Admit it, you love trying new food. Everyone from Food Network to Bloomberg claims 2017 is the year Filipino flavors will explode onto the food scene. Bon Appétit named the D.C.-based Filipino restaurant “Bad Saint” the second best new restaurant of 2016, providing evidence for the claims that Filipino flavor is about to find fame.
While eating his way through food-friendly cities around the world for television audiences (since 2002), Anthony Bourdain has shown some serious love for Filipino street foods. He claims his favorite street food in the Philippines, sisig, is “possibly the best thing you could ever eat with a cold beer.”
It’s time for you to let your taste buds join the adventure and get to munching as you travel through the streets of the Philippines. The endless choices from street vendors will get your stomach rumbling. Some of the foods you’ll find may test the limits of your palate, but if you’re craving adventure, you can find it among the stalls of Filipino food markets.
However, if eating from a stall in the street seems too extreme, choose these items from a menu in a bar or restaurant. Many places offer wine or local craft beer pairings with these traditional street foods.
Savory Snack Foods in the Philippines
You can find a variety of grilled, barbecued, and roasted savory dishes on Filipino streets. Don’t forget, as you snag your street food, it is proper to stop at the sauce station and add salt, vinegar, onions, chilies, and various sauces as the Filipinos do.
One of the single most popular dishes in the Philippines, Sisig, is made from pork. It’s created by cooking the delicious parts of a pig’s head and is often seasoned with golden limes, also known as calamansi, and chili peppers. The go-to add-ins are coarsely chopped onions with a runny egg on top. It’s most often served on a sizzling plate–like fajitas.
If you visit during the right time of year, you could find yourself at the Sisig Fiesta held in Angeles City.
You won’t want to miss trying the national dish of the Philippines, roasted suckling pig known as Lechón. It is prepared throughout the year for special occasions, celebrations, and holidays. After removing the insides of the pig, it is seasoned and skewered by a large stick. The skewer is then placed in a large rotisserie and the entire pig is cooked over a charcoal pit for several hours.
The Lechón is usually crispy on the outside due to the method of basting and the hours on top of the coals. During his visit, chef Anthony Bourdain claimed Cebu had the most delicious version of the dish, but Skyscanner claims they know the nine best places to grub down on some Lechón.
Lumpia looks like a spring roll but is found in the Philippines and Indonesia. Inside a thin pastry skin, you’ll find filling of the savory sort, including carrots, cabbage, green beans, bamboo shoots, and leeks (or some combination of those). You often find meat–chicken, shrimp or beef, but most often pork – as well. The whole roll is often deep fried but can be prepared in other ways. Try dipping them in banana ketchup or sweet chili sauce.
Lumpia is incredibly popular during celebrations, on the street, and in restaurants. If you’re interested in learning more about Lumpia recipes, you can check out Pinterest’s board for “25+ best ideas about Lumpia.”
Walking around a local market is one of the best ways to try the adventurous and famous street food snack, Balut. The partially developed duck egg embryo is often referred to as the king of Filipino street foods.
You eat it by first cracking open the top of the boiled egg and drinking out the broth or the soup. Then you peel the rest of the egg and season it with vinegar and salt before finish eating the snack. See how Americans react to the dish in this Buzzfeed video.
A famous Filipino street food, isaw is the barbecued intestines of a pig or a chicken coiled on a skewer and grilled until smoky and crispy. Of course, the intestines are cleaned, then turned inside-out and cleaned again, with this process occurring multiple times before cooking.
During the afternoons, you can find vendors selling isaw on street corners across the islands. While visiting an isaw vendor, pork barbecue, atay (liver), and adidas (grilled or barbecued chicken feet) are usually available for your culinary pleasure.
Isaw is popular across the country, but comic book artist Maniz Abrera’s “KikoMachine” comic strip made the food a staple at the University of the Philippines Diliman. The comic strip featured in the Philippine Daily Inquirer began with many scenes featured on the campus around the isaw vendor’s stall. Abrera’s comic is now a daily find in the newspaper and even though it deals with weightier topics most days, people still visit the university as homage to the origins of the comic strip.
Kwek Kwek is a tempura-like battered and deep fried street food. The batter is dyed orange and when you bite through the batter you find a soft-boiled quail’s egg. It’s much like a corn dog, only with egg inside instead of a hot dog. Sounds like a perfect street snack, doesn’t it?
Sweet Treats You Need
Savory isn’t the only flavor you’ll find when trekking through the streets in the Philippines. Sweets are often flavored with the abundant fruits of the islands including ube (also known as purple yam), coconuts, and mango.
A favorite local merienda snack (a light meal, sort of like afternoon tea), Binatog is made by soaking and boiling white corn sliced off the cob. This dish is often seasoned with freshly grated coconut and salt.
If you’re interested in trying binatog before visiting the Philippines, there are many recipes available online, like this one from blogger Lalaine of Kawaling Pinoy, a blog dedicated to Filipino and Asian-inspired recipes.
Halo-Halo is one of the most popular and inexpensive summertime sweets you’ll find when visiting the Philippines. Halo-Halo is made from shaved ice and evaporated milk. Vendors mix in sweet fruits or other sweet ingredients like corn, coconut, or sweet beans.
The dessert is served in a tall glass or bowl and has been featured in multiple travel and food television shows, including Bizarre Foods and Top Chef.
While there are lots of different desserts which feature ube, from ice cream to cakes, ube halaya is most common on the street. Ube halaya is ube boiled, grated, and combined with other ingredients like sugar or milk until it thickens. You can then add it to halo-halo or ice cream, or you can eat it like pudding.
This recipe from the blog 196 flavors will awaken your sweet tooth in no time. “Ube halaya was a blissful and unexpected discovery for me, as we featured Filipino last June,” said Mike Benayoun of 196 flavors. “I especially loved making latik, this crunchy residual of coconut milk that adds a beautiful sweet and crunchy note to this dessert.”
The Philippines is made up of more than 7,000 islands, which means that coconuts, also known as buko, are never far away. In the street markets, you can find buko juice, or coconut water, almost everywhere you go.
Buko juice not only tastes good and helps with hydration, but it is often heralded for its health benefits. The juice has been known to help prevent kidney stones, reduce sugar levels, regulate blood pressure, and improve digestion.
Plan Your Culinary Adventure
Explosive flavors and generous portions await your arrival in the Philippines. Whether these flavors seem exciting or extreme, you are bound to find something in the Filipino culinary world which will light your flame.
Let us help plan your next trip! We have great ideas and can help you find experts so you’re never overwhelmed with options. We can’t wait to shout magandang araw–or beautiful day –to you across a market full of Filipino street food.