The Philippines isn’t quite as famous for street food the same way its neighbors Hong Kong and Bangkok are, but the country is beginning to gain a cult following for all the savory and unique fare its locals peddle on the streets. For adventurous travelers, Filipino street foods are a must-try!
Embark on a guided tour of one of the Philippines’ best destinations for local street food: Binondo, Manila. And if you’re overwhelmed and a little bit lost with all the unfamiliar choices, here are some of our favorite Filipino street food to help you make the most of the experience.
One of the most common street foods in the Philippines, isaw is grilled pork or chicken intestines on a skewer—every local has a preference. The slightly charred meat is flavorful with pork isaw being slightly bigger and chewier than chicken isaw. Soak it in spiced vinegar for a minute or two to let the smoky meat absorb the flavor.
Most Filipinos who go out in the afternoon for a quick bite opt for deep-fried fish, chicken, and squid balls. It’s a common food item throughout Asia, although the street version has very little fish, chicken, or squid in it. It’s mostly made out of flour, but when dipped in sweet and sour sauce or vinegar, these bite-sized balls are great snacks on-the-go.
These bright orange eggs are not only eye-catching but also sinfully appetizing. Kwek-kwek is what you get when you boil a quail’s egg, then dip it in batter and deep-fry it until the coating is nice and crispy. Tokneneng is made exactly the same way, but using chicken eggs.
Like most Filipino street fare, kwek-kwek and tokneneng are usually dipped in vinegar before eating.
Another well-loved classic from the streets is taho, which is silken tofu mixed with arnibal and sago pearls for a sweet and filling snack or dessert.
It’s common to see (and hear) taho peddlers on the streets in the morning and afternoon, so when you spot one, sample a cup of the relatively healthy bite. Some eat it with a spoon, while others prefer using a straw or even drinking it straight from the cup.
Green Mango with Bagoong
Travelers tend to get addicted to the tantalizingly sweet Philippine mango, but many locals also enjoy the fruit in a different way with unripe green mangoes and bagoong (shrimp paste). The combination of the sour, crisp mangoes and salty paste may not sound like it’s an appetizing idea on paper, but it’s an acquired taste and most Filipinos salivate over this snack.
Banana Q and Kamote Q
Banana q, sometimes called banana cue, is a simple snack consisting of skewered bananas coated in caramelized brown sugar. It is often sold alongside kamote q or kamote cue, which is prepared the same way using camote or sweet potatoes. These are two of the most filling snacks you can indulge in on the streets.
Helmet and Adidas
Filipinos can be very creative in coming up with names for their favorite things, including street food. Helmet refers to chicken head, while Adidas are chicken feet—and yes, both are grilled to tasty perfection in the Philippines!
You’ll find that no animal parts go to waste in the country with delicacies like Walkman (pig ears) and Betamax (cubed chicken or pork blood).
The Chinese influence is very apparent in Filipino cuisine, so it’s no surprise that some Chinese dishes have made its way to the streets. Steamed siomai, which is a bite-sized pork dumpling, is popular in the Philippines with soy sauce and calamansi on hand for dipping.
Balut, a partially developed duck embryo, is an infamous delicacy, but its also a distinct part of the local street food scene. Filipinos remember balut vendors calling out “balut” in the wee hours of the morning from their childhood, but now its more common and available in street stalls and wet markets.
While some only slurp on the “soup” or embryonic fluid, the more adventurous foodies eat everything inside the shell—face, bones, and all.
Sorbetes is ice cream made in the Philippines and usually served on wafer cones, sugar cones, or sometimes even bread. Street vendors usually roam the streets in mornings and afternoons, peddling the Filipino favorite that locals affectionately call “dirty ice cream.”
Which Pinoy street food are you excited to try?