Filipinos love food. In a day, we eat almost 5 meals! Not counting the midnight snack and “side meals” which are those you eat by your fingers, like chips, in between meals. Typical Filipino meals are breakfast, morning snack, lunch, midday snack, and then dinner. Most still have space for a post-dinner snack, and mid night snack. With the Filipinos’ passion for eating, it is no wonder that food vendors abound. Try walking along a major street and find them almost every 10 steps! Below are 5 of the most popular street food you will find in the Philippines, and a must-try, in no particular order.
Kwek-kwek and Tokneneng
Kwek-kwek is a boiled quail egg dipped in an orange batter then deep-fried in oil. Tokneneng is the same but a boiled chicken egg is used instead. What you get is a fried ball which is crispy outside, and soft inside. A very common street food in Manila, it is partnered with spicy vinegar for dipping. It is best to eat while still crispy to experience the full richness of the dish.
The awesomeness of these barbeques is indescribable. As they say, no part of the animal goes to waste. Each has their own nicknames. The most popular are adidas which are chicken feet, enrile or helmet is a chicken head, betamax is pork blood, isaw is the chicken intestines, walkman is the pig’s ears. IUD (Intra-Uterine Device) is the pork intestine. These are marinated then grilled on hot charcoal.
Don’t let the mental image deter you. Try the pork isaw (intestine) and you’ll find that it taste just like sweet, chewy bacon. The betamax, although mentally appalling, is a skewer of three or four cubes of congealed pork blood, and tastes like firm flavorful tofu. Adidas, which are the chicken feet, are usually served on a stick and grilled to perfection. It’s all chicken skin and soft tendons underneath. The walkman or sliced pig’s ears is a chewy, crunchy delight. The helmet or chicken head is also full of skin with fat deposit. You can opt to suck out the brain and eyes, or not.
Dipped in spicy vinegar or other sweet spicy sauces after grilling, this is something you cannot pass out when in Manila.
“Tahooooooooo” is a tofu milk type of drink. It is made with fresh soft/silken tofu with caramelized brown sugar and gummy “sago” or small tapioca pearls. The vendors commonly travel by foot while carrying two silver buckets on a long stick over their shoulder, calling out “Tahooooooooo” so children and adults can come out and buy. Taho is enjoyed either by scooping with a spoon, sipping it with a straw, or slurping it straight from the cup. It is best enjoyed while still warm. A comfort food during rainy afternoon.
Balot and penoy
Balot are hard boiled fertilised duck egg. It has also been called duck fetus, duck embryo, unborn duck, and other appetizing name. It is high in protein and is an aphrodisiac. Penoy is the tamer version, since the baby duck is not yet recognizable.
To start eating, crack a small hole on the hollow end and suck the fluid. Then peel off half of the shell, bite and savor the yellow part, remove the rest of the shell, ignore the wings and beak, put it in your mouth, chomp and chew. The tough white lump is edible but is usually thrown out. It is best enjoyed with rock salt and vinegar.
People do get squeamish while eating balot since the newly formed duck is already discernable. Some advises to close your eyes while eating or eat in the dark, which may be the reason it is usually sold during dusk when the sun sets.
Fishball / squidball / kikiam
Sold in food carts, fishballs are fish paste, shaped into balls and deep fried. It is usually served skewered on a stick but some vendors now serve them on a paper plate or cup. You get to pick which balls you’d like from the wok, either the brown crispy ones or the less cooked ones for a more chewy bite.
Also available in the wok are squid balls, and kikiam (pork and vegetables). Although raw fishballs can be bought in the supermarket, “Manong’s” (uncle) sweet spicy sauce is difficult if not impossible to duplicate.
Hungry? I am! When you are next heading to Manila, don’t forget to go out in the street and have a quick bite, and let your taste buds experience a wonderful street food adventure.