The Philippines is a Southeast Asian country that possesses a melting pot of influence. Aside from its beautiful beaches and islands, the Filipino people tremendously love their food.
Filipino cuisine is influenced by various cultures like the Chinese, Spanish, British, and Americans while giving it the ol’ original Filipino flare. As you can imagine, having these influences gives Filipinos the opportunity to create delicious and unique food.
You might be aware of food staples such as Adobo, Kare-Kare, and Sinigang. However, we’re not here to talk about hearty meals. We’re here to discuss popular exotic Filipino street food. If you’re a traveler or tourist looking to go to the Philippines and want to do a little exotic street food crawl, this will serve as your guide on what to eat AND how to eat it.
Most pieces like these often focus on what the food is, and how it’s made. Fortunately, I’m here to give ratings on how daunting each food is for a foreign traveler, and how to eat them properly, so you could enjoy every last bite as it’s meant to be eaten. Without further ado, let’s get into it.
The first exotic Philippine street food is one of my personal favorites, Isaw is barbecued chicken or pig intestines. I know, right off the bat, it does sound daunting. However, it’s one of the most delicious and least expensive food you can find on every street corner. Isaw is typically served in the afternoon – people coming home from work or school often stop by and consume a lot of these as it’s priced at around PHP5.00, or $0.96.
It is fried over a makeshift charcoal grill until it’s crispy and ready to eat. You can easily spot this at street food stands as it is colored orange, due to food coloring. Chicken Isaw is often smaller than Pig Isaw, but both are equally good. Additionally, there are variations of Isaw like Fried Isaw, which people love due to its breading that soaks up a lot of that vinegar.
How To Eat: Never eat it without a sauce, Isaw sellers often have vinegar filled with minced onions, garlic, cucumber, chilis, and a bunch of other goodies. Soak it in that vinegar creation and enjoy.
Pro-Tip: Choose a thin Isaw. Why you might ask? Let’s just say it’s been cleaned thoroughly, if you know what I mean.
Fear Factor: 1.5/5
Developing. Duck. Embryo. Need I say more? Balut is notorious, not only in the Philippines but worldwide due to its somewhat weird contents. That being said, once you’ve tasted your first Balut, you can never have just one.
How To Eat: Of course, crack the shell open, and do not forget to slurp up that good Balut broth. Once you’ve slurped up every morsel of that fine broth, you dip it in a bit of vinegar add a little salt, and voilà; the perfect way to start your morning.
Pro-Tip: Don’t look at it. Trust me, it’s better that way. Also, look out for the hard part of the Balut, as you gnaw on it and you feel like you’ve eaten a rock, dispose that.
Fear Factor: 2.5/5
Our last exotic Philippine street food on this list. Betamax is dried chicken blood, formed into cubes and then grilled. It is called “Betamax” due to its shape and color – black – resembling mini Betamax tapes (remember tapes?). Right off the bat, it’s blood, and not many people will not be so welcoming of this idea. I wasn’t a big fan of it either…at first.
However, as I ate it more and more, this blood cake soaks up all that delicious vinegar mixture; making you want more of it. That is basically why people love it so much, every good street food vendor’s bread and butter, no pun intended, is their vinegar mixture. Every vinegar creation differs, but shares the same trait; nine times out of ten, they’re good.
How To Eat: Make use of that vinegar mixture and dip it in real deep, so you can collect all the goodies mixed in with that sauce – cucumber, chilis, onion, etc.
Pro-Tip: Eat it while it’s hot. Betamax‘s flavor tends to change and it’s way more spongy when eaten at a later time, making it way less desirable compared to eating it right off the grill.
Fear Factor: 2.0/5
Fabulous (Street) Food in the Philippines
Street food around the Philippines is amazing. It might not be as crazy, compared to other countries, but they have a few goodies to offer that adventurous travelers might want to try out. If you ever visit the Philippines, keep these tips in mind as you go on your exotic Filipino street food journey.