Philippine Street Food; our favourite snacks (“Meryenda”)

There has been a lot of discussion and posts about a recent blog, which included the statement  that they would ‘rather go hungry than eat Philippine Street Food’.  It upset a lot of people in the Philippines, locals and visitors alike.

We took a look at what this blogger had to say, and what some of the commentators had to say, and are inclined to agree that the blog article was primed to secure maximum attention. Whilst the blogger changed the title of the original post to include ‘Street’ it still did not truly reflect street foods that are to be found, and enjoyed, all over the Philippines.

We all have our own personal tastes about food; what is one persons food heaven is anothers food hell, but we decided to write a post about our favourite Philippine Street Foods.

Philippine Street Food Stall

Philippine Street Food Stall

Fish Balls – The clear winner for everyone polled today, fish in batter, freshly fried and served with a choice of 3 dips; sweet, sour or hot. Fish balls can be bought individually, at 1 pesos each or in bags or plates, usually 8 pieces. Vendors may have a fixed stall or a wooden cart that they push through the streets, often between 4pm-6pm in the evenings.



 Isaw – was the next popular, and is usually found at stalls selling a variety of BBQ ‘sticks’. Isaw is chicken or pork intestine in bbq sauce. One person said that the best Isaw can be found at the University of the Philippines (UP), Diliman Campus, Quezon City Manila, with dignitaries and celebrities arriving in cars, with body guards, in order to get their hands on these tasty treats.

Kikiam – Another fish/pork dish; traditional preparation uses minced pork and shelled prawns, with diced carrots, garlic and onion, and spices. The ingredients are wrapped in a bean curd sheet and steamed, before being fried. As with the Fish balls this is served with a choice of 3 dips and is delicious.

Kwek Kwek – are hard-boiled quail eggs in a tempura like batter and served with a spiced vinegar dip. Kwek Kwek is also sometimes confused with Tokneneng – which is, essentially, the same dish but using Chicken or Duck Eggs.

Siomai - served with a choice of 3 dips

Siomai – served with a choice of 3 dips

 Sharwama & Siomai – are not strictly Filipino food, but stalls and vendors are commonly found all over the country and these snacks are absolutely delicious.

Sharwama are basically very similiar to turkish or arabic kebabs, slow cooked meat, sliced thinly and wrapped in flatbread along with salads and dressings. The difference is it’s a mini version.

The Sioamai are little steamed meat or vegetable dumplings served in a paper tray with dips, and can be bought for 25-45pesos depending on where you buy them.  They are a flavourful treat enjoyed by many and sometimes 3-4 are just not enough!

For Sweet Treats there is also a wide range to choose from, including fresh fruits served from the stalls, or offered for sale in bags by sellers who walk the beaches or streets.



Our absolute favourite sweet treat is Turon, a sweet banana spring roll. People may prepare it by just wrapping a sweet banana, pre-dipped in sugar, in a spring roll sheet and then frying it until golden brown, or they may pre-cook the sugar-dipped banana and then wrap it in a spring roll sheet before frying it until golden brown. This second method results in a soft, caramalised banana. Turon can be bought for between 10-25 pesos.

Banana Cue is similar to Turon but without the spring roll wrapper. Usually sold on a stick, 2 small banana’s at a time and for the same price as Turon

“Dirty Ice Cream” is nothing to fear; it’s the name given to the carts that sell home-made ice creams, offering a range of different flavours. Similar to many western countries you will often find a Dirty Ice Cream cart outside schools or churches, waiting for children and families alike to buy from them.

Halo Halo (Mix Mix) is quite possibly the most famous of the Philippines treats. Halo Halo includes a mix of fruits, sweet preserves, shaved ice, evaporated milk and corn .. or sweet corn. This may sound odd for someone with a Western palate but it’s actually lovely, although very sweet. It is often topped-off with a scoop of ice cream and is also a favourite at birthday parties and gatherings.

Taho Vendors are usually to be found in the morning

Taho Vendors are usually to be found in the morning

Taho is a combination of a hot drink and breakfast in a cup, sold in the mornings by vendors who transport the ingredients in aluminium containers attached to a yoke, which they wear across their shoulders. Taho is made of Curd, caramalised brown sugar and Sago (Tapioca) Pearls.

The vendor makes a fine art of scooping up the curd in to a cup and then using a long-handled ladle to pour in the Sugar and Sago, before mixing these together.                                         Bagio famously serves a strawberry flavour Taho, substituting the brown sugar with a strawberry syrup. Vendors may sell different sized cups, ranging from 5-25 pesos, depending on where in the country you are.

The most important thing about the Philippine Street Food listed above is ….  they’re all ‘Meryenda’ or snacks and NOT meals.                                                                          These snacks are just to get you through the morning or afternoon, until you are back home and able to enjoy a fresh, home-cooked meal.  It is the family home, where the art of Philippine cooking is to be found, and in the locally-frequented Cantina’s and Restaurants.

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