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Must Try Local Foods in Manila

A trip to the Philippines will never be complete without trying the country’s local food fare. In Manila alone, the country’s capital, there is already so much to try and to enjoy. Definitely a foodie’s paradise, Manila has a lot to offer for everyone–may it be casual dining, street food fare, homegrown restaurants, and even fancy dinners in some of the premiere hotels in Manila.

As the old adage goes “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Come with us in this quick trip around the metro and see for yourself why the world just can’t get enough of Manila and its delectable wonders.

1. Halo-halo

Halo-Halo in the Philippines

One of the truly classic Filipino desserts, the halo-halo literally translates to “mix-mix” in English. Best enjoy on hot summer days, the halo-halo is a combination of boiled sweet beans, coconut, fruits like jack-fruits and banana, as well as sweet potato, gulaman, and tapioca. This colorful concoction is then covered with ice shavings and then topped off with evaporated milk, leche flan, purple yam, and sometimes a scoop of ice cream.

2. Sisig

sisig with rice

Ah, the good old pork and all its glory. Loved by FIlipinos all over the world (and admired by foreigners who are able to try it), the Sisig is one of the strongest contenders in the best beer-mates ever. Served hot in a sizzling plate, the Sisig is a local dish made from parts of pig’s head and liver, together with chili peppers and then topped with egg. A sour and spicy sizzling dish, the Sisig is definitely a must-try.

3. Kwek-kwek and Tokneneng


A Filipino street food that is loved both by children and adults, the kwek-kwek and tokneneng are similar snacks, only varying in the type of egg used. With hard boiled duck or chicken eggs for the kwek-kwek and quail eggs for the tokneneng, this orange snack is made by creating a batter and then deep-frying it. Often served in a stick, these orange balls of goodness are best enjoyed dipped in either sweet and spicy sauce or chili vinegar. Or you can always mix the sauces for that sweet and sour taste with a kick of chili.

Most of the time, kwek-kwek and tokneneng are also enjoyed together with other classic street food delights such as the fishball, kikiam, and squid ball.

4. Lechon


One of the biggest names when it comes to Filipino cuisine, parties (especially local fiestas) are never complete without a whole pig, slow roasted to perfection. Also popular in other countries, the Lechon has that impeccable combination of crispy skin that is pure goodness to snack on and a really tender, juicy meat that goes well together with a special sauce.

A staple in the Philippine culture, the Lechon is a testament of an event’s importance, as it graces the dining table during weddings, birthdays, Christmas dinners, and other family and community gatherings.

5. Isaw


A real treat for the adventurous ones, the Filipino Isaw is just one of the many animal innards enjoyed by the Filipinos. Widely available in the streets and sometimes in particular dining venues, the Isaw can either be chicken or pig intestines barbecued to be a delightful snacks. Also dipped in either sweet and spicy sauce or chili vinegar, trying out the isaw is something you should not miss.

One important thing to remember though, is to make sure that the intestines are cleaned properly. It’s best to get them either at restaurants or places where you can get a first-hand recommendation from someone you personally know.

6. Balut


Last but not the least is the classic Filipino balut that rose to international fame when it was featured in Fear Factor back in the days. The balut, an acquired taste, but also a must-try, is a local Filipino delicacy of a fertilized duck or chicken egg, boiled and eaten from the shell.What makes the balut different from all the other eggs is that the embryo of the duck or chicken remains intact, once you’ve cracked the shell. An appalling sight to most, but a delectable dish for the brave souls of the gastronomic world. Depending on how much the embryo has matured, some chicks are barely identifiable while some are already complete with feathers, beaks, wings, and eyes.

Once the egg is cracked, it is seasoned with salt and vinegar. Inside the shell is a soup from the embryo which is surprisingly nice tasting, as well as the fertilized chick and the delicious yolk. Popular in Southeast Asian countries, the consumption of the Balut remains to be a controversial topic for some.

Heading to Manila? Be sure to try these unique dishes!

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