There’s more to the Philippines than beaches and coconut trees – and by more, I mean, Filipino street food. Filipino street food is definitely in the list of things to try when you're up for a gastronomic adventure. Filipino cuisine is considered one of the “hottest food trends predicted for 2015” so don’t let this year end without trying some. Here are seven of my most favorite Filipino street foods:
If you see orange balls in a food cart sold in the streets of Manila, then, you have met your new best friend: kwek-kwek. These are hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in orange batter and then deep fried. Best to eat kwek-kwek with sweet/spicy/sour sauce that your friendly vendor hands to you soon after he/she gives you your order on a stick or in a small paper container. Other variations are called ‘tokneneng’, which uses chicken or duck eggs.
2. Tempura and Fish Balls
Forget the tempura that you know of; this ain’t the Japanese version honey. Tempura is basically fish (or fish flavoring) mixed in flour and spices and comes in an elongated form. Fish balls, as the name suggests, are fish made into balls. Also deep fried in oil, tempura and fishballs are best enjoyed with slices of onions, cucumber and spicy vinegar sauce. Also try squid rolls, squid balls and kikiam for more variety. They’re sold in the same manner as kwek-kwek and tokneneng so be ready to enjoy dining in open air.
3. Banana Cue
A portmanteau of the two words “banana” and “barbecue”, banana cue is a common snack sold outside the gates of schools in the Philippines. Saba banans are deep-fried in oil that is already filled with caramelized brown sugar. The hot, delicious result is placed on sticks (like barbecue!) and is piled up on a tray. This cheap, divine treat is a great afternoon snack! I often had a stick after class hours.
When night falls, you hear the voice of a man shouting “balut” as he pedals his bike around the neighborhood selling cooked, partially-developed duck embryos. Now that may sound gross to some that’s why my advice is to only eat this if you have a strong heart and a strong stomach. Sprinkle some salt and vinegar on the egg and then…enjoy! If this one is too much for you, try “penoy”, basically an ordinary hard-boiled egg also sold by the same man who shouts “balut”.
Siomai is basically the Chinese shaomai/shumai (part of the Cantonese’s dim sum list). But the Filipinos put in some more savory flavors as they mix ground pork, beef, shrimp along with other extenders then put it in wonton wrappers which are then steamed. Dip these heavenly delights in chili sauce and soy sauce with drops of kalamansi (it's a citrus fruit that has the same sour taste as lemons) to achieve maximum pleasure. Do not forget to pair them with “puso” or hanging rice (rice grains wrapped and cooked inside woven, heart-shaped coconut leaves).
6. Isaw, ‘Adidas’, ‘Betamax’
Isaw is chicken intestine, ‘adidas’ is chicken feet, and ‘betamax’ is salted, solidified blood of pork or chicken. They are marinated in a sauce made of soy sauce, vinegar, kalamansi juice, garlic and onions before they are put on skewers and cooked over charcoal, barbecue style. If you’re not that adventurous, you can try pork and chicken barbecue. But then again, you don’t earn bragging rights with just pork and chicken.
Also called ‘dirty ice cream’ maybe because it’s sold in the streets. Nothing fancy in this one. A man sells his ice cream in carts. Flavors are pretty basic: mango, vanilla, cheese. Other vendors sell "strawberry" ice cream but it's just amde with food coloring really. The ice cream cones do not have special flavors but to have a cone (or cones!) of dirty ice cream is a Filipino classic and one that you should experience if you happen to reach this wonderful archipelagic country.
Anyone tried any of these street foods?