Seasoned travelers from all over the world preach one thing in common when it comes to visiting a new place: eat like the locals do. This means veering away from the familiar fast food chains like McDonald’s and KFC and opting for restaurants serving local cuisine. Eating like a local also means sampling the food sold in the streets and in the Philippines, you are in for a treat!
In 2012, CNNGo (now CNN Travel) named Manila as one of Asia’s 10 Greatest Street Food Cities, noting that it is mouthwatering and usually sanitary as a result of being deep fried. While NOT all kinds Filipino street food are deep fried, we can all agree that most of the sidewalk offerings are safe and of course, delicious!
Filipino street food is cheap and very much accessible. A full meal in the streets of Manila can cost more or less P50 ($1.25USD). So if you find yourself roaming the streets of Manila or any other Philippine city with a grumbling stomach, keep an eye out for these popular Filipino street foods:
You have already heard about this notorious Filipino snack for sure. I’d bet a month’s pay that at one point in your Philippines travel you have been or will be dared into eating balut dipped in spicy vinegar. This Filipino street food is basically boiled matured duck egg. Some get grossed out but there are others who have come to love its weird texture (tiny feathers, crunchy undeveloped bones and a tiny beak). Don’t fret, if you have to try it, you can do it in the dark and swallow without chewing!
This isn’t originally Filipino but it’s nevertheless a local favorite. Chicharon is usually made of deep fried pork rinds but there are variations that include those made of chicken skin, tuna skin and pig intestines (chicharong bulaklak). Chicharon can be bought almost anywhere: supermarkets, sidewalks, sari-sari stores and even from a lone vendor roaming the streets. It is best eaten with a dip of spicy vinegar and a bottle of ice-cold beer.
Grilled foods are very popular members of Filipino street cuisine. It includes just about everything from fish, chicken and pork to longganisa, intestines and chicken legs. Among these scrumptious treats, isaw is the most popular. It is made of pork or chicken intestines on a skewer, slathered with a special sauce, grilled and dipped in a concoction of catsup, soy sauce and spices. Sounds gross? Try it and you’ll get hooked!
Pass by a school or office building and you’ll see at least a couple of carts selling a variety of fried goods including these two. Fish balls and squid balls are usually sold with other stuff like tempura, kikiam and all sorts of seafood balls. Vendors don’t cook them unless you order so that means they are also carrying a frying pan and an LPG tank in that little cart!
These are the staple merienda (snack) for most workers and students in the Philippines. As the name implies, these are made of banana/plantains on a skewer, usually deep fried with lots of brown sugar. It can also be grilled over coals, coated with margarine then sprinkled with white sugar. It may also be a piece of plantain, sliced to form a fan, coated with a flour mixture, deep fried then coated with white sugar. The latter is also known as maruya.
You’ll easily recognize these by their orange coloring. Kwek-kwek is made of a boiled quail, chicken or duck egg, coated in the orange-colored flour mixture, and deep fried. These are usually served with a side dish of sliced cucumbers, seaweed and spicy vinegar.
If you’re visiting a neighborhood, you’ll most probably hear a man with a well-modulated voice shouting “tahooooo”. They are carrying two large tubs attached to a bamboo pole precariously balanced on their shoulders. Inside the tubs are silken tofu, arnibal (sweet syrup) and sago pearls. Taho is considered healthy and comes in different flavors including chocolate, buko pandan and strawberry.
Adidas and helmet
No, they are not made of rubber or plastic but of chicken parts. Adidas is actually chicken feet and helmet is chicken heads. These are pre-boiled, placed on a bamboo skewer, grilled then dipped in a special barbecue sauce. It is kind of challenging to eat these treats but they’re a must-try nonetheless.
In the Western world, those who belong to Filipino families or know one consider lumpia a special Filipino dish. In the Philippines, it is a common fixture in the local street cuisine. A local version of the Chinese spring rolls, lumpia is usually made of meat or vegetables rolled in a wrapper, deep fried to a crisp and dipped in vinegar or ketchup.
Rice is the staple food for Filipinos and in the streets, these are sold in quite a fashion: wrapped in coconut or palm leaves. Puso is sold with a variety of other street foods, most of them grilled like pork barbecue, isaw and other chicken parts. Add soda or juice to the set and you have a complete meal!
Have you tried at least five kinds Filipino street food in this list? How did you like it? Tell us about your culinary adventure in the comments box below!