When in Rome, do as the Romans do—an advice fitting for any travelers visiting a foreign land. So, when you are in the Philippines, testing your palate with the Filipino street foods, while not necessary, is commendable. Not only would it be fun to try the unique local dishes, but it is a great way to immerse and understand the Filipino culture.
It is easy to spot street food vendors; where there are churches, schools, recreational parks, or jeepney terminals, you will also see kiosks, makeshift stalls, or food carts. In suburbs, you will see vendors or hawkers with their bicycles or push carts almost everywhere. Street food is a way of life for many people in this part of the globe. It is a source of income for many Filipino families—some vendors testified that their street food businesses enable them to send their children to school. For students and working adults looking for inexpensive meal, street food satisfy them for just half-the price of a meal in any popular fast-food restaurant.
Instead of dining in a restaurant for an authentic Filipino dish, why not go out in the street and have a quick bite. There is nothing more authentic than those food in the streets—untouched with the modern culinary flair. You will not only get to enjoy the food, but you get to join the locals who are eating with much gusto. Let you save couple of dollars too. In fact, with just $2 USD you’ll get home stuffed. Sanitation can be a bit off though. However, if you are up to the challenge, then prepare your taste buds for a wonderful street food adventure.
Deep-friend Saba (banana) that is coated in caramelized brown sugar and skewered in bamboo stick. It is best to eat it while hot.
Fish balls, squid balls and chicken balls
Some of the delicious deep-fried balls you can find in the streets. Fish balls are made of finely pulverized fish meats. It is usually flat in shape. Squid balls and chicken balls are some of its recent variation. Typically, the balls are eaten by dunking it into your preferred sauce: spicy vinegar, sweet and sour sauce, or sweet gravy.
A Filipino version of the Chinese quekiam; made of ground pork and vegetables wrapped in bean curd sheets. It is deep-fried to perfection and served with your choice of sauce.
Kwek kwek and tokneneng
Hard-boiled eggs dipped in orangey batter and fried until crispy. Kwek kwek use quail eggs while Tokneneng use chicken eggs.
Steamed dumplings, originally a Chinese dim sum, made with pork, beef, or shrimp. For just 25 pesos (57 cents USD) or less, don’t expect it to taste like those in the Dim sum house or restaurant.
Soybean snack with sweet syrup and tapioca pearls.
Arroz caldo and goto
Rice porridge similar to Chinese congee with ginger and some herbs. Arroz caldo has chicken and egg while goto has beef tripe.
Noodle soup with pork innards or chicken meat, pork cracklings and vegetables
Filipino cracklings made from different parts of the chicken and pig, seasoned, and deep-fried. These include chicken skin (crispy chicken skin), chicharong baboy (cracklings from pork rind), chicharong bituka (crispy, deep-fried chicken and pork intestines), and chicharong bulaklak (cracklings from pork omentum).
Marinated chicken and pork skewered and grilled over hot charcoal. Other grilled food includes adidas (chicken feet), betamax (dried chicken or pork blood), helmet (chicken head), isaw (chicken intestines), and pwet ng manok (chicken ass)
A Filipino dessert made with a mixture of shaved ice, evaporated milk, and assorted ingredients like beans, macapuno, jackfruit, gulaman, tapioca pearls, sweet potato, corn, and nata de coco. It is then topped with leche flan or purple yam. Halo-halo in restaurants would typically include a scoop of icecream on it.
Deep-fried breaded squid rings
This is a Filipino term for a variety of rice recipes. Some of the popular kakanin you will see in the streets are:
Puto: Rice cakes that comes in variety of colors, sometimes topped with cheese
Suman: Steamed glutinous rice, wrapped in banana or coconut leaves
Bibingka: Glutinous rice grilled in a clay pot
Palitaw: Sticky snack made from glutinous rice, served with sesame seeds and grated coconut
Sapin-sapin: Colorful, layered rice cake made from glutinous rice, topped with grated coconut or toasted coconut milk curd
Biko: Dark sweet glutinous rice cake
Maja blanca: Cocounut cake
This is literally a one-day-old male chicks. They are deep-fried, served with spicy vinegar and eaten whole.
Saving the best for last is the balut. It is a hard-boiled three-week old duck egg, high in protein, and believed to be aphrodisiac. It is very notorious because of how it look, with its nearly-formed embryo. The proper way of eating balut is to suck the amniotic fluid first before peel it off to eat the chick and the yolk.
There is no glamour eating street foods, but why seek for glamour when you want fun and adventure. Your palate may not be the same again once you have tasted the Filipino street foods. As double-dipping is very common especially for fish balls, a little piece of safety advice: request for a separate plastic cup instead for your choice of dip. Vendors usually keep a separate bottle for their sauces. Also, be watchful on how vendors prepare and cook their food.