In this Filipino street food guide, I’m going to share with you 21 popular street food snacks that you’ll find all over Manila and throughout the Philippines.
So get ready to dive straight into some of the most delicious and adventurous Filipino street food!
We are going to start this list off with a street food that I think reigns supreme on the afternoon grills throughout the Philippines: isaw, which refers to both pig and chicken intestines, grilled over hot fire.
Starting in the middle to late afternoon, you’ll smell the charcoal being lit, and you’ll know it’s time for your afternoon snack. The intestines are coiled onto skewers, and grilled until charred and smoky. The pig intestines are a little chewier and stronger tasting, while chicken intestines are just like mini tube sausages.
One of the best things about eating isaw (and true for lots of Filipino street foods) is seasoning with vinegar. Most people like to soak their isaw in chili onion vinegar and let is absorb as much vinegar as possible. The contrast of the smoky isaw with vinegar is extremely satisfying.
2. Kwek kwek
Another giant of Filipino street food, and popular throughout Manila is kwek kwek.
Kwek kwek are quail eggs that are coated in an orange colored batter, and deep fried. You’ll notice them by their bright orange color and almost ping pong ball appearance.
Again, you’ll need to season them with vinegar, chilies, and onions, before eating for the best taste. Kwek kwek is kind of like a corndog, but with a quail inside instead of a hot dog.
3. Helmets / Adidas
There are quite a few common Filipino street foods that are somewhat adventurous, and helmets and Adidas are names used to refer to chicken heads and chicken feet. Just like isaw, they are poked onto skewers and grilled over charcoal.
I’ve personally never been huge on chicken feet as there’s just not too much to eat there, but a chicken head every now and then is pretty tasty – especially when the neck is included with the helmet!
4. Mango shrimp paste
You can think of it kind of like the Filipino version of a caramel apple, but instead of an apple it’s a green mango, and instead of caramel it’s spicy shrimp paste. And for me, it’s probably one of the best things you can eat on the streets of Manila.
They typically use Indian mangoes (what they are called), and the mangoes are cut off the seed, poked onto skewers, and when you order one, the vendor will give your mango a nice spread of shrimp paste.
The mango is crisp and very sour, while the shrimp paste is salty and fishy and a bit spicy, making the ultimate marriage of flavors and textures.
5. Fish balls / chicken balls
Possibly one of the most beloved Filipino street food snacks, especially among kids in the Philippines, and throughout Southeast Asia for that matter, are fried fish balls and nowadays fried chicken balls as well.
Usually when you eat the street food versions of fish or chicken balls, there’s really only a little meat in the balls, but they also contain quite a lot of flour.
The balls are deep fried, and in the Philippines you grab a skewer and poke them right out of the oil, dip them into chili-onion-vinegar, and eat.
Palabok is one of most common of all Filipino noodle dishes, and it’s a popular Filipino street food snack that you’ll find throughout Manila.
Rice noodles make the base of this dish, and a thick sauce that’s made from shrimp, minced pork, and fried pork skin (chicharon) is placed on top.
Sometimes you also eat palabok with a hard boiled egg. The sauce is rich and garlicky, and makes a great pair for the silky rice noodles.
Another common noodles dish in the Philippines is sotanghon, or cellophane noodles. The sotanghon I tried in Manila at Quiapo Market included cellophane noodles in an oily meaty broth that was fragrant with fried garlic.
It also came with a hard boiled egg and little slivers of long beans or green beans in the mix. Sotanghon is the type of noodles you’ve got to just keep on slurping until you finish your bowl.
8. Lechon manok
Lechon manok, or roasted chicken, is more of a Filipino food main dish (and I’ll be writing a separate post about Filipino dishes), but I just had to include lechon manok on this Filipino street food list because there are some amazing street food rotisserie chicken stalls in Manila.
The chicken is stuffed with lemongrass, and rubbed in a marinade of soy sauce, sugar, and kalamansi, before is slow roasts to golden crispy perfection.
Street food roasted chicken is something you don’t want to miss when you’re in the Philippines.
Being an archipelago of tropical islands, you’re never far away from coconuts in the Philippines.
Buko is the name for young coconuts. Although there are a near endless amount of ways to use a coconut in cooking, one of the best and simplest is to just slice it open and drink the water and eat the young coconut meat.
At any market you go to, just look for a pile of coconuts, and you’re ready to drink some buko juice that will refresh you like nothing else can.
10. Ice cream
In the Philippines, street food ice cream that’s pushed around on carts is locally known as “dirty ice cream.” But even if everyone calls it that, I’m not a huge fan of that nickname. But anyway, ice cream is a hugely popular sweet snack.
There are a variety of flavors to choose from, but cheese ice cream, yes cheese ice cream, is among the most popular. You’ve got to try it, it even includes real little bits of cheese!
