sometimes, you want to eat some seafood made with dampa-style cooking, but you’re too tired to go out. Can you make your own dampa setup at home and treat yourself as well as your family to some delicious seafood?

You can, thanks to The Bailiwick Academy’s latest class: Dampa Seafood Feast by Chef Him Uy De Baron!

Not only will you learn how to do dampa-style cooking when you take this class, you’ll also learn recipes with Chef Him’s signature deliciousness!

You’ll make:

  • Jasmine-Glazed Prawns with Glass Noodles – plump juicy prawns glazed with a honey-jasmine sauce on a bed of flavor rich glass noodles.
  • Laman Dagat Chowder – rich, creamy and umami-filled broth with fresh seafood.
  • Cantonese-Style Steamed Fish – a fresh succulent steamed fish finished with a light flavorful sauce
  • And a bonus recipe of Salted Fish Fried Rice, because really, Filipino food isn’t complete without rice, right?

Get the fresh and delicious seafood feast you want right at the comfort of your home. Sign up at The Bailiwick Academy today!

And hey, you never know, you might put up a dampa-style food business as well not long after.

Wouldn’t that just be fin-tastic?


Keep coming back to The Bailiwick Academy blog for more kitchen tips, tricks, and much more!

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