Filipino cuisine is having its time in the spotlight. With the foodie scene becoming more global and inclusive, people are discovering the richness and burst of flavor found in Filipino dishes. It’s not just in dishes, however. Filipinos’ love for food go into snacks, too.
For a nation that eats more than three times a day, Filipino snacks are a staple in every household. From the common to the exotic, here are some of the most iconic Filipino snacks to try:
Philippine mangoes are one of a kind. Sweet and succulent, good as a fruit, a dessert, or a delicacy. It’s not something you can find all year round, however. Dried mangoes are one of the most popular snacks and souvenirs in the Philippines. They have all the goodness of Philippine mangoes in candied form.
Just as much as Filipinos love the sweet ripe mangoes, green mangoes also have a special place in their hearts. The most popular variant is the Carabao mango, which can be very sour and firm with a satisfying crisp. To counter the sourness, green mangoes are usually eaten with bagoong (shrimp paste) or rock salt, which is sometimes spiced up with bird’s eye chilis.
Sure, you can buy fish and squid balls from the supermarket. However, the most authentic way to enjoy these afternoon favorites are from a vendor off the street. Fish and squid balls are made from a puree of fish and squid.
On the street, vendors have large vats of hot oil where they dump hundreds of these little balls. Customers take a bamboo skewer and help themselves, piling three, four, or five balls in one stick. It comes with a side of sweet and spicy sauce made from soy sauce and sugar.
Kwek-kwek is deep-fried quail egg in orange-colored batter and is another street food staple. It’s usually sold with the squid and fish balls on the street, eaten the same way, and sometimes eaten with the same sauce.
Turon is an easy snack to have and make. It’s ripe saba bananas (sometimes with jackfruit) rolled in a flour wrapper, drizzled with sugar, and deep-fried.
Another derivative of the saba banana, the banana cue is a simpler but just as tasty snack. The bananas are simply skewered and coated in sugar before being grilled (hence “cue”) or deep-fried.
Part of every small-town Filipino childhood is hearing the unmistakable call of “Tahoooo!” from the streets. Taho is mainly silken tofu with sugar syrup and sago (tapioca balls), although there are now many variations of this. Traditionally, taho is sold by street vendors who roam around towns with huge aluminum canisters of taho on their shoulders.
Probably one of the most popular Filipino snack, the halo-halo is a summer must-have. And since the Philippines is a tropical country, it’s practically summer all year round! Halo-halo literally means “mix-mix”, so this snack is a combination of a lot of things – beans, jelly, coconut, flan, ice cream, and other textured and crunchy ingredients, doused with crushed ice and evaporated milk.
Filipinos love pork, and no part goes to waste. Chicharon is best consumed with beer but can be a snack any time of the day. It’s deep-fried pork rind, resulting in a puffy, crunchy, porky snack. There are also two versions – the regular pork rind, or the one with “laman” or a strip of fat. Dip it in spiced vinegar and you’ll never want to stop munching.
Another iconic Filipino image you will find is an ice cream man pushing a colorful wooden cart. Inside is creamy ice cream in different flavors, commonly ube, cheese, and chocolate. Nowadays, you can get newer flavors like avocado and cookies, and cream. The name “dirty ice cream” comes from the fact that it’s sold on the streets in rickety old carts, but the ice cream is just as tasty as you can imagine.
Noodles are a staple in the Filipino diet, but pancit canton is a crowd favorite. Pancit canton is a traditional dish with flour stick noodles, as well as meat and vegetable toppings.
However, it’s also a popular instant noodle-type snack – just cook the noodles and toss them in the spice packets. You can have pancit canton as a full meal depending on your appetite, but it’s best enjoyed with a side of warm pandesal (local bread roll) and a drizzle of calamansi (local lime).
As a nation that loves rice, it’s almost a must to have it in snack form, too. “Kakanin” is a collective term for Philippine delicacies, usually desserts, made with glutinous rice or glutinous flour and coconut milk.
There’s a huge variety to choose from, the most popular of which are sapin-sapin, made of layered glutinous flour in different flavors, bibingkang malagkit, glutinous sticky rice topped with caramel sauce, and suman, glutinous rice cooked in banana leaves.
Merienda is the Filipinos’ fourth meal – the time between lunch and dinner made specially to enjoy all these amazing snacks. The Philippines has a long list of snacks to try out, so get munching!
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.