Filipino Food: Get Into the Streets: A Filipino Street Food Adventure

The Filipinos have a very passionate relationship with food. While the Philippines is considered a developing country, Filipinos find ways to still enjoy food without costing an arm and a leg. If you are ever visiting the country, the best way to understand the Filipino food culture is by looking to the streets.

Since Filipinos have a constant love affair with food, it is impossible to die of hunger in the Philippines. Street food vendors can be found practically everywhere – outside school, beside the church, at the street corners, inside jeepney or bus terminals, etc. They are popular to people from all walks of life – but especially to the one who has to keep a tight budget. Street food is extremely expensive. It’s a great experience to try out cheap and delicious Filipino food.

There are many street foods in the Philippines and most often, the ones you would encounter would depend on the region you are visiting. Listed below are the most common ones you would encounter practically in any part of the country.

1. Kwek-kwek. Kwek-kwek is one of the most popular street foods to both children and adults. It is quail egg covered with an orange batter and deep-fried. Children might opt for the sweet sauce for dipping, while adults might opt for a spicier one. When chicken eggs are used, they are called tokneneng.

2. Fishball. This is probably one of the most popular fried street foods you may find. It is made out of pulverized fish meat and formed into a flat, round shape. Many fishball vendors also offer other types of fried balls like chicken balls and squid balls. There are also many types of dipping sauces to enjoy.

3. Taho. Taho is soft and silky tofu topped with an arnibal sauce (caramelized brown sugar) and small tapioca (commonly called  sago). It is a popular as a Filipino breakfast or afternoon snack. Kids usually wait for the Taho vendor in the morning as he goes around villages shouting “Taho!”

4. Chicharon. Filipino cracklings take many forms, but the most common form is Chicharong Baboy. It is made from pork skin that is fried until crispy. It is commonly dipped in vinegar with chopped siling labuyo (small chilli peppers). It is one Filipino food that many Filipinos are fond of but try to stay away from. Pork cracklings has high cholesterol content so go easy on eating it.

5. Banana cue and Kamote cue. Banana cue and Kamote cue are popular not only to Filipinos but to foreigners as well. Banana cue uses Saba, a variety of banana that is found only in tropical countries like the Philippines. It is fried and coated with brown sugar and skewered on a thin bamboo stick. Kamote cue uses local sweet potatoes (usually starchy and has a white-purplish complexion). Like the banana cue, it is fried and coated with brown sugar. Both street foods are popular as afternoon snacks and best served while hot.

6. Adidas. While many of the previous foods mentioned are fried, the barbecue business is thriving very well in the Philippines too. A popular broiled Filipino food is called Adidas, which is chicken foot. The name is borrowed from the popular shoe brand. It’s probably because the brand logo has three stripes and looks similar to a chicken’s foot. It is broiled and served with vinegar.

7. Buko juice. While we are talking about Filipino food, let’s talk about Filipino drinks too. The most popular Filipino street drink is Buko juice (coconut juice). It is usually served really cold. It becomes more popular during the intense summer months.

8. Manggang Hilaw. If you are staying at a hotel in the Philippines, they probably would serve you the national fruit, mangoes. You may find mangoes on the streets too, especially during the summer months.  Manggang hilaw is green mangoes. Unlike the ripe mango, the skin requires to be peeled with a knife. It usually tastes sour (some varieties are sweeter) and is served with a homemade  bagoong (fermented fish paste).

9. Isaw. Another popular in the barbecue business is isaw (intestines). There are two types of isaw – chicken and pork. Chicken intestine is smaller and rounder, while pork intestine is bigger and more flat in shape.  Like the adidas, it is served with a vinegar dipping sauce.

10. Balut. While Balut is feared by many foreigners, it is actually quite delicious. It is a three-week old duck egg, which is a great source of protein. While the appearance may seem gross to you, the best way to eat is to sip the liquid before eating the egg. Some people eat it plain while others use vinegar as a sauce. It is usually sold by a Balut vendor during the night time.

While gloriously basking in delicious Filipino food in the streets would be a wonderful adventure, a word of caution: street foods are notorious for causing stomach problems. Make sure that you watch how the vendor prepares the food for you. It is especially important to watch the sauce container as some people have the habit of biting into their food skewer and dipping back into the sauce. The best way to enjoy street Filipino food is to bring loads of friends with you.