As we move on to another addition to our street food series, we move to Asia’s Pearl of the Orient – The Philippines. The Philippine street food scene is alive and pumping and is enjoyed by everyone from all walks of life.
In Manila, you can find street food almost anywhere. At every turn, there’s bound to be a food cart or stall right at the corner waiting for you. Here are some of our favourite street food that we think you should try when in the Philippines!
Kwek kwek is the omnipresent Filipino street food. This savoury snack is made with hard-boiled quail eggs covered in a deep-fried orange batter that you’re bound to fall in love with at first bite. (I personally don’t know anyone who doesn’t love kwek kwek!) While kwek kwek can be enjoyed by itself, the secret to elevating the savoury experience is by soaking it in vinegar to add that extra hit.
Similar to the ones we have here in Singapore, these fish balls are made from pulverised fish meat, which is then rolled into a ball, then deep-fried into a massive wok. Vendors also sell squid balls together with fishballs, which are essentially the same thing as well! These bad boys are usually dipped in brown sweet sauce and/or spicy sauce to add an extra kick.
Kikiam is yet another crowd favourite amongst locals. It is a deep-fried snack made of ground pork and vegetables, that are then wrapped in bean curd sheets. From the way that it looks, it actually has the same texture and similar taste to fishballs! Just like kwek kwek, kikiam can be eaten with vinegar as well as sweet and spicy sauce that’s been made with soy sauce, brown sugar, corn starch and other spices.
Not for the Faint-hearted
Charcoal-grilled chicken intestines on a stick. Yes, you read that right. The intestines are lined up in a skewer, before being grilled to perfection. Despite what it’s made of, isaw actually tastes way better than it looks and is one of the most popular street foods in the Philippines. Don’t forget to soak it in vinegar to get the flavour out!
Cut in cubes and put into skewers, these grilled squares are actually coagulated chicken or pork blood. Definitely not for the faint-hearted! Betamax is enjoyed by many Filipinos and its liver-like texture and grilled smokiness really comes through. Make sure to try it with vinegar or even barbecue marinade.
As probably one of the most bizarre yet iconic street foods in the Philippines, Balut definitely takes the cake. Balut is a boiled fertilised duck embryo that is best eaten with salt or vinegar. While it is essentially the same thing as eating a regular boiled egg, the sight of an undeveloped bird staring into your soul may not sound too appetizing for some. But if you’re lucky, you might even get one with a beak or a feather!
If you hear someone shouting “tahoooooooo!” at the break of day, fret not. That’s just the sound of taho paddlers coming around. Taho is a sweet snack made of silken tofu, brown sugar syrup and soft sago pearls. This classic treat is an absolute staple amongst Filipinos. While taho can be found more commonly in the morning, it can still be enjoyed at any time of day.
Banana Cue/Kamote Cue
Deep-fried bananas coated with sweet, caramelised brown sugar. In the Philippines, you call that banana cue. The ‘cue’ comes from ‘barbecue’, since banana cue is cooked in the same way – skewered on a bamboo stick, but is deep-fried instead of grilled. If deep-fried banana rolls don’t float your boat, you might want to give kamote cue (deep-fried sweet potatoes) a shot.
Similar to banana cue, turon is a Philippine snack that is also made of bananas! The only difference is that the bananas are thinly sliced; rolled in a lumpia wrapper; deep-fried to perfection then topped off with brown sugar.
You could probably call halo-halo the king of Filipino desserts. This is a sweet concoction of crushed ice and evaporated milk with a wide array of toppings like sweetened beans, various fruits, jellies, topped off with a generous scoop of ube ice cream. In case you were wondering, you can think of halo-halo as the equivalent of ice kachang in Singapore! So, how do you eat halo-halo? Just like how its name suggests! Halo in Filipino means ‘mix’, so give it a good mix and dig in!
Sorbetes (Dirty Ice Cream)
Dirty ice cream, or sorbetes, is Filipino traditional ice cream. There are many versions of stories as to why it was called ‘dirty ice cream’, but some say that it’s because it’s peddled by street hawkers. But don’t worry, there’s absolutely nothing dirty about sorbetes! Usually served on a cone, bun, or a cup, you can enjoy sorbetes in the most popular flavours – chocolate, ube, and cheese (keso)!
The variety of street foods in the Philippines go way beyond this list! But for now, these will definitely get you started once you’re roaming the streets on your food trip in the Philippines. Did we miss any of your favourites out? Let us know in the comments!