Filipinos love eating as much as anyone, and as you would imagine in a sprawling archipelago made up of thousands of islands, the food there is diverse and exciting.
The staple food eaten three times a day by most Filipinos is rice, but meals are supplemented by an astonishing range of foods sold on the street – some of the choices are instantly appealing while others can be perhaps a little less enticing to new arrivals in the country.
One thing’s for sure, though – you should never go hungry wherever you are in the Philippines, and to help you get started, here are our top 31 Filipino street foods to track down and try.
- 1. Street Barbecue
- 2. Isaw
- 3. Helmet
- 4. Adidas
- 5. Betamax
- 6. Walkman
- 7. Sisig
- 8. Lechon Manok
- 9. Lumpia (Spring Rolls)
- 10. Halo-Halo
- 11. Palabok
- 12. Adobo
- 13. Puto
- 14. Ice Cream Sandwich
- 15. Lechon
- 16. Fish balls and chicken balls
- 17. Empanadas
- 18. Tocino
- 19. Arroz Caldo
- 20. Bangus
- 21. Longanisa
- 22. Balut
- 23. Tapsilog
- 24. Siomai
- 25. Green Mango and Bagoong
- 26. Turon
- 27. Bananacue and Kamotecue
- 28. Taho
- 29. Kwek-Kwek
- 30. Fried Bananas
- 31. Day Old
- Plenty of options – and a few challenges for more adventurous eaters
Among the most common of street foods in the Philippines is the ever-present street barbecue. Pieces of meat on skewers grilled by the roadside are a common sight wherever you go, making this a go-to snack you can rely on whenever you feel like a quick bite to eat.
Something you’ll find throughout the Philippines is barbecued chicken or pork intestines cooked over a grill. As you might imagine, the pork version is thicker and chewier while the chicken version is lighter and easier to eat. Some people might be a little squeamish about eating barbecued intestines, but it’s a local specialty that’s tastier than you might imagine!
A street food that demonstrates the Filipino sense of humor since this oddly named specialty is nothing more than the grilled head of a chicken. Not something that every visitor to the country is going to rush to try, but if you’re feeling adventurous and want to sample some authentic local fare, why not give it a go?
If “helmet” is chicken head, then you may be able to guess what Adidas refers to – this one is grilled chicken feet. Chicken feet are popular in many Asian countries and are perhaps slightly easier for Western visitors to tackle than chicken heads. There’s not much meat on them, but they tasty to gnaw on – and they go well with a bottle of cold Filipino beer.
Another creatively named Filipino street snack is Betamax, named after the old video cassettes of the same name due to the shape. One for the braver breed of traveler, these are cakes of coagulated pig or chicken blood. That might not sound so appealing, but they don’t have much flavor in themselves – and once they’re cooked and smothered in sauce, they can be quite tasty, so why not order a portion and try for yourself?
After helmet, Adidas and Betamax, you might be getting the hang of this – in which case, you may possibly work out that Walkman is none other than pig ears, grilled and served up for your dining pleasure. As you may imagine, they’re mostly chewy but also crunchy in parts. There are far more outlandish things in the Philippines to try, so this is an option that could be a good way of building yourself up to trying some of the more challenging street snacks.
Sisig is a combination of all the different parts of a pig, including ears, face, liver and more, all chopped up, seasoned with calamansi and served with a generous helping of chili. This one might be slightly easier to face than some of the others since it’s easier to forget exactly what it is you’re eating, so order yourself a portion and dig in!
8. Lechon Manok
Grilled chicken is a classic pretty much wherever street food is sold, and the Philippines is no different. With a portion of rice, it’s an ideal option for an inexpensive street food dinner, but it’s also perfect as a snack when enjoying a drink or two with friends.
Available throughout Asia, spring rolls are known as lumpia in the Philippines. Stuffed with the usual fillings like minced pork or prawn and then deep-fried, they are a familiar street snack that travelers can turn to when some of the more unusual morsels on offer don’t appeal.
One of the most visually appealing of Filipino desserts, halo-halo is a mixture of just about all the sweet and brightly colored ingredients you can imagine, including beans, jelly, tapioca pearls, candied fruit, sweet milk, ice cream, flan, toasted rice and purple yam, all mixed together with shavings of ice. The weather in the Philippines can get seriously hot, and enjoying one of these glorious creations is the perfect way to cool down.
After reading about all the various parts of animals that are chopped up, cooked and sold as street food in the Philippines, you might be wondering if there’s anything a little more suited to less adventurous Western palates. In that case, you might like to look for somewhere that sells palabok, a noodle dish of shrimps, shrimp sauce, pork, crushed chicharon, tofu and fried garlic. Available throughout the day, this is something to fall back on when you aren’t feeling so ambitious about the kind of thing you want to try.
Although it shares its name with a Spanish dish and is vaguely similar, Filipino adobo is quite a different matter. The method of cooking it, which involves stewing in vinegar, existed in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish and is considered the unofficial Filipino national dish. You can find it served in restaurants, but it’s also available as street food, and no visitor to the country should leave without trying it at least once.
