Catering in Manila, the Philippine capital, is a feat that not many can accomplish. With it being the country’s universal melting pot, it comes as no surprise that the tastes of all those who live there are just as diverse – while some may like the wild tastes of vibrant foods like pizza, there are also those who prefer somewhat tasteless foods such as the Hawaiian Poi. Regardless, Filipinos are known for their love of food whatever taste it may be, and the variety in their street food is proof of the fact.
When in Manila, be sure to try some of the following for a bit of that Filipino flavour!
Kwek – Kwek/Tokneneng
These distinctive orange coloured balls are made from deep fried eggs wrapped in thin dough, which is made from a mixture of water and flour. Kwek-kwek, the smaller of the two, is made from deep fried quail eggs while the Tokneneng variety is made from similarly cooked chicken or duck eggs. To add extra flavour, both are often dipped in either a sweet, sticky sauce or in spiced vinegar. They taste just like boiled eggs with a little extra crunch to them.
Dirty Ice Cream
So called not because of its intrinsically dirty quality, but rather, it’s nicknamed for the accessible but slightly “untidy” cart it comes in. Vendors who create these frozen treats (independently from big companies) usually peddle them in small, cooled pushcarts they walk around with as they move along streets. Despite its name and humble appearance, it remains a very popular local treat; it differentiates itself from big name ice cream manufacturers by offering unusual flavors such as corn, buko salad, or cheese and it’s sold at very affordable prices – some even go for as low as 5 pesos per full cone (or about 0.3 USD).
Composed of smooth, gelatinous tofu, caramelized sugar (referred to as arnibal), and sago pearls; taho is a popular street food that can be served either hot or cold. Very early every morning the taho vendors prepare their product for sale, then proceed to peddle it around for the next few hours. It’s a cheap, fulfilling snack that’s often eaten as a full breakfast meal or as a dessert after lunch or dinner. Despite it being such an old recipe, it’s never fallen out of favour due to its versatility. Instead, it’s become a classic. Sometimes the recipe changes, though – instead of using arnibal, vendors such as those in Baguio
Thought they resemble discs more than balls, fishballs have always been referred to as such by its consumers. Time was, these balls were round, however they eventually became what they are today due to cost-cutting measures. In order to save on the fish content, manufacturers have had to use flour and flavourings mixed in with the meat to substitute for the actual fish content. Surprisingly enough, fishballs nowadays are less than 20% actual fish meat. In the end though, this doesn’t matter much to whoever is eating it; fishballs are delicious, they’re cheap, and they’re found everywhere – they make amazing snacks, and everyone knows it. (Now you do, too!)
As is with anywhere else in the world, peanuts are a popular snack for anyone who’s looking for a quick fix. The ones in the Philippines come in numerous kinds, though they’re most commonly cooked in the
“adobo” style – the nuts are mixed with bits of garlic and salt and are served as they are. They also come in the skinless version, the garlic version, and even a spicy version.
As you can see, Manila is rife with foods one can pick right off from vendors right off the street. The next time you find yourself roaming the Philippine capital, consider picking up a couple of snacks to experience its authentic local flavours.
Kimberly Marie Gayeta (Kimmy) is a Communications Degree holder, currently working as an online Marketing Representative for Juan Carlo: Catering in Manila.