15 Popular Filipino Street Foods
A Filipino’s eating habit comprises three large meals a day and several snacks in between. This is where street food comes in. The Philippines has a wide variety of street snacks—some sweet, some savory, and mostly bizarre to Western tourists.
Southeast Asian countries have a reputation of offering the best street foods in the world; that’s why anywhere you look in every corner of Manila, you will find street foods that are affordable and yet delicious.
Most of the street food vendors can be found outside schools, public transport stations, and one every sidewalk with high foot traffic.
1. Filipino Barbecue
A compulsory part of every Filipino occasion, these skewered pork barbecue are the epitome of Filipino street foods.
This snack can be found on every street corner, grilling on a make-shift grill. It is extremely affordable and can be bought per stick or per bundle.
Each pork barbecue consists of marinated pork in sweet and sour barbecue sauce, thinly sliced in square inches, layered on the skewer with the iconic fat piece on the end. With each bite, one can savor the sweet, savory, and spicy flavors all at once.
It is served as ‘pulutan (“pooh-loo-tan”), which translates to appetizers served with beer. It can also stand alone as a viand served with rice.
Grilled Isaw refers to a pig’s or chicken’s large intestine that has been cleaned, boiled until tender, and then grilled. This is one of the most popular street food in the Philippines that goes well with beer or liquor, but can also be eaten with rice.
Once cleaned and boiled, the Isaw or intestines are marinated in sweet and sour sauce, coiled onto skewers, and grilled over charcoal. The smoky flavor is complemented with a sweet and tangy vinegar sauce making it a perfect afternoon snack or appetizer.
Kwek-kwek are deep-fried quail eggs covered in orange-colored batter. This street food is served on skewers or in plastic cups, dipped in vinegar sauce with chopped garlic, onion, chilies, and cucumber.
Kwek-kwek is simple; yet, it bursts with amazing flavors that all Filipinos are familiar with. However, the cholesterol of quail’s eggs in kwek-kwek is very high; that’s why it is recommended to be eaten with caution just like any other street food.
Ukoy or Okoy is a delicious dish that is very popular in the Philippines. It is an easy to cook and very flavorful Filipino appetizer. This street food is prepared with unpeeled small shrimps (head and shell on) that are mixed in flour, cornstarch, and egg batter and deep-fried until crispy.
There are now other variations of Okoy; some use sweet potato as the main ingredient, while others use squash, papaya, or togue, mung bean sprouts. Ukoy’s flavor is made even more delicious with a vinegar dipping sauce.
Betamax, named after the black rectangle-shaped tapes of the ’70s it resembles, is grilled coagulated pork or chicken blood.
It is indeed not for the faint of heart but is not as repulsive as it may sound. It doesn’t possess any foul or robust taste or smell. It is grilled, livery in texture, and, surprisingly, doesn’t taste anything like blood, but more of the barbeque marinade or vinegar sauce used, which is why it’s pivotal to dip it in sauce to enjoy this street food.
Filipinos love to play with street food names—Adidas is street lingo for barbecued chicken feet, named after the famous shoe brand.
Eating chicken feet in Southeast Asia is fairly common; they’re usually served in bamboo steamers braised in sticky sweet and sour sauce. Adidas, on the other hand, is marinated in soy sauce then grilled on a stick and served with a vinegar dip.
Chicken feet may not appeal to everyone, but it is an ingenious way of making sure that no part of the chicken goes to waste. Adidas is basically all skin and tendons. It’s very gelatinous and may be an acquired taste.
This street food was popularized in the early 2000s; these are squid rings battered and deep-fried to perfection and served with different sauces like aioli, or vinegar with chilies. Calamares are fried for less than two minutes to prevent them from becoming too tough.
In Chinese cuisine, the squid is often dried, coated in a salt and pepper batter, and served with a spicy hot garnishing of chili and salt. Calamares are now considered street food in the Philippines.
Named after the iconic boom of Walkman and pop culture in the Philippines, Walkman are pig’s ears that are chopped up into bite-sized pieces, skewered, and grilled to perfection.
Pig’s ears are truly a delightful medley of textures. They are marbled with pieces of meat, skin, and cartilage that require a bit more work in tenderizing before they hit the hot grill.
The meat is first marinated in vinegar and soy sauce before being sliced into bite-sized pieces. The skewered ears are then finished off on the grill with the occasional basting of homemade sweet and sour barbecue sauce. Although a bit chewy and tough, this is quite a popular dish amongst street vendors.
