The Dirty Dozen: Top 12 Must Try Street Foods in Manila

When In Manila, or in any city, the true flavor and character of the locale can be seen on the streets; from the street parties, the street vendors, the street traffic and most of all, the street food!

You’ll only really find the true essence of a town by emerging yourself in the culture and trying the weird, crazy and every-so-often-seemingly-disgusting customs. Aa the saying goes, “When In Rome, do as the Romans do…” so When In Manila

Here are the Top 12 MUST TRY street foods in Manila! The “Dirty Dozen




12. Dirty Ice Cream

There’s no way we can start a “Dirty Dozen” countdown without the dirtiest of the dirt. OK, so Dirty Ice Cream is not really “dirty.” It’s just called that as an expression that stemmed from the external appearance of the street carts the usually come in. Having traveled vast distances by foot, the vendors, often without gloves, soap or hand sanitizers, will scoop up these ice cold treats. Despite their appearance though, these worn down ice cream carts carry the sweetest relief for a hot day in the tropics.

Often coming in Cheese, Ube and Chocolate flavors, the Dirty Ice Cream, or street Ice Cream in the Philippines has it’s own distinct and addictive taste that you need to try!



luneta-14sir nicolay when in manila mae ilagan-21

Dirty Ice Cream Photos by WIM members JB Gamboa, Charles Angel Lacson and Mae Ilagan


11. Banana-Que or Banana-Q

This one is a very popular Filipino street food often served as a “mirenda,” meaning “snack.” This is a local banana, known as “”saba,” deep fried in a caramelized sugar coating and then poked with a stick to look like your average back yard BBQ. Don’t be fooled though as this BBQ is nothing like those July 4th American skewers. Banana-Ques are a sweet treat for a lazy afternoon day.





10. Kwek Kwek

The nickname alone signifies the absolute “Filipino-ness” of this street dish. Being widely known as a culture who likes to give nick names that reapeat – LynLyn, DanDan, JanJan, Junjun, NaNa, BongBong, MarkMark and moremore… this dish is a perfect representation of the Filipino culture.

A very common street food in Manila, a KwekKwek or Kwek-Kwek is actually a hard boiled quail egg deep friend in an orange batter / coating. The sound of “quail-egg” said quickly with the local accent made the words mesh together and sound as it is called now, Kwek-kwek. This is sometimes also called “itlog ng pugo.”

Another version of this is the Tokneneng, which is the same dish but with a hard boiled chicken egg instead, still deep friend in the orange batter / coating.



KwekKwek Photo by Jason Cruz


Kwek-Kwek Photo by Charles Angel Lacson


9. Betamax

Called as such because of their box type shape, similar to the old school Betamax tapes (if you are really really young, just know that a Betamax is what came before iPods, DVDs, CDs, Laser Discs and VHS tapes), a Betamax is actually…. well…. first a warning, this might sound really disgusting but I assure you it’s not that bad. Anyway, a Betamax is actually slang for grilled chicken blood.

“But how can you grill blood? A liquid?” you might ask, well see the blood extracted from a chicken actually turns somewhat gelatinous when cooled. It becomes this thick, gelatin like substance and then they cook it a bit to have it maintain the texture. Finally, they are cut into the boxy or rectangle shapes which resemble a betamax.

What does grilled chicken blood taste like? Well, it tastes like chicken.


Photo by Jason Cruz


More must try street foods in Manila and the Philippines on the next page