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Philippine Street Food – Part 1

Posted by on Nov 5th, 2009
Filed Under: Food, Walkabout Pinas

Tourism Philippines Walkabout Pinas ColumnistOne unifying aspect of Filipino culture is that Filipinos love their food. Filipinos love to eat when they’re happy, sad, angry, bored and even on the rare occasions that they’re hungry. While the usual restaurants are available on every block to satisfy these cravings, there are also an infinite number of street stalls serving up an array of tasty and albeit, strange snacks as well. As there’s so much choice when it comes to street foods we’ll start with the protein section of the food pyramid.

Philippines Street Food Eating Balut

About to eat my first balut

The number one street food that the traveller will always be asked if they’ve tried by Filipinos would have to be balut. Eating Balut is an unofficial rite of passage for any traveller in the Philippines because when you tell a Filipino you have eaten balut you express that you are willing to experience Filipino culture. It took me quite a while to work up the courage to eat it as it sounds so disgusting. Balut is a boiled fertilised duck egg with a partially developed embryo inside. With my first balut I could see the beak and an eye socket but the second one had no distinguishable features. The way to eat it is to crack a hole in the shell, suck the juice out and then eat everything inside. I thought that the white of the egg would be the safe part but it’s really chewy, the best taste is actually the yolk and the chick, and you can feel the protein with every bite. You can find balut from street vendors for 10-20 pesos.

Philippines Street Food Kwek Kwek

Delicious Kwek Kwek
Photo by Panlasang Pinoy

Another great street food surprise for me has to be kwek-kwek. This street delicacy is made from either chicken eggs or duck eggs which are coated in an orangey (food colouring) mixture of flour, baking powder, water, salt, and pepper then they are deep fried. After it has been deep fried you can eat it with vinegar, gravy, or with whatever sauce the vendor has. So get your kwek-kwek for 7-10 pesos. Tukneneng is the quail egg version of this snack and you will usually find 4 Tukneneng on a skewer for about 10 pesos.

Philippines Street foods Adidas Chicken Feet

Photo by Scott Allford

Many Pinoy street foods have funny names which come from their shape or from what they are such as Helmet (fried chicken head), Adidas (chicken feet), or Walkman (barbecued pigs ears). A must try from these strangely named concoctions has to be Beta Max. This is curdled or dried chicken or pigs blood which is cut into little squares resembling a Beta Max tape. I’m not a big fan of eating blood as in the past I’ve had various types of boiled blood in other countries and it tasted like meaty chocolate mousse. Beta Max has a mild meaty taste but goes really well with vinegar or other sauces the vendors sell with it. I would definitely eat it again and for only 3 pesos a stick it’s not gonna break the bank.

Philippines Street Food Beta Max

Beta Max
Photo by Sidney Snoeck

On a side note, I have been warned about vendor’s sauces, while some vendors will dish up the sauce and give it to you, others simply have a jar filled with sauce that you dip your food into, however some people dip their food, then take a bite of their food and dip it in the sauce again. And we all know that no matter what country we are in we have to be careful sharing food with strangers if we haven’t had our vaccinations for Hepatitis.

Philippines Street foods Isaw

Photo by Scott Allford

Two of the most common foods you’ll find at street food stalls is Isaw, which is also called IUD (like the one used for contraception) and Squid/fish balls. Simply put, Isaw is barbecued chicken intestines on a skewer. I’ve had pig intestines in Korea and they we’re pretty bland but good with sauce and the same goes for Isaw. At about 5 pesos they make a good snack on the run. Squid balls or Fish balls are balls of squid/fish mixed with flour and a mix of other ingredients. They puff up when deep fried and like with most other Manila street foods they go great with the sauces on the vendor’s cart. They range from about 3-5 pesos each (Squid Balls) and 25 centavos a piece for Fish Balls.

In the Philippines I have travelled in luxury and I have also travelled as a backpacker. While eating great food in classy restaurants is nice, I have found that I have more memorable travel experiences when I eat what the locals eat where they eat it. Enjoying any of the street foods I have mentioned here is much more than a culinary experience as you get to interact with the people and experience what things are really like down at street level.

Part 2 of Philippine Street Food >

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Scott M. Allford has lived and worked in Australia and South Korea and has travelled extensively throughout Asia- Mongolia, China, Tibet, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Indonesia and Japan – fell in love with the Philippines and decided to allocate at least two years to comprehensively cover the country. Learn more about me [+]

Tourism Philippines thrives on the knowledge of the community. Got a tip, photo or even a guide on a place you been to in Philippines? We will love to hear from you!

