After years of eating my way through the streets of Jakarta, Bangkok, Shenzhen, and other East Asian cities, it was about time to revisit Manila.
My recollection isn’t so great regarding the depth of street food in the megacity of the Philippines, but I seem to recall tripe, peanuts and garlic, and pastel-colored liquids in Tupperware in Rizal Park. The good part about this is that we get to look at a few photos to help jog my memory.
If you’re into mangos, then the Philippines has you covered. The local Carabao variety is widely known to be one of the world’s sweetest, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more refreshingly healthy snack than a cup of sliced mangos.
Lumpia/lumpiang Shanghai, or spring rolls, are a common snack (meryenda in Tagalog, which comes from the Spanish merienda) in Manila, first introduced to the country by Chinese immigrants. Typically, the ingredients, are carrots, onions, and pork, along with salt, black pepper, and other spices. To add that Filipino touch, it is often served with vinegar.
Bibingka are a type of Filipino kakanin, or rice-based dessert. Their main ingredients are glutinous rice, and coconut milk or water, followed by smaller quantities of milk or eggs and sugar. Some versions include shredded coconut or carabao (water buffalo) cheese.
Traditionally, bibingka were baked in banana leaves that were placed over charcoal in clay pots; however, to streamline the preparation, ovens have become the contemporary favorite. If you’re in the Philippines around Christmas time – Misa de Gallo to be exact – expect to see bibingka served around breakfast time.
The average Southeast Asian city is hot and humid, so sitting down to a dessert of shaved ice can sound quite appealing after even a short time in the sun. I’m no exception to this temptation…however, due to potable water being scarce in the region, I try to find cleaner-looking spots to try these particular sweets.
Halo halo, or mix mix in Tagalog, is the quintessential Filipino contribution to the shaved ice world. What is it? I still have no idea, but I’ve always considered it a metaphor for the US Food Pyramid…you’ll see.
As we already know, the base of halo halo is shaved ice. Thereafter, things get dicey. Evaporated milk and ice cream – ube, purple yam, is the most common, since it adds the strong violet color to the dessert – normally play a role.
My order above had slices of sweet potato and jackfruit, kidney beans, black beans, gelatin (most likely agar, from red algae), coconut strips, a pirouette cookie, and who knows what else. Don’t worry, if you feel like it’s too healthy what with all of those beans and fruit, just ask for condensed milk.
What are your favorite street foods in Manila?