Many tourists come to the Philippines to experience its breathtaking beaches, climb its spectacular ranges and volcanoes, or simply visit Philippine historical sites. Some visitors come to immerse themselves with the culture of the Philippine Islands, and one good way to do this is to have a taste of Philippine Street Foods. Come and discover the more adventurous side of yourself!
Philippine Street Food, also known as Pagkaing Kalye in Filipino, is a wide variety of inexpensive cuisine that you can buy from vendors or peddlers on the streets. It is essentially influenced by other neighboring countries' dishes like Chinese and Japanese, taken to the next level and given a Filipino twist.
Cooking Philippine Street Food mainly involves grilling, frying and steaming, while others simply require mixing of ingredients to prepare. Chicken and pork are the top choices for the ingredients in making Philippine Street Food.
Now that you have a basic idea about what the Philippine street food is, the next question is, "are you tough enough to eat it?" You might be thinking, "what is there to be scared of when you are just eating chicken and pork?" Well, you are not just eating the meat. You are eating the meat and everything else. When preparing Philippine street food, no part of the chicken and pork should go to waste. Imagine dressing a chicken, all the parts that you usually throw away, except for the feathers, of course, go onto the pan or grill, but not in the wastebin.
Are you ready to go on a food trip? Here are some street food varieties that are made of chicken meat and other chicken parts.
Ulo ng Manok or Chicken Head is literally a dressed chicken's head and neck, marinated in soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. Another marinade for this is made by mixing soy sauce, ketchup, and some cooking oil. The chicken head is skewered on a bamboo stick and grilled for about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. You can dip it into a sauce which is a mixture of vinegar, chili pepper, and sugar. This sells for about 6.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.14 to $0.23.
Leeg or Chicken's Neck is a dressed chicken's neck. You can enjoy it grilled or deep-fried. With grilled, you prepare it the same way with the chicken head. If you want it deep-fried, you dip it first into a bowl of battered egg and cover it with flour before frying. You let it fry until golden brown. You can have it with a vinegar sauce or gravy. Its price is around 6.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.14 to $0.23.
Isaw is the chicken's small intestine, also skewered on a bamboo stick, resembling an accordion or a Victorian radiator. It is usually marinated in ketchup, soy sauce and cooking oil. The Isaw is also sometimes called “IUD” or “PLDT” because of its long and telephone cord-like shape. PLDT stands for Philippine Long Distance Telephone, which is the main provider of telecommunications in the country. The Isaw sells for 6.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.14 to $0.23.
Betamax is dried chicken's blood cut into small rectangular shapes, similar to a Betamax tape. This is also placed on a small bamboo stick and grilled until it hardens. It is best eaten when dipped into the vinegar sauce. You can buy the Betamax for 4.00 to 5.00 Philippine pesos or $0.09 to $0.11.
Adidas, named after the famous sports shoe company, is chicken feet, soaked in a mixture of soy sauce, vinegar, pepper and garlic. It is also skewered and grilled. The claws are removed from the feet to make “Adidas” safer to eat. This sells for about 6.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.14 to $0.23.
Tokong is chicken's gizzard covered in flour, and then deep fried. It goes best with the vinegar sauce and sells for 5.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.11 to $0.23.
Atay ng Manok is Chicken Liver. This tastes best when grilled and dipped into the sweetened vinegar sauce. The chicken liver sells for 6.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.14 to $0.23.
Balat ng Manok is one of the top favorites among the Philippine street foods. After all, who does not love chicken skin? It is chicken skin deep fried until golden brown. It is good when eaten as is or dipped into the sweet vinegar sauce. Its price is 5.00 to 10.00 Philippine pesos or $0.11 to $0.23.
Chicken barbecue is usually made of the chicken's breast and leg part. The marinade is a mixture of ketchup, soy sayce and cooking oil. This is even better when served with rice. This sells for 20.00 to 25.00 Philippine pesos or $0.45 to $0.57.
There are many other kinds of street foods you can find in the Philippines. There are grilled and deep-fried street food made of pork meat, pig's ears and innards. There are duck eggs called Balot and Penoy. There are quail eggs or Tukneneng, fishballs, squidballs, and kikiam. There are also sweets and desserts like taho, banana cue, camote cue, iskrambol, binatog, and sorbetes or dirty ice cream. Whichever street food you choose to try, do not forget that your health should be your main concern. Be sure that you are buying a street food that is clean and safe to eat. Be adventurous but at the same time be safe!
Is it safe to eat street food in the Philippines?
