There is popular saying that you can learn about a country’s culture by eating its food. While street food may not be entirely representative of Philippine culture, it does give you insights on how Filipinos value their resources. The best street food ideas in the Philippines are simple creations but are rich in history and meaning.
When money was tight, Filipinos had to find ways to stretch the budget by maximizing whatever was available. Nothing was wasted; every part of the animal was used. Deep frying was the preferred method of cooking. It was cheap, simple and reusable. Thus street food was the response to the basic need to eat. Eventually, it gave people a source of livelihood as well.
The sauces reflect traditional Asian taste: sweet, sour, spicy and savory, to fit every preference. Food presentation is non-existent. Street food is skewered on a stick, stuffed in a plastic cup or poured in a bowl. Street food in the Philippines is all about the tastefulness of simple food and the beauty in its convenience.
Before you could only find street food along the side streets and corners of the most densely populated cities. Makeshift food stalls or mobile food carts are hastily set up with a few plastic tables and chairs on the wayside. Lunchtime crowds were composed mostly of blue-collar workers; people who work in construction, the traffic aide, public utility drivers and students subsisting on street food to save up on tuition.
Today street food can be found in commercial centers, popular food markets and re-imagined in some of the fanciest and most expensive fine dining restaurants. There are fast foods franchising concepts that feature street foods. Instead of the humble mobile food cart, we now have street food prepared and served from grandiose and sophisticated food trucks.
Why the resurgence of interest in street food?
It Resonates With Everyone. It doesn’t matter who you are; what clothes you wear, where you live and if you drive a car or take public transportation. Tough times affect everyone. And you still have to eat.
Street food remains affordable. You can get an order of siomai (dumplings) with rice and sago gulaman (tapioca pearls with sweetened gelatin) juice for 40 Pesos. That’s a complete meal for under One Dollar! How about a plate of beef tapa (sweetened beef jerky) with fried rice, egg, and relish for 85 Pesos?
Nowadays, you can see office workers in their long sleeved shirt and tie, dress pants and blouse eating alongside blue collar workers in a fabricated food stall.
A friend of mine who underwent hard times when his business collapsed existed on street food for three years until he recovered financially. Although he could afford to eat steak every day of the week now, he still eats at his favorite street food corner store as a constant reminder of the struggles he went through.
It is Prepared Fast and Served Conveniently. The resurgence in street food reflects the fast pace of life in the city. Commuters just eat what they can grab on their way to work or a meeting.
Traffic has grown worse in the metropolis that if you don’t get something to eat while you still have a chance, you will get hungry the rest of the day.
You can find street food stalls near the MRT stations. And the faulty conditions of the MRT have translated to big business for these food stalls!
It Has Become Socially Acceptable to Eat Street Food. Over the last few years, Philippine street food has been featured in various television and Internet videos.
Popular travel and leisure shows such as “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and “Street Food Around the World with Ishay Golan” regularly feature Philippine street food.
Recently, speed eating champion, Furious Pete visited the Philippines to document his experience eating Philippine cuisine especially the “Balut”.
But perhaps no one has put Philippine street food on the map and in the mainstream consciousness quite like American celebrity chef and best-selling author Anthony Bourdain.
Bourdain’s shows “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” strongly promote Philippine food. Bourdain has eaten “Balut” many times including a recent stint at “Live with Piers Morgan” on CNN and has raved about the “Halo-Halo”.
All of a sudden more Filipinos are taking selfies with their Halo-Halo!
Philippine street food has become en vogue; it has gained wider acceptance and prominence that you could make it into a lucrative small business. It is one of these business concepts that you may not have to make a project study. It has all the elements of a successful business:
- People are aware of the product
- It is cheap
- Food cost is low
- Margins are flexible
- It is not labor intensive
- It is not capital intensive
- It provides convenience
- There is a market for the product
- Your location can be mobile
- You cater to a highly diversified market
If you are planning on starting a Philippine street food business, there are many concepts to choose from. But here is a list of the top 10 street food ideas in the Philippines which have continued to remain popular and draw the longest queues wherever they open.
Top 10 Street Food Business Ideas in the Philippines
1. Dirty Ice Cream
Who cares if Andrew Zimmern didn’t like it? Dirty Ice Cream remains among the most loved Philippine street food.
It got its name from the impression people got when they saw the ice cream man or “Sorbetero” scoop ice cream into cones without the benefit of gloves.
Still, for many adults who were grade school at the time, Dirty Ice Cream brings forth great memories of having a refreshing, light-flavored dessert with Mom or Dad before going home.
Among the traditional flavors are Cheese, Chocolate, and Ube or Purple Yam ice cream. An interesting offering is the “Ice Cream Sandwich”; generous scoops of assorted flavors stuffed in a freshly baked soft buns.
An interesting concept would be to introduce more Filipino themed flavors such as “Avocado”, “Cashew at Langka”, “Buko Macapuno” and “Mantecado”.
Perhaps introduce milkshake concepts that are made with fresh carabao’s milk or goat’s milk.
Did you know that when you eat ice cream, you do not taste its full flavor? This is because the cold numbs the taste receptors on your tongue. A friend of mine suggested warming ice cream in a microwave until it was simmering. He said the flavor would “knock me back a few feet.”
He wasn’t kidding. I warmed up a bowl of Ube ice cream, and the taste was intensified 100 times! It had so much flavor it was amazing! So why not offer “Dirty Ice Cream Soup” with a piece of Otap to dunk in? It sounds crazy but doesn’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
It could be one of the most original street food ideas in the Philippines!