One of the first street eats you will be dared to try as soon as you step into Manila soil, balut looks like your typical hard-boiled egg on the outside. What lurks within is no ordinary egg yolk, but a three-week-old fertilized duck embryo. Welcome to the Philippines.
There’s an art to eating the balut. Start by cracking a small hole on the hollow end of the egg and sucking the broth (which is amniotic fluid, if you must know) before peeling half the shell off. Bite off the yellow part to introduce your tongue to the texture of boiled yolk mixed with cartilage, and as you remove the rest of the shell, try not to focus on the wings, beak, and other parts of the duckling that you may see. Before you get squeamish, chomp on the rest of the balut quickly until you get to the tough white lump of egg white. It’s edible, but some people prefer to throw it out. Rock salt and vinegar are optional.
Beginners may try the tamer version: penoy. All your tongue will feel is a mass of white and yellow underdeveloped embryo, and none of the discernable baby duck parts.
A boiled quail egg that’s dipped in orange batter and deep-fried in oil, kwek-kwek is crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. Each order comes with a helping of spicy vinegar dipping sauce, which helps neutralize the oiliness of each bite. Eat it while it’s crispy and don’t wait until the batter has become soggy from too much vinegar. The strong batter color comes from atsuete (annatto) powder, or in some cases, just food coloring. Another version that uses duck eggs or chicken eggs is called tokneneng.
When browsing through street barbeque stands in the Philippines, look for dark gelatinous chunks served on sticks. They’re coagulated pork or chicken blood sliced into rectangular blocks. They’re grilled, livery in texture, and surprisingly don’t taste anything like blood, but more of the barbeque marinade or vinegar sauce used.
No copyright infringement intended. Adidas, simply put, is barbequed chicken feet. It’s like eating the skin off your usual chicken wings, but with soft tendons instead of dark meat underneath. Let your teeth and tongue decide which parts are edible, and which parts to discard.
The permeating smell of grilled meats basting in sweet-salty barbeque sauce is what makes Filipino street food so enticing that you won’t mind sampling whatever happens to be skewered on a wooden stick. While you’re in that food-tripping state of mind, buy a serving of isaw — chicken or pork intestines. Part of the food preparation process is intensively washing and scraping the innards of the intestines multiple times, especially with the pork version that has a thicker girth. Some vendors even boil them for extra sanitation before barbequing. Best eaten hot off the grill and dipped in chili vinegar sauce, isawis chewy and soft, but may give you a bitter or acrid aftertaste. Just ask for extra sauce.
No chicken parts are wasted in barbecuing — not even the head of the chicken, which in Filipino street food vernacular is called helmet. Unlike chicken feet, the chicken head has more fat deposits under the skin. You may break open the skull and suck out the brain and other entrails.
Even pig ears aren’t thrown out; they’re sliced into bite-sized pieces before going on the grill. Filipinos referred to it as Walkman in the ‘80s when Sony’s iconic gadget was all the rage, and the name just stuck. There’s actually a long list of pig and chicken parts that go on the charcoal grill, such as chicken neck, gizzards, and liver, but not all parts earned pop culture nicknames like the Walkman, Adidas, Helmet, and Betamax. As an alternative to the street Walkman, try the restaurant sisig — a hash of chopped pig ears, snout, liver, jowls, onions, and spices served on a sizzling plate.
The tamest of all Filipino street meats, fish balls are deep-fried fish paste. They’re more fun to eat off a stick, although some vendors serve them on a paper plate or cup. You may pick which balls you’d like to skewer — the brown, crispier ones, or the ones cooked just right for a chewy bite. Help yourself to an array of dipping sauces: spicy vinegar, sweet and sour, sweet, or a mix of everything. Just make sure you don’t double-dip your stick into the vendor’s sauce jar! You may also try the fishball’s close cousins: squid balls, chicken balls, and kikiam (pork and vegetables).
9. Day Old
What may be the most morbid of our street delicacies, day old refers to the exact age of the chick that was seasoned, deep-fried, and skewered on a stick.