You will hear many times during your visits to the Philippines the word “Meirenda”. If the Filipino does not have the Merienda he will be upset and suffer badly. Workplaces stop for this. 100,000s of people ate employed to give Merienda.
What is a Merienda?
The west would probably call it a snack. Something between the main lunch and dinner, but unlike the west a Merienda is a must have. If you are out for a day with a Filipino friend you will see that they begin to switch off and go quiet every couple of hours. They will eventually say they are hungry. It is no good to say lunch will be in a couple of hours, it is not lunch they are waiting for.
It is usual for the Philippine population to have six meals a day. Therefore every few hours a required sit down meal is needed to sustain them. The west copes with three mostly, but in Philippine culture it is six meals that of course has to include rice in most cases.
So a Merienda is a midmorning and a mid-afternoon compulsory snack. This is the time when street vendors become crowded with people. Although street food can be unhygienic, it is very much loved in the Philippines.
Here are a few examples of what you might expect if you sit down and order street food.
street food is often seen as dirty, but this is mainly a problem with unlicensed vendors. While most street foods are not particularly nutritious, they are convenient, and the foods and vendor’s carts and equipment are very much a part of the urban landscape. There are many types of street foods, here are certain favourites found in almost every place in the Philippines.
Adidas – Grilled chicken feet.
Balut – Boiled fertilized duck eggs.
Banana cue – Skewered saba bananas sprinkled with sugar and deep fried. Another version involves grilling the skewered saba bananas, which are then brushed with margarine or butter and rolled in sugar.
Barbecue – Skewered pork or chicken strips marinated in soy sauce and calamansi and cooked over charcoal. In Luzon, it is often dipped in vinegar; in Visayas and Mindanao, the dip is a special sauce.
Betamax – Dried chicken blood that are shaped into cubes and then grilled.
Buchi – Mashed sweet potatoes coated with batter, deep fried and sprinkled with sugar.
Calamares – Fried breaded squids usually dipped in vinegar.
Chicken skin – Deep-fried chicken skin breaded with flour, usually dipped in vinegar.
Corn on the cob – Boiled or roasted corn, either the cheaper starchy local white corn or the more expensive sweet yellow corn.
“Dirty” ice cream – Light ice cream in flavors like ube, keso (cheese), and chocolate served from a colorful cart. Also known as sorbetes.
Fishballs and squidballs – Balls formed from flaked fish or squid mixed with flour, deep fried and served with sweet-sour, spicy vinegar, or sweet thick brown sauce.
Fruits in season – Depend on the locality as well as the season, but favorites include green mango on a skewer served with bagoong, chunks of pineapple, and watermelon slices.
Ice Candy – Fruit juices, milk or chocolate drinks placed in plastic bags and frozen. The usual flavors are chocolate, buko with milk (with or without red beans), avocado, melon and orange.
Ice Drop – The local version of popsicles.
Ice Scramble – Sweetened shaved ice served in a paper or plastic cup, drizzled with milk and chocolate syrup, and eaten with a wooden popsicle stick.
Isaw – Skewered chicken intestines that are grilled and served with vinegar.
Kikiam – Chinese in origin, a mixture of ground pork and vegetables rolled in thin bean curd wrapper (tapwe) that is deep fried and served with sweet-sour sauce.
Kwek-kwek – Boiled chicken eggs dipped in a flour-and-egg batter then fried.
Maruya – Sliced saba bananas arranged in a fan shape, held together with a flour-and-egg batter, deep-fried, and sprinkled with sugar.
Nilagang mani – Boiled peanuts in the shell.
Pwet ng manok – Fried chicken ass.
Samalamig – Prepared beverages that contain sago (tapioca pearls) and gulaman (gelatin), and are usually flavored with syrup from a wide variety of fruit extracts.
Taho – Soy bean custard with a caramel syrup and sago (tapioca pearls).
Tukneneng – Boiled quail eggs dipped in a flour-and-egg batter then fried.
Turon – Sliced saba bananas (plantains) and sometimes nangka wrapped in lumpia wrapper, sugared
For those that can afford it in the city the street food would be swapped for food chains including burger joints. For me I would prefer a sandwich, but in the Philippines if you can find a place that actually sells sandwiches you will have to endure it heated up. No not toast or grilled, just heated up.
Jeff Harvie is an Australian Registered Migration Agent (MARN 0959797) who has given up the quiet life in Australia a few years back for one more adventurous with his Filipina wife and kids in Manila, Philippines. He runs Down Under Visa, which specialises in Australian partner visas for those Aussie men who fall madly in love with the local girls and want to bring them to Australia.