Manila may be slightly notorious for its traffic congestion and chaos, but there’s one more thing that has become synonymous with Philippines’ capital city – its street food. Look beyond the craft beer pubs and fine diners, and metropolitan Manila is waiting to surprise you! There is truly no better way to soak in the city’s eclectic vibes than to let its humble street food to take you on a delicious gastronomic journey.
First, let’s get you to Manila
Manila is easily accessible by air from most major cities of the world. If you happen to be in Asia already, you’ll also find several regional low-cost airlines flying directly to Manila. However, once you land in Manila, the bigger challenge is finding suitable conveyance to get to the city. The most convenient way to do that is by hiring a pre-booked cab or minivan to pick you up at the airport and drop you directly at your hotel.
Exploring a city as vast and varied as Manila is no easy task, especially if you are on the hunt for the most authentic local street food. So if you are ready to take on Manila and go on a multi-sensory ride, we’re spilling all the secrets here to help you figure out some of the most popular dishes to eat and also where to find them.
Snack attack – the best street food dishes to eat in Manila
Filipino street food may not be as famous as its Thai, Malaysian or Vietnamese counterparts, but it is undoubtedly a crucial part of Manila’s cultural landscape. Taking a little bit of inspiration from Mexican, Spanish as well as Asian styles of cooking, Filipino street food in Manila has carved an identity of its own. From empanadas to sausages and from noodles to dumplings – it is in the streets of Manila that one discovers the true essence of the Philippines. So if this is your first ever visit to Manila, make a note of these street food dishes that you cannot miss.
Undoubtedly one of the most popular street snacks in Manila, kwek kwek is essentially a flour-coated, boiled Quail egg, deep fried to perfection. A common sight across local neighborhoods, these orange-colored fried balls are perfect to snack on the go.
Average price: Php 15 for a plate of 4 pieces
Looking for a slightly bigger meal? Palabok, a local noodle-based dish will come to your rescue. Made with rice noodles and a thick shrimp and pork sauce, this is a staple dish available all day long.
Average price: Php 200 per serving
A Filipino-style roasted chicken, lechon manok is available both at street stalls as well as at sit down restaurants in Manila. The dish is simple and heart-warming, made with few ingredients and roasted until crispy and golden in color.
Average price: Php 250 per serving
Is it even possible to not indulge in a dessert on your street food adventures in Manila, given how much Filipinos love their sugary treats? Make way for Taho, a dessert (or drink) made with cubes of soft silken tofu doused in a sweet syrup, perfect for a hot summer day. Have it with a spoon or slurp on it with a straw, it’s delicious and refreshing either way.
Average price: Php 20 per serving
Another famous Filipino street-side dessert on this list, Halo-halo will be your savior on hot and humid mornings in Manila. A concoction made of shaved ice, condensed milk, fruits, coconut, sweet beans and jellies, Halo-halo is available almost everywhere across the country.
Average price: Php 65 per serving
Weird and wonderful is probably the only way to describe this unique Filipino snack, definitely not meant for the faint-hearted. Balut is a partially-developed duck embryo that’s considered a delicacy in this part of the world. It is boiled before being eaten and is typically served with vinegar and chilies. Surely one of Manila’s more unique dishes, this city is full of weird foods just waiting to be tasted.
Average price: Php 15 per serving
Banana and sugar, enclosed in an egg roll wrapper, deep-fried till perfectly crispy – what’s not to love about Turon? If you’re looking for a yummy, easy-to-eat, filling snack while strolling the streets of Manila, this is it.
Average price: Php 15 per serving
Typically eaten as a main course dish, no discussion of Filipino food is ever complete without mentioning Adobo. It is an iconic meat dish made from chicken or pork cooked in a marinade of vinegar, soy sauce, and garlic. Although commonly served at restaurants, there are several street stalls that also sell Adobo, making it one of the best street food dishes to try in Manila.
Average price: Php 200 per serving, shareable between 2 people
Variations of steamed rice cakes are aplenty all over Asia, and Puto is the Philippines’ version of the dish. Made with fermented rice dough and served simply with butter on top or with a side dish, Puto makes for a healthy and filling snack.
More a full breakfast meal than a snack, Tapsilog is a popular street food dish in Manila consisting of fried or grilled beef, garlic fried rice, and a fried egg. It’s a big, hearty meal which could even double up as lunch or dinner, but hey, if it has eggs, it must be breakfast, right? So if you’re looking for a solid kick start to a long day of exploration, nothing like Tapsilog to keep you going through the day.
Average price: Php 150 per serving
The treasure hunt – finding these street food treats in Manila
If there is one thing Manila has in abundance, it is street food markets and stalls. And now that you are armed with the list of dishes you want to try, here is our compilation of some of the most popular places to indulge in street food to help you navigate through the chaos.
1. Quiapo Market
What better place to start your street food adventures than at a local market bustling with people? The Quiapo Market in downtown Manila is the perfect place to get a taste of the Filipino way of life, a huge part of which is the food. The market is home to dozens of shops selling all kinds of street snacks and is known for the sheer variety of food they sell.
Address: 313, 1001 Palma St, Quiapo, Manila, 1001 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: Open 24 hours on all days
2. Divisoria Market
One of the busiest markets in Manila, Divisoria Market is the go-to place for all things local. From Filipino street food to cheap souvenirs, this market has it all. But here’s a word of caution – prepare yourself for crowds you may have never experienced before! If you are courageous enough to brave it, you’ll find yourself amidst hundreds of tiny shops selling local goodies, as you stroll the market while snacking on the wide range of street food available here.
Address: 557 M. De Santos St, San Nicolas, Manila, 1010 Metro Manila, Philippines
Opening hours: 7 am to 9 pm on all days
3. Mang Larry’s Isawan
If you want to know where to find street food in a city that gives the most bang for a buck, follow the local students! Located inside the University of Philippines’ campus, Mang Larry’s Isawan is an institution in itself. They are widely known for their grilled meats and snacks served with simple dips and sauces – just what you should be looking for on your inauguratory trip to Manila.
Address: A. Roces Avenue, University of the Philippines-Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1101
Opening hours: 10 am to 9 pm on all day
4. Three Sisters’ Restaurant of Pasig
Originally started way back in 1941 by a lady named Lola Rosa, the Three Sisters’ Restaurant has stood the proverbial test of time and has come to be known as one of the best spots in Manila to taste local dishes. The crowd throngs at this small restaurant primarily for their iconic Pork Barbeque, but over the years, their home-style food, cosy environment, and a menu offering incredible value for money has made the restaurant a go-to place for street food lovers
Address: 136 West Capitol, Dr. Brgy. Kapitolyo, Pasig
Opening hours: 11 am to 10 pm everyday
While it’s easy to identify food stalls or carts that are safe to eat from, by the sheer number of people thronging the place, it is always a good idea to trust your gut, literally and figuratively, when it comes to street food in Manila.
The city and its street food go hand in hand and it is impossible to truly experience Manila without giving in to the temptations of delicious food lurking around the street corner. So, if a trip to Manila is on the cards, keep an open mind and get ready to take your taste buds on a joyride to get a glimpse of this part of Manila that you otherwise wouldn’t.