Many travelers says that one of the best ways to explore another country is through its street food. Indeed, each culture’s street food is unique, and is based on staple ingredients and fresh produce in the area. Also, this kind of food is usually affordable!
In the Philippines, there are many different kinds of street food — from grilled snacks to “kakanin” (rice and/or coconut-based dishes) to more exotic delicacies. Whether you’re looking for a light snack or a filling meal, you will definitely enjoy discovering street food in the Philippines!
Top Filipino Street Foods
In this article, we have gathered a list of the most popular street food in the Philippines. As the term says, you will typically find these dishes sold in many street corners across the country.
Meanwhile, many enterprising Filipinos have also begun selling Pinoy street food abroad… to the delight of OFWs and their foreign “foodie” friends! Cool, huh!
Calamares are basically squid rings that are dipped in batter, deep fried, and then served with spicy vinegar. It’s a tasty snack that’s easily available on many street corners in the Philippines!
2. Fish Balls
One of the most common sights in the Philippines is a street vendor pushing a mobile food cart. Stopping every now and then to cook and sell fish balls, squid balls, kikiam, and other deep-fried snacks. These snacks are usually fried on the spot, skewered on sticks, and then dipped into sauce. There’s sweet sauce, spicy sauce, vinegar… take your pick!
3. Chicken Skin
Here’s the thing about most Filipino street food: nothing goes to waste! This includes chicken skin, which is coated with some seasoning, deep fried until crispy, and then served with spicy vinegar. Try not to eat too much, though, because chicken skin is super high in fat and cholesterol!
Kwek-kwek… sounds catchy, doesn’t it? In the Philippines, the term is used to call quail eggs that are boiled, dipped in an orange batter, and fried, tempura-style. Just like many other fried or grilled snacks, kwek-kwek is served with sweet and/or spicy sauce.
Aside from quail eggs, chicken or duck eggs are sometimes prepared this way, too. This time, they are no longer called kwek-kwek, but “tokneneng.” Catchy names, right?!
Remember “betamax” tapes… rectangular video cassettes popular during the 80s and 90s? Well, the term continues to be used in the Philippines. Betamax is used to call coagulated pork or chicken blood (!) that is cut into rectangular shapes, then grilled over charcoal. It is usually dipped into spicy sauce or vinegar. You’ll have to try it! It’s actually really tasty!
6. Pork Barbecue
Pork barbecue is a popular snack among Filipinos. Parts of the pork shoulder and belly are cut, marinated, placed onto sticks, then grilled over hot charcoal. These are often eaten as snacks, paired with hot rice… or enjoyed a “pulutan” (beer match)!
Of course, if you must try at least one exotic street food in the Philippines, then it should definitely be “balut.” Balut is somewhat like a boiled egg — except there’s a developing bird embryo inside! The best way to eat it is to crack a small hole on one end, sip the “soup,” and start eating the embryo — yolk, beak, eyes, and all.
Interestingly, balut is said to be an aphrodisiac! Whether that is true or not, one thing is for sure… not many people have the “guts” to try eating balut! How about you?!
One of the major influences on Filipino food is Chinese cuisine, which is why it is not surprising to see dishes like siomai (dumplings) as a popular street food. Usually filled with pork and shrimp, siomai is steamed, then served with soy sauce, calamansi (local lime) juice, and topped with chili and fried garlic.
“Isaw” refers to grilled intestines. You heard that right… intestines! It could be chicken intestine or pork intestine that’s cleaned, boiled, and then grilled over charcoal. Believe it or not, they taste really good!
It’s kind of amazing how many parts of chicken are turned into street food in the Philippines. The “helmet” is another example. As the term suggests, this is basically grilled chicken head. After trying isaw, you might was well go for some “helmet,” right? Right!
No, we are not talking about the popular brand of shoes. In Philippine street food slang, “adidas” refers to… chicken feet! These are marinated in soy sauce, grilled over charcoal, then served with a sweet and spicy sauce or vinegar.
“Proben” is short for “proventiculus,” which is basically chicken gizzard. Proben is coated in flour and seasonings, deep fried, and served with vinegar. You can easily find proben along many street stalls in the Philippines.
13. Banana Cue
So far, we have talked about salty and savory street food. This time, let’s focus on “sweet” dishes. The “banana cue” is one example. Bananas are coated with sugar, fried, and then skewered onto sticks for easy snacking.
14. Sweet Corn
As the name says, sweet corn refers to corn kernels that are boiled or grilled, scooped into a cup, and then served with some butter, salt, and cheese powder. Yummy!
15. Ice Scramble
Ice scramble is a type of cool snack that’s made of shaved ice, mixed with condensed milk, food coloring, and banana essence. It is usually topped with marshmallows, milk powder, chocolate syrup, and sweet “sprinkles.”
Just like banana cue, “turon” also uses bananas as the main ingredient. The fruit is coated with sugar, wrapped just like a spring roll, and then fried. Sometimes, pieces of jackfruit are also placed inside to give a sweeter taste!
17. Camote Cue
By now, you may have noticed that the term “cue” is simply added to food that is skewered and grilled/fried, just like pork barbecue. Similar to banana cue, camote cue is a sweet snack, made of camote (sweet potato) as the main ingredient.
18. Dirty Ice Cream
Don’t be put off by the name… dirty ice cream is not really dirty; it just happens to be the term used to call ice cream served by street vendors. You can easily tell that the vendor is passing by because he is ringing a bell. Dirty ice cream usually comes in cheese, chocolate, and ube (purple yam) flavors.
19. Ice Cream Sandwich
Speaking of ice cream, have you ever tried ice cream… on bread? No? Well, you should! Some ice cream vendors offer ice cream sandwiches, which — come to think of it — is an absolutely delicious idea!
In the morning, you will often hear street vendors yelling “taho” as they pass by. Taho refers to soft tofu that is served with tapioca pearls and brown sugar syrup. It’s usually served warm, although there are variations of chilled and flavored taho that are becoming popular as well.
As you can see, the Philippines has no shortage of street food. Some are sweet, some are crunch and savory, while others are simply exotic! If you really want to be “immersed” in Pinoy culture, then you should definitely sample the street food mentioned above.
In the meantime, if its Filipino chips and snacks that you’re after, then check out this next list! We guarantee that you’ll enjoy trying all of them!