Filipino street food is not that well recognized. In fact, if you ask a great majority of Western eaters what the national dish of the Philippines is, you would probably get a confused look in lieu of an answer. It might be because the Philippines is difficult to define. It is a country in Southeast Asia with a largely colonial Spanish and American influence. On this archipelago of around 7,000 islands, the inhabitants speak fifteen different languages with several dialects governing the different islands. It’s tough to describe the Filipino culture in a solitary definition. Even the cuisine is relatively inconsistent from one region to another.
This dish is the most popular street food in the Philippines. Chicken and pork cuts covered with a sweet red sauce made from soy sauce and banana ketchup are skewered and grilled on charcoal. Other varieties include whole pork chops, chicken intestines, and chicken breast pieces. Also, small exotic surprises, such as small cubes of coagulated pig’s blood (called betamax) and chicken feet (called adidas) are grilled. They also have sweet Chinese sausages (which are, ironically, called chorizo).
Going through a Philippines bucketlist can easily lead one to another staple of Filipino street food: the balut. It is what makes the most impressive photos! These are unhatched fertilized duck eggs. They are removed from the mother at around 14 days of gestation. More no less, you end up with a duck embryo! Hailed as an aphrodisiac, it is an essential favourite of Filipino men. The balut is served with a little vinegar or salt. Sellers on bikes roam the streets at night and keep their goods in a small basket.
You can sometimes find fine feathers or an early bone formation but at this stage they are not tough to chew. Mostly, it’s just a mixture of different textures on your palate. The taste is similar to overcooked egg yolk.
Filipino street food: Balut
The Filipinos – Cebuanos, in particular – love pork and prepare it a thousand ways. The most popular is the “boneless lechon”, which is pork belly, rolled with herbs and spices, tied, and cooked, rotisserie style.
But in the Philippines, one does not throw anything away. The animal that gave its life is used, nose to tail.
Rough-and-ready restaurants make use of the less “popular” excesses of pork, like skin, intestine (ginabut), fat, and tendons. The cooks coat these with breadcrumbs and deep-fry them. These are then piled in plastic boxes and transported to stalls with small tables conveniently located near a busy street. Eaters are then equipped with two plastic bags, one to cover the table and serve as the plate, another to serve as a glove. The seller then provides eaters with a dip made of soy sauce, vinegar, onions and chili.
Some other options for the less adventurous are also available, such as egg rolls (lumpia), small cocktail sausages (longganisa) and – surprise, a vegetable! – ngohiong (bamboo shoots wrapped, battered and deep-fried).
Kwek kwek, cucumber and vinegar
Deep fried foods are very, very popular street foods in the Philippines. Vegetables are also relatively rare in the plates of the country. Some fried street foods in the Philippines that sold in the streets are small store-bought crackers by the seller and re-fried on the spot, for example shrimp or squid crackers. In the case of Kwek kwek, however, a fresh batter coats small, hard-boiled quail eggs. These are then fried, covered with a sweet and sour sauce and topped with a few cucumber slices. Not bad!
Filipino street food: Kwek Kwek
Banana Cue (Fried bananas)
This one is sweet and fat! Saba bananas are skewered, fried in coconut oil and then covered with caramel. Gradually, as the banana cools, so does the caramel, transforming it from flowing, to tack, to crisp. Decadent!
Check out TravelTheFire’s quick analysis of the barbecue of Cebu City!
Rice is the number one ingredient in Philippine cuisine. It accompanies every meal, from breakfast to lunch to dinner. It is possible to find it everywhere: from the chic restaurants to the convenience stores. McDonald’s serves portions of rice in the same bag as the portions of fries! In fact, a meal is not complete without its presence.
Rice served on the street is wrapped in woven bamboo. This small and stylish package makes it easier to eat rice without having morsels stick to your fingers – efficient and effective!
The Pochero is a piece of braised beef roast. The thick sauce is full of delicious beef marrow and the taste resembles that of poutine sauce. It is not a street food dish in itself, but some makeshift restaurants offer several dishes braised and offered in aluminium pans and this dish is a regular on the menu! This is a dish of the region of Cebu.
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