Cravings and eating out like a local in Manila

Cravings and eating out like a local in Manila

Christine Pangilinan - onlinelby CHRISTINE 



  The crispy skin and meat of lechon straight out of the roast. The tasty peanut sauce of kare-kare matched with bagoong. The smell of chicken adobo on hot steamed rice. Is your mouth watering yet? 

   This month its all about glorious food! The recent Crave Sydney International Food Festival has stirred much excitement (and hungry tummies) for Filipino foods this October. As part of the festival, Philippine Food Week became a platform for the celebration of Philippine cuisine. It was held at Cafe Mix at the Shangri-La Hotel The Rocks and showcased a buffet of Filipino delicacies by chefs from Makati Shangri-La (Manila, Philippines).

   Some of the well-loved dishes they served were lechon, palabok, kare-kare, inihaw, chicken adobo, sisig and pinakbet. This was matched with the popular San Miguel beer and was finished off with desserts like brazo ni Mercedes, turon and halo-halo.

   But this is only a preview of what Philippine cuisine and the authentic Filipino food experience can offer. It’s certainly reminds you of all the wonderful food you can’t quite get in Australia.


   There are indeed a lot more Filipino foods, too many to list and too many of which you can only enjoy back home. You know there are some things that don’t quite taste the same had you eaten it elsewhere. Here are a few examples of favourites:

   Street food - Unlike Filipino main dishes, street food can found almost everywhere in the Philippines and is mostly than not eaten standing up. It’s called street food because it typically sold by roving street vendors and standing kiosks, but are also available at food carts inside shopping malls. They are mostly prepared in front of you. Street foods include:

 - Fish balls (as opposed to squid balls) are skewered, deep fried and served in sweet or spicy sauce; 

- Kewk kwek are boiled quail eggs deep fried in an orange-colored flour batter, served with a vinegar sauce;

- Banana cue is a local type of banana covered in caramelised sugar and served on a stick;

- Pork barbecue is pork strips prepared in a sweet soy sauce marinade, skewered and barbecued upon order;

- Taho is a popular snack made of silken tofu, brown sugar syrup and sago. If a peddler is walking by with two aluminum buckets and shouting “taho”, just stop him in his tracks to buy some taho. Best to buy in the early mornings while taho is still hot and freshly made.

- Isaw is chicken intestines cleaned inside-out, grilled on a stick a dipped in a vinegar sauce. This one is not for the faint hearted.

- Sago’t gulaman is a pandan-flavoured sweet drink with sago and gulaman (jelly). It’s a great refreshment to cool you down on a hot day.

   Street food is cheap and cheerful. Just make sure that you buy from a clean place and one that is frequented by many locals.

   Food cart foods - In recent years, food carts across Metro Manila have been popular as more locals look for cheap food while on the go. Food carts are usually found in high foot traffic areas like train stations, shopping mall food courts and bus depots. They typically sell snacks or foods you can quickly eat on the run like noodles in cups, rice boxes, pork buns, fish balls, wraps, fruit shakes, shredded corn, hotdogs, refreshments, desserts and salads.

   Popular food carts are Shawarma (wraps much like a doner kebab and shawarma rice), Potato Corner (french fries in different flavours like cheese and sour cream) and Siomai House (siomai and gulaman drink).

   Jollibee. One of the most well identified Filipino brands is the leading Philippine fast-food chain called Jollibee. Its the Filipino-equivalent of McDonalds (but better!) and are popular with kids and adults alike. They serve localised versions of Western-style foods like hamburger meals and spaghetti, as well as Filipino rice dishes. Among the locals, what they’re really known for is Chicken Joy (fried chicken with gravy served with rice).

   Other popular food chain restaurants are Greenwich Pizza (pizza and pastas), Chowking (Chinese food, try their chorizo chao fan), Pancake House (pancakes, waffles, salads and rice dishes), Goldilocks (cakes, breads and Filipino dishes) and Mang Inasal (Filipino-style grilled chicken and other rice dishes),

   If that didn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what else will. That list may have given you cravings. Food trip to the Philippines, anyone?

  Christine Pangilinan is a travel consultant of Daystar Travel & Tours (Ashfield, NSW). She is a frequent traveller to the Philippines and loves eating out in Manila. E-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

  Daystar Travel specialises in travel to the Philippines. They provide worldwide airfares, accommodation, tours, and travel insurance. Book your next holiday with Daystar Travel by calling (02) 9797 9922 or 0403 630 898.

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