Filipino Food: Merienda Favorites
Merienda (snack time) is strictly adhered to in the Philippines. This time falls between 3- 5 in the afternoon and companies, schools, colleges all set aside at least fifteen minutes during this period for merienda. Snack time may be as easy as eating a piece of fruit or a sandwich in other countries but Filipinos as creative as they are with food, merienda calls for some Filipino food specialties.
Here are some of the common snacks that you probably haven’t heard about but definitely should try if you get the chance.
The Famous Ques
Many people think that the only things that you can barbeque are pork, beef or perhaps chicken but in the Philippines, food on sticks is taken to a totally different level!
Banana que – this is skewered fried ripe bananas with caramelized brown sugar coating. You usually find about 3-4 pieces of banana on a stick piping hot by street vendors during merienda time.
Camote que (sweet potato que)- this is the same as banana que only that it is done with boiled sweet potatoes.
Turon – this is banana + nangka (a fruit) wrapped in thin wrapping called lumpia wrapping and then fried and caramelized.
Who said porridges are only for the sick? Tasting these Filipino recipes gave me a new meaning to the word ‘porridge’.
Champurrado –sweet chocolate rice porridge served hot in a cup or bowl with milk
Arroz Caldo- salty rice porridge with bits of chicken, pepper and other spices
Tabirak – a sweet porridge with slices of sweet potato, ube, and other root crops/ fruits
The Traditional Snacks
Then we have the traditional snacks which take a little more skill in making but this makes them all the more interesting.
Ensaymada- sweet bun with grated cheese and melted butter toppings
Biko- a sticky rice cake with caramel toppings
Puto- steamed rice cakes with cheese toppings
Maruya- banana fritters
Bibingka- cassava cake
Siopao- steamed buns with pork, chicken or beef filling
Merrienda time will not be complete without something cold to drink along with these snacks.
Usually, vendors who sell snacks also have a drink to go along with it.
•Buko juice- the famous juice of the young coconut with a little sugar and gratings of the pulp of the coconut is served cold in a plastic cup.
• Halo-halo- mostly known as a Filipino dessert, halo-halo is a mixture of shaved ice, evaporated milk, various boiled beans and vegetables served in a bowl or tall glass.
• Gulaman de Sago-a flavoured ice drink with agar gelatine (aka gulaman) and tapioca balls (sago)
• Fruit shakes- like a milkshake but contain fruit or flavouring of various fruits with crushed ice, water and sugar. Common flavours are durian and buko.
Aside from the mentioned Filipino food snacks, there also the ‘western’ choices that include pizza, sandwiches, biscuits, soft drinks, fries, burgers and the like. However, the average Filipino prefers the traditional Filipino food.
Merrienda time is also one of the means of livelihood for many in the country. I have seen men and women visiting banks and other institutions during snack time with their choice of snacks.
In the streets, one can also see men carrying around two big steel containers on a pole on their shoulders which contain the mentioned favourite porridges. Schools and neighbourhoods often have a vendor or two with a huge frying pan with oil and either bananas or sweet potato ready to be caramelized.
Snack time is part of the Filipino culture and Filipino food still the preferred snack. Even in small things like this, the Filipino strives to maintain their tradition.