Street food can be just as safe or even safer to eat than restaurant food because you can see it being cooked and know that it has been thoroughly cooked before you eat it. By contrast, if you go to a restaurant you can't see the meal being cooked so you have no idea about the hygiene of the kitchen.
Anything that is barbecued, fried, or boiled should be safe to eat because of the high heat of the cooking process. Any of the nasty pathogens that may be living in the food would have been killed during the cooking process. Also, look for the busy street food vendors. Those vendors are so popular, they won't have food sitting around for long before it is taken away and eaten by an appreciative clientele. You can also bet street food vendors with long lines aren't poisoning their customers!
Where is the best place to eat street food in Manila?
Check out the Salcedo Saturday Market which goes from 7am until 2pm. It is located in the heart of Salcedo Village at the Jaime Velasquez Park's parking lot. Every Saturday the parking lot is transformed into a long stretch of white tents offering mostly local goodies, organic fruits and vegetables, and different snacking options including traditional Filipino street food, As you wander around, the choices can be overwhelming. A crowd favorite is the Authentic House of Curry which serves a variety of heavily spiced dishes of Malay origin such as chicken or fish curry, beef rendang, papadum, and its best-selling lobster and scallop balls (P200/five pieces). Soft, chewy, and filled with secret spices, the street food snack is an instant eye-catcher as it swims in a pool of bright orange curry broth with specks of green herbs.
Also check out the little food cart called Cheryl's Cuisine sitting in the middle of the weekend market. It serves an assortment of classic Cantonese fare including pork siomai, sharsfin dumplings, oyster omelette, xiao long bao, and even fried pigeon. You won't mind the long line once you get your hands on the flavor-packed dim sum. Prices start at P90 per order.
You'll also find a long line at the stall where they offer bagnet sisig. Sisig is made with pigs ears, liver, and lots of onions and chilis. If you aren't into sisig or haven't tried it, start here. The crispy pork sauteed with red onions is to die for!
Of course, you'll find the reliable Filipino dishes such as pork barbecue, chicken inasal, and lechon, plus the refreshing local cold drinks and sweet treats are always a big hit at the market. Those stalls are easy to find, as that is where the lines are usually the longest and where people are busy grilling.
But for those who are there to just stroll and eat, it can readily become an adventure and foray into different cuisines from all over the world. Remember that the Philippines was colonized by the Spanish, so you'll also find such things as paella, callos, lengua, and pulpo with paprika. Also look for stalls selling French food, along with Moroccan dishes.
What local foods should I try as a foreigner?
If you are a foreigner, most people like Pancit Canton (noodles with some vegetables and meat in it). I would recommend Buko Pandan Shake. (Buko is coconut.) Also Mango Shake is delicious and Buko Salad is a creamy dessert. Banana-Que is a sweet fried banana on a stick. Or Turon is fried banana in a wrapper. They are both found being sold on the streets.
If you like meat, try the Pinoy “tapsilog” dish, ie., thin slices of marinated tenderloin or sirloin, served with fried rice topped by fried egg sunny side-up (usually breakfast fare but good for lunch or even dinner). Most hotels and restaurants at malls offer this. A good breakfast fare is any of the local garlicky sausage (called longanisa). Several styles are available - all delectable: dagupan, Alaminos, lucban, and pampango. You should also try Filipino “pork/chicken adobo” and Kare-kare (tender ox tail slow cooked/stewed in peanut sauce), advertised by the bigger restaurant chains. Another dish to try to Apritada, which is similar to beef stew, but with chicken, carrots, and potatoes in a sauce.
If you prefer fish, try fried boneless bangus or the Filipino version of sashimi called kinilaw na tuna (tuna ceviche), or “pangat”, fresh steamed fish pref lapu-lapu or pampano, wrapped in banana leaves with lots of kamias (or sinigang broth); fresh steamed shrimps taken as is or mixed with salted red eggs is also a favorite.
If you like veggies, try the diagonally sliced fried eggplant that is served warm with Parmesan cheese topping on each slice. You can also try an eggplant and ground beef omelet. There are many vegetables in Sinigang, a dish with either pork or fish and a variety of vegetables in a soupy sauce that you put atop of rice. It’s a little bit sour though because it has some vinegar in it. Vinegar is common in Filipino food, or a vinegar-y dipping sauce comes with some foods.
For dessert: fresh tropical fruits such as mango, papaya, jack fruit, la tundan bananas (or boiled sweetened bananas called saba), local sweetened sapin-sapin bright colored rice cakes with “Latik” - fried coconut meat sprinkles. Or the ubiquitous all-in-one halo-halo! Kainan na! Mabuhay!