Taho is the Philippines version of soft silken tofu (douhua), which has Chinese origins and is popular throughout Southeast Asia. The tofu is usually sweetened with a sugary syrup, and served in a cup to eat.
You can eat Filipino taho with a spoon, but the tofu is literally so soft, even though it looks like a solid, you can suck it up with a straw.
Few Filipino desserts are as popular as halo-halo, a mishmash of shaved ice, and basically any combination of fruits, sweet beans, coconut, sweet milk, syrups, tubers, jellies, etc.
It’s sweet, cold, colorful, and just about everyone seems to love eating halo-halo especially on a hot sunny afternoon.
13. Ginataang halo-halo
Another Filipino street food dessert is ginataang halo-halo, a combination of sweetened coconut milk, mixed with crunchy rice balls, tapioca, purple yams, and a number of other ingredients. This dessert is usually served warm, almost pudding style.
If you love coconut milk and sweets, ginataang halo-halo is a Filipino desserts you’ll want to taste.
There’s no street food snack in the Philippines more famous (or possibly infamous) than balut — a partially developed duck egg embryo: you could call it the king of all Filipino street foods!
It’s a snack that’s readily available, and very popular to eat, especially in the evening.
In order to eat balut, you crack a small hole at the top of the shell, and first drink out the chicken soup. You can then peel the rest of the egg, season with salt and vinegar, and eat the embryo and yolk.
Walking around a local market in the Philippines is a great place to try balut.
15. 1 day old fried chicken
One day old chickens are another one of the more adventurous street food snacks you’ll find in Manila, especially common around the Quiapo Market and Quiapo Church area.
I know it doesn’t sound too good, but I’ve read reports that say the one day old chickens are often rejects from the chicken farms. So rather than the chickens being discarded and wasted, it’s actually a resourceful snack.
16. Dried squid
When squid is dried, it naturally turns into one of the ultimate chewy snacks you can possibly dream of.
Being surrounded by ocean, squid is very common the Philippines, and it tastes great when it’s dehydrated in the hot sun, flattened, and grilled.
Just like many Filipino street food snacks on sticks, you dip your dried squid into chili vinegar to season, and also try to scoop up some chilies and onions while you’re at it. This is one of my personal favorite snacks in the Philippines.
When I was in the Philippines one of the most simple and delicious Filipino street food snacks I enjoyed is binatog.
Binatog is a combination of corn, sliced off the cob, and oftentimes cooked plain, but with some fragrant lemongrass. When you order binatog, the vendor scoops it into a cup, tops on some fresh shredded coconut, and seasons it with salt.
There are also some sweet versions where you’ll get this same combo with sugar or sweetened condensed milk, but I really enjoyed the salty one. Simple, starchy, and tasty!
When I was visiting a friend in Tondo, Manila, a man came around to the front of her house selling kutsinta, a sweet rice cake, with a gooey jelly like mochi texture.
Although kutsinta is sometimes served topped with fresh grated coconut, the time I tried it, it was topped in a type of Filipino dulce de leche, sweetened condensed milk reduced down into a sticky caramel tasting spread. The combination was sweet, but really good.
19. Banana Q
Often times sold right next to turon throughout the streets of Manila and throughout the Philippines, a banana q, or banana cue, is a banana that’s coated in brown sugar and caramelized.
A Filipino banana q can be pretty sweet, but you’ve got that lovely burnt sugar taste that coats the bananas and makes it so good.
One of my personal favorite sweet street food snacks to eat in the Philippines is turon, which is a slice of a banana and a sliver of jackfruit wrapped into a lumpia wrapper, and deep fried to a crisp.
So to put it in other words, it’s kind of like a banana egg roll.
What I love about Filipino turon so much is that you’ve got the sweet and sour creamy banana on the inside, contrasted by the crispy crunchy outer wrapper.
21. Rice and dishes
This list of best Filipino street food is focused on street food snacks, rather than full Filipino food meals, which you’ll also find in abundance. However, I couldn’t end this list without mentioning a full rice meal spread.
Especially located down side neighborhood roads, you’ll find small family run street food canteens serving up a variety of regional Filipino cuisine.
Similar to eating rice and curry in Indonesia or Thailand, all the dishes are prepared and sitting in pots, and you can point and choose to whatever dishes look the best. These are the types of street food restaurants where you’ll find excellent adobo (one of the national dishes of the Philippines), a variety of stews, soups, curries, and stir fried dishes.
Often times you can get seats right in front of the pots of food along the sidewalk — chef’s table seating!
*Note: In the Philippines it’s pretty common to eat your meal from plates wrapped in plastic bags, and when you finish eating they just toss out the plastic bags and re-wrap them for the next person — it’s sort of like using paper plates. While this does create lots of waste and isn’t too sustainable, it does ensure you have a clean eating surface.
Price – full meal above cost 230 PHP ($4.62), and we had a few other dishes not in the photo as well