Puto is a simple but super-tasty Filipino street snack. Bite-sized pieces of rice cake are given toppings like coconut or cheese, and they cost next to nothing when purchased from roadside stalls. A delicious treat for whenever you find yourself in need of a quick snack between mealtimes.
Of all the weird and wonderful culinary creations you’ll come across in the Philippines, this could be the strangest. Just like the name suggests, it’s literally a sandwich – as in two slices of bread – with ice cream in the middle. Only in the Philippines, perhaps, so while you’re there, don’t pass up on the chance to give it a go!
Perhaps one of the most delicious things you’ll eat during your time in the Philippines, lechon is the term used for a whole pig slowly roasted on a spit. This is something that you’ll most often see at weddings and other celebrations, but if you have the chance to try it, make sure you grab yourself a portion!
A common snack all over East Asia, you’ll see fish and chicken balls of various flavors being cooked in soup, ready to be skewered on sticks and served up covered in delicious soy or vinegar sauces. An inexpensive snack you’ll always be able to find – and one that will keep you coming back for more.
Popular in northern Luzon and clearly showing a Spanish influence, empanadas are pastries that are stuffed with meat or other fillings and then deep-fried in oil. Cheap and filling – and easier for many Western visitors to stomach than some of the more “exotic” Filipino street snacks you might come across.
Available in restaurants and from street vendors alike, tocino is pork belly meat, usually cooked in a range of distinctively Filipino sauces. Pair it with the habitual bowl of rice and you have an inexpensive but delicious and filling meal. Alternatively, it is also enjoyed as a common breakfast food.
19. Arroz Caldo
This dish is the Filipino take on rice porridge that is a popular breakfast dish and comfort food across most of East Asia. Available in a range of flavors, this dish is a hearty meal that will keep you going for hours. You might not be used to eating rice for breakfast, but once you try, it’s something you’ll probably find yourself enjoying a lot more than you expected.
A popular favorite throughout the country and one of the main staples, bangus is the Filipino name for milkfish. It’s delicious when fried and served with soy sauce, vinegar and garlic, and if you’re looking for a tasty street food meal, this is a tasty option to consider.
Lots of different foods in the Philippines have names that hark back to Spanish colonial times, and longanisa is another good example. As in Spain, this refers to a type of sausage, but the Filipino version usually features plenty of garlic and spices. Longanisa is often eaten with a fried egg and a portion of garlic rice as a classic Filipino breakfast known as longsilog.
Perhaps the Philippines’ most notorious street food snack, balut is the fertilized egg of a duck or a chicken with the half-developed embryo inside. This is then boiled up before being cracked open and eaten, beak, feathers and all – a nutritious treat but one that can be a step too far for many a squeamish tourist.
Beef marinated in vinegar and eaten with garlic fried rice and a fried egg is another popular Filipino breakfast choice that is given the name of tapsilog. The name is a contraction of the words for the three main ingredients – the beef is called tapa, garlic fried rice is sinangag and the fried egg is itlog.
Chinese-influenced siomai are dim sum-style pork dumplings that can be picked up from roadside stalls for next to nothing. Pair them with a tasty dipping sauce and they make a yummy treat you’re sure to love.
In the Philippines, as in other Southeast Asian countries, unripe green mangoes are eaten as a savory snack that is quite different from the sweet fruit when ripe. Filipinos enjoy pairing green mango with bagoong, a type of shrimp paste, and the result is surprisingly moreish!
Turon is another treat that shares a name with a Spanish food but is completely different. The Filipino version involves encasing pieces of banana or jackfruit in egg roll wrappers and deep-frying them. They’re then served with a generous helping of sweet sauce, creating a delicious dessert you won’t be able to refuse.
Filipino snacks have a range of fun and creative names, and while these aren’t necessarily the most original, they’re still typically cute. Bananacue is a contraction of “banana barbecue” while kamotecue comes from kamote, the local word for sweet potato. Surprisingly, however, they’re not actually grilled but rather are given a sugary coating before being deep-fried. Another unmissable treat for anyone with a sweet tooth.
The idea might seem a little strange at first, but once you taste it, you’ll be hooked. This is a street dessert that is made with soft tofu mixed with sweet syrup, sago pearls and other assorted ingredients.
This is an interesting creation that is typically Filipino. It consists of quail eggs that are first boiled before being dipped in batter and fried to give them a delicious crunchy crispiness. Accompanied by the customary vinegar dipping sauce, these are irresistible morsels you’ll want to eat again and again.
30. Fried Bananas
Another street food treat that is found all over Asia – and much of the rest of the world too. There’s something about taking a banana, coating it in batter and deep-frying it in oil that makes it utterly delicious, so if you’re ever in need of a quick street treat, this is an ever-reliable option.
31. Day Old
This most innocuously named of Filipino street foods doesn’t sound too bad – that’s until you realize what this refers to. One day. That was how old the chick was when it was put on a stick, deep-fried and served up to the next hungry customer. Still want to try?
Plenty of options – and a few challenges for more adventurous eaters
As you can see, the street food of the Philippines is varied and often creative. Whether you have a sweet tooth or prefer savory morsels, you’ll always be able to pick up a tasty snack – and for more adventurous travelers, there are plenty of more challenging options to sample too.