Despite its affordability, street food has always been a bit of a guilty pleasure. But while it may not be the healthiest indulgence, it sure is worth that extra bite
In one word, Filipino street food is: comforting. Unlike most other local dishes, our street food isn't complicated. In fact, they're a straightforward take on the snacks that are fun to indulge in after a stressful day. While others may turn to more mainstream locales for street food, we know that some of the most familiar tastes—ours!—are also the most satisfying. Today, we journey back into our favourite merienda past-times and rediscover these iconic dishes, best served not on plates or in fancy restaurants, but right here in our very own avenues.
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Is there anything more satisfying than a delicious cone of sorbetes? Imagine summer in the Philippines—the heat and humidity—but being comforted through it all with ice cream atop a soft, wafer cone or between two buns (a classic Filipino twist). Most sorbeteros carry delicious local flavours such as cheese, mango, avocado, or melon. Some even have strawberry, chocolate, and cookies and cream!
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Taho peddlers are among many of the friendly Filipinos you're likely to encounter along the streets of the metro. Their distinctive cry—"Taho! Taho!"—has become a much-anticipated signal for hungry snackers to peep outside their windows and come out with an order. Made of silken tofu, tapioca (sago), and arnibal (sweet sauce), taho is often enjoyed warm, though some such as myself love it chilled. It's particularly popular in Baguio, where a strawberry taho variant reigns supreme among locals and tourists.
3. Tokneneng & Kwek-kwek
Tokneneng may sound unfamiliar to you, but we're sure you've seen their distinctive look around the streets of the Philippines. Tokneneng is actually very similar to kwek-kwek except instead of using quail eggs, tokneneng utilises duck eggs! Both these types of street food are coated with a rich, crispy orange batter and deep-fried. It's then dipped into vinegar or a thick sweet sauce to complement the flavours.
Balut is pretty infamous, but it's undoubtedly one of the most distinctive Filipino street foods out there. Known simply as fertilised duck egg, balut often intimidates the meek. If you crack the egg open, you're likely to see a yolk and the baby duck itself, complete with feathers and a beak. It's a little unnerving but many have attested to its delicious flavour—and after all, it wouldn't be such a Filipino hallmark if it wasn't delicious right?
5. Turon & Banana Cue
As a tropical country, bananas are a huge part of our diet. Take for example: the delicious turon and banana cue. While both snacks utilise bananas, they're prepared quite differently. While banana cue simply coated in caramelised sugar, turon is wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and fried. Sometimes, turon is served with langka or a side of ice cream.
Grilled chicken or pork intestines may not sound delicious, but Filipinos know that it's a great treat after a day at school or work! Isaw, which is marinated, cleaned, boiled, and grilled is safe to eat and usually dipped in vinegar with chilli and onions.
Nothing looks quite as cheery as a cup of iskrambol. A favourite amongst students, it's a something of a Filipino slushy made from ice, evaporated milk, banana extract, some syrups, and candy. Talk about delicious, yet oh-so simple!
8. Squid, Fish, and Chicken Balls
Now, this is quintessential Filipino street food! Fish balls, squid balls, and chicken balls are among the most common things you'd find in a food cart. It's best enjoyed as merienda in the afternoon, or even after a night of partying (remember the ones around Poblacion?). Although these foods are easily available in supermarkets, there's an added flavour when you buy it off the streets and pair it with manong's delicious sawsawan.
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As an archipelago, the Philippines is famous for its seafood. While some may not think of ukoy as seafood per se, it is made with either small shrimp or fish. While many different recipes are available, their most common denominators include mung bean sprouts and julienned calabasa mixed in batter and fried to a crisp. Perfect as an appetiser or afternoon snack!