9. Day Old Chick
This hard-to-stomach street food is literally a one-day-old chick. Egg farms reject male chicks because such a lot wouldn’t be producing eggs; thus, they are turned into street food. Also, male chicks do not grow fast for meat production, so poultry owners prefer female chicks.
The newly hatched male chicks are batter fried and eaten whole, as the bones are soft enough to be munched. These cooked one-day-old chicks are usually dipped in vinegar, sweet chili sauce, or just chili sauce with diced cucumber and onions. Some prefer to eat them on skewers, and others like to eat them with rice.
There is a trick to eating this snack. Filipinos used to eat its head first, then the body, and, lastly, the feet. The beak and bones are still soft so you can literally eat a whole chicken in just a few bites. Its intriguing appearance and delicious flavors make it one of the best street foods in our country.
Beef Pares has been a popular street food ever since it was invented in the 1970s. This Chinese-style beef stew is mildly sweet and aromatic; it is served with garlic fried rice and some beef broth.
Pares has spread mostly in the Northern part of Metro Manila and has now become a street food popular among Filipinos craving a good and quick meal that can be eaten on the sidewalk. The tender boiled beef brisket is cooked in a special blend of spices with sugar, soy sauce, star anise, garlic, and ginger.
Iskrambol is a pink-colored, milk-based slushy drink. It is derived from the English word ‘scramble,’ referring to the mixing of shaved ice.
Iskrambol is sold in the streets of the Philippines, especially by stalls near elementary schools and parks. It is simply shaved ice, evaporated milk, food coloring, and flavorings.
It is still a mystery where this street food originated from, but it is said that street vendors were the ones who really made it popular by preparing it with all those colors, drizzled generously with chocolate syrup, and topped with powdered milk. It is one of the many classic cold street foods in the Philippines everyone can enjoy.
12. Dirty Ice Cream/Sorbetes
Sorbetes is a popular Filipino ice cream flavored with ingredients such as mango, chocolate, cheese, coconut, and purple yam (ube). It is called dirty ice cream simply because there were mothers who constantly warned their children that ice cream is “dirty” to stop them from asking for it.
Historians say that Filipinos originally used coconut milk instead of animal milk because the Philippines is rich in coconut trees. Nowadays, it is produced from carabao or cow’s milk and served in tiny scoops on sugar cones.
Some Filipinos like to eat it as a sandwich, in between bread buns, like a hamburger. Sorbetes can usually be found at numerous street food carts throughout the Philippines.
Sometimes called dos-tres because of its original price of two pesos for the bopis and three pesos for the litid (tendon). This local snack is perhaps the most dirty-looking street food in the Philippines.
The greasy sticks of bopis (pig’s minced lungs and heart) and litid (ligaments and fats) have a pleasing aroma and are sold at a very cheap price. The preparation of this street food starts by cleaning the offal in running water, scrubbing it with salt, and then soaking it in vinegar to reduce the gaminess. After being cleaned, the offal is then marinated in soy sauce and other spices.
Because of its funky texture and toughness, it is chopped into tiny pieces, making it easier to chew before finally deep-frying it.
14. Chicken Skin
Chicken Skin Chicharon is one of the cheapest street foods in the Philippines. Chicken Skin is made with chicken skin that is deep-fried until crisp and golden. It has a good crunch and taste, which can satisfy the cravings for fatty food.
The chicken skin is coated with flour and mixed seasonings and deep-fried in cooking oil. It is served in the streets in a plastic cup with spiced vinegar. Chicken Skin Chicharon is one of the guilty pleasure snacks in the Philippines for it is very high in cholesterol and fat.
15. Fish Ball/Squid Ball
Fish balls/squid balls—the all-time favorite Filipino street food; these are usually served by getting your own tiny bamboo skewer and poking them straight out of the wok.
Most fish balls are actually flat in shape, while squid balls are round. Essentially, this is ground-up fish or squid meat combined with some fillers like flour and spices. The balls are pre-shaped and then deep-fried by the vendors on their food carts. This is probably the tamest of all Filipino street foods.
They’re traditionally served on a stick, although some vendors serve them in plastic cups. Both fish balls and squid balls have an array of dipping sauces to choose from: spicy vinegar, sweet and sour sauce, sweet sauce, or a mix of everything.