17 Responses to “Philippine Street Food – Part 1”

  1. Kathryn says:

    I must say wow! I’m local but I haven’t tried all of the food dishes that you mentioned, too scared =D This is a great post, had a nice laugh, just what I needed at midnight in the office. Do you have a post about “why you fell in love in the Phils”?

    • Scott says:

      Hi Kathryn,
      Glad you enjoyed the article, within the next week part 2 will be up. It’s hard to do an article on why I fell in love with the Philippines because there are so many different factors: the people, the food, the history, the culture, and of course the beautiful scenery. But now that you’ve mentioned it I’ll try and put an article together on that.

  2. cris says:

    Hi Scott,

    I received an email today about your article dated Oct 18 2009: Viewing The Philippines In A Different Light. I’ve lived in the Philippines all my life, have accepted, tolerated and condoned a lot of things about my country. What you wrote did for me is I think what you aimed for, to change (my) perspective and for this I am grateful.

    My progress to being a patriot is slow however I have a feeling, with this new-found passion for my homeland, I might just be able to contribute to change a few things.

    My deepest thanks.

  3. G says:

    Hi Scott,

    You seem to have jumbled up the pics for the Isaw and the Adidas. Isaw is skewered chicken intestines, while Adidas is chicken feet. Hope we can clear this up for those unfamiliar with Filipino street foods :)

    Also, I would suggest the street food stalls in the UP (University of the Philippines) Diliman campus in Katipunan, Quezon City. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but I clearly remember Mang Larry’s stand. It’s a mobile street food stall placed conveniently under a couple of shade trees. My friends and I would hang out there a lot even though we weren’t students of the said university. It’s not uncommon to see college kids from all walks of life bond seamlessly in this quirky little spot. Isaw drowning in a little plastic cup filled with spicy vinegar was my absolute favorite — I would even drink all the remaining vinegar after eating my share of chicken intestines. Hilarity often ensued.

    Of course, as with all street food, caution must be advised. They can be a source of diseases such as Hepatitis, as you mentioned. It’s definitely not for those with weak constitutions (and immune systems). However, if you have an iron stomach and a craving for the exotic, then by all means, enjoy the food. I know I do. :)

    — G —


    wow, i really enjoyed the street food when i had gone to Manila and stayed in the Quiapo church for 15 days from the 31st of April till the 16th of May, 2009.

    The food was really good and eat whatever that i saw, as for me eating any type of food is no problem.

  5. Chito says:

    Scott, this might be a bit too late…but you’re not supposed to eat the chewy white part inside the balut. It gets harder the more “aged” the balut gets.

    While this is edible (if you really try hard to eat it) it adds nothing to the overall taste of the balut and just distracts you from the main attraction – i.e., the sisiw (embryo) and the penoy (yolk). ;-)

  6. amor says:

    congrats , you have tasted all these , wish i could , they all look delish, but am just scared to eat, i always think of how clean the food preparation..

  7. kelvin says:

    thanks for the man who did this article/blog

    i’m so much surprised that there are still some foreigners who admire
    our country and our culture. . . thanks sir. . .

  8. Magnus says:

    Isaw, Balout and kweck-kweck are all amazing dishes. They have a great thing in common, they are cheap to buy. I’ was actually going to try eating Bat and snake last time but we didnt see any snake and we had no time to shot our own bat. I’ve been visiting Zamboanga so maybe its not to common to eat Bat and snake there?

    But you missed the far best thing about Philippines!
    Tuba aka jungle Wine. Btw there is a great song about that by Verine Tejada!
    Also check his song about NoyNoy. I listen to them daily.. (just google it).

    Btw Zamboanga is the best city in Philippines :)

    Magnus from Sweden

    • Scott says:

      Hi Magnus,
      I missed a lot of foods as there are too many, I just described some of the more popular ones. Technically Tuba is not a food, it’s a drink. On the subject of drinks, I would suggest that you try Lambanog. :)

      • Magnus says:

        Technically if you eat you will get thirsty :)
        Lambanog sound like a must, thanks for the advice! Hope it taste better then Tanduay… He anyone got a link to the video with Steven Seagal – I found gold in the Philippines? Been looking in the fog for it..

  9. eva_Makati City says:


    You have a strong stomach!!! It’s quite rare for a tourist here in PI to try our local street foods. I guess if you plan to join the Fear Factor, eating exotic food will be a breeze for you. LOL

    I wonder if you have tried “Dinuguan”.

  10. eva_Makati City says:

    What do you think it was? Chocolate soup?

  11. Scott says:

    I had no idea. It was in a little carinderia when I first arrived in Manila. :)

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