Did you grow up eating fish balls, isaw, and turon for merienda? Nothing is as comforting as Filipino street food. You can travel the world for good eats, and you'll be hard-pressed to find a dish that will hit the spot quite like your local go-tos.
But there’s an upside: since no one knows how to do Filipino street food like Pinoys, you can recreate your favorites whenever the cravings hit. Some are more complicated and less home cooking-friendly than others (ahem, betamax), but they’re all worth a try.
7 Filipino Street Food Favorites to Make at Home
Master your top street food picks at home! Merienda will never be the same.
Authentic kikiam is a variation on ngo hiang, a traditional Chinese dish of minced pork and veggies rolled in bean curd skin. Most street food-loving Pinoys know the commercialized version: finger-shaped fish cakes sold alongside fish and squid balls. But if you’re craving kikiam with lots of flavor and more dynamic textures, go for the Chinese-style stuff.
Kwek-kwek is a type of tokneneng: deep-fried hard-boiled eggs with a vibrant orange coating that looks almost neon. Kwek-kwek is the easiest tokneneng to eat on the go since it calls for tiny quail eggs you can gobble up in a single bite.
Other varieties use large chicken or duck eggs – a little messier, but more filling, too. Tipid tip: make a meal out of this snack by pairing it with rice! Whatever you do, make sure to eat tokneneng with vinegar or sweet chili sauce to cut through all that deep-fried goodness.
3. Cheese sticks
What do you get if you combine ooey-gooey mozzarella sticks with light, airy, and shatteringly crispy spring rolls? Filipino-style cheese sticks, that’s what! These deep-fried delights need only three things: melty cheese, lumpia wrappers, and Lady’s Choice Real Mayonnaise(for dipping!). But you can easily level them up with whole chilies à la dynamite, sugar syrup for a sweet-savory spin, and other creative combinations. They’re the perfect party food!
Isaw is grilled pig or chicken intestines on sticks. Fun fact: the name doesn’t directly translate to the digestive tract. Instead, it’s short hand for sawsawan (dip), which speaks to how essential dipping sauces are in local street food culture. You can’t have isaw without vinegar. The barbecued innards are incredibly rich and slightly bitter, so you’ll need acid to balance those flavors.
Betamax is slang for grilled chicken blood on sticks. Upon extraction, betamax makers let the blood congeal until gelatinous. Then, they boil it until solid, cut the blood into cubes, and grill them on sticks over an open flame. Once cooked, the cubes darken and appear closer to their namesake videotape from the late ‘70s.
Some might mistake them for tablea de cacao, but these aren’t bitter like pure, unsweetened chocolate. Contrary to what one might expect from a dish of 100% animal blood, betamax has a very mild flavor. Its texture is comparable to firm tofu or chicken liver. It’s slightly chewy on the outside but ultimately tender and sponge-like on the inside.
6. Cheesy corn
Do you want something that won’t require a smoky grill or a last-minute trip to the butcher? Try Filipino-style cheesy corn, an after-school merienda favorite of ‘90s school kids everywhere. Korean kon-chijeu (corn cheese) has been all over social media lately, but the Pinoy version is equally worthy of internet points.
It doesn’t get any simpler than this: hot corn off the cob with butter or margarine, sugar, and cheese powder. Done! For maximum nostalgia, serve in flimsy plastic cups with comically tiny spoons. If you’re lucky, you’ll have leftover sauce at the bottom of your cup to slurp up.
Take a break from all the fried, fatty, and savory stuff with a cooling cup of iskrambol (ice scramble). The frozen dessert always starts with a base of shaved ice, milk, sugar, and banana extract – then you can go crazy with the toppings. Add mini marshmallows, flavored syrups, rice crispies, powdered milk, wafers, and other sugary treats.
The resulting concoction should taste like sweet dreams, banana splits, and childhood summers. While a classic iskrambol is iconically pink, you can make yours any color. There are purple-tinged varieties with ube extract and chocolate-brown mixtures with heaps of Milo powder. Find your new favorite!
What’s your top Filipino street food order? Try making it yourself along with any of the classics on this list. No need to venture out for merienda when you’re craving comfort food!