The Philippines has a rich food history that goes back centuries, and today Manila is home to a flourishing food scene. How can you experience it? Street food is the best way to explore Filipino food! Street food in Manila is cheap, delicious, and out of this world (you’ll see what we mean below). It’s also easy to find: you’ll pass food stalls on every corner as you make your way around Manila. Your visit to Manila is incomplete until you’ve sampled some street food!
Street Food #1: Balut
Balut is a developing duck or chicken embryo, boiled. This is the ultimate street food to try in Manila for daredevils and adventurous travelers! Balut has been featured on shows like Fear Factor and Survivor because only the bravest dare to taste this delicacy.
The embryo is incubated for 2 or 3 weeks before it’s boiled or steamed, sprinkled with salt, and eaten directly from the shell. No way around it, the appearance is off-putting (sometimes hair, feet, and soft bones are already visible). If you can get past that, though, it’s quite delicious – and high in calcium and protein!
Street Food #2: Kwek-Kwek
Kwek-Kwek is a hard-boiled quail egg deep-fried in a vibrant orange batter. You’ll see this popular street food piled high at stands all over Manila. To enjoy your Kwek-Kwek like the locals do, dip it in vinegar! This is the best-selling street food in Manila because it’s tasty, filling, and cheap. The snack called “Tokneneng” is almost the same thing, but made with a chicken egg.
Street Food #3: Bananacue or Banana-Q
Bananacue/Banana-Q is a famous late afternoon Filipino snack. Local bananas are deep-fried in brown sugar and skewered. This truly classic snack never gets old, and like so much of the street food in Manila it’s kind of addictive. Sinking your teeth into the crunchy, caramelized coating and the sweet banana within is uniquely satisfying. This staple, best-selling Filipino food snack can be bought anywhere in Manila.
Street Food #4: Isaw
Isaw is barbequed chicken or pig intestines on a stick. Stay with us, though – there’s no need to be grossed out! The intestines are repeatedly cleaned, turned inside out, and cleaned again. And again, and again. Once they’re squeaky-clean, they’re boiled and grilled.
Contrary to what you might think, Isaw doesn’t have a strong taste. It has a distinct texture but the flavour is quite mild. The best way to enjoy this popular street food is with its signature dipping sauce: a mix of vinegar, peppers, onions, and spices.
Street Food #5: Taho
Taho is a drink of fresh, silken tofu mixed with hot caramelized sugar and “sago” (tapioca balls). This best-selling hot beverage is a common Filipino food breakfast, especially for those on the go. It’s perfect when you need something quick and hot to fill your stomach!
If you’re keen to try this mouth-watering street treat, just listen for the nearest vendor calling “Tahoooooooooo”. Street vendors balance buckets loaded with Taho at either end of a long stick slung across their shoulders. It’s usually served in a clear plastic cup, but you can ask the vendor to fill your own glass or mug instead.
Street Food #6: Adidas
Sometimes Filipino food is named for the way it looks. Adidas is a great example of this. From the right angle, this three-toed chicken foot looks just like the iconic triple-stripe logo.
Adidas is grilled on a stick. Be sure to spit the bones out as you bite! Similar versions of this snack are sold in some Chinese restaurants, but we recommend trying this street food version while you’re in Manila. Chicken feet may not appeal to everyone, but you’ve got to hand it to the Filipinos for creating a specialty snack so that no part of the chicken goes to waste.
Street Food #7: Fried Lumpia
Lumpia are fried spring rolls with a delicious vegetable filling (bean sprouts, string beans, and carrots). Vegetarians beware: sometimes bits of seafood or meat are added to the mix. The crispy rolls are usually dipped in vinegar or soy sauce.
Lumpia are Chinese-inspired but they’re a uniquely Filipino recipe! This best-selling Filipino street food is not to be missed in Manila. The rolls are very cheap and highly addictive. One is never enough, so go ahead and order several!
Street Food #8: Halo-Halo
Halo-Halo is a highly popular Filipino cold dessert. The name translates to “mix,” and that’s exactly what you’ll get. The mix of ingredients depends on the vendor but always includes boiled sweet beans, tapioca balls, banana, jackfruit, coconut, agar jelly, tubers, and other fruits. These are covered with shaved ice, drizzled with evaporated milk, and topped with a scoop of ice cream, ube, or leche flan. Mix everything up and dig in!
Halo-Halo is a rich, refreshing, and flavourful experience. It’s especially popular in the summer. All year round, it’s enjoyed by Filipinos at least equally as often as ice cream. It’s sold everywhere from fast food chains to high-end Filipino food restaurants, but you can try some of the best Halo-Halo on the streets of Manila!
Street Food #9: Turon
Turon is a best-selling fried banana snack that resembles a spring roll. The banana is sliced thin, mixed with a slice of “langka” (jackfruit), rolled in a spring-roll wrapper, coated in sugar and deep-fried into golden-brown perfection. This crispy street food treat is heavenly.
Variations on the Turon mix mangoes or sweet potatoes with the banana. Most often, though, you’ll find the classic banana-only Turon. This is a Manila street food that you won’t want to miss, especially if you have a sweet tooth!
Street food #10: Dirty Ice Cream
“Dirty Ice Cream” is actually just the name for street-peddled ice cream in the Philippines. No one knows the exact origin of this notorious title, but Filipinos speculate that it’s called ‘dirty’ because the ice cream man, or the “Mamang Sorbetero,” holds the ice cream cone with his unwashed hands. Mothers, therefore, admonish their kids not to eat the bottom tip of the cone. Filipinos also enjoy Dirty Ice Cream as a sandwich in a bun, which is a quirky alternative to the classic cone.
Dirty Ice Cream is really cheap and utterly delicious. It has a distinct taste that you won’t find anywhere else. The flavors are cheese, ube, and chocolate. Even Filipinos with the means to shell out for Häagen-Dazs will still opt for Dirty Ice Cream from time to time, because there’s truly nothing like it!
Street Food #11: Fishballs
Fishballs are just what they sound like: balls of fish deep-fried, skewered, and dipped in your choice of sauce (sweet, sweet and sour, or sweet and spicy). They’re a super popular Filipino food, and – bonus for backpackers on a budget! – they’re probably the cheapest snack you can buy in the streets of Manila.
Ordering Fishballs is a self-serve experience. You grab a stick from a fresh pile and poke around in a pot of boiling to fish out your helping of balls. These delicious little snacks are addictive; it’s easy to pack away dozens of them in a row.
Fishballs are one of the most common street foods in Manila, so how’s a vendor to stand out? This guy goes with a name you can’t ignore… When you’re in Manila, see if you can find Jimmy “Eat my Balls”! His fishballs look delicious, and his story of working to support his family will give you something to think about.
Eating street food isn’t just delicious, it supports local vendors. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and try some Manila street food!
Helpful articles and blog posts on Manila street food
We only recommend writers and blogs that we read regularly and believe will deliver substantial value to our readers. The following is our top picks of articles we think are worth reading for reviews and guides on some of the popular Filipino street food on our list.
- Where to buy Balut- in Pateros of course! – by Palengke Queen (market)
- “Best halo-halo in the Philippines” – by Life is Gelato
- “American Site Calls Pinoy Dirty Ice Cream as ‘Delicious, Strange, and Unexpected’
– By Choose Philippines
- “Banana Que Pops (Filipino saba bananas with a crisp caramalised coating)
“ – by Food Rehab
- “Filipino Street Food Adventure” – by Art of Adventuring
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