Lechon (roast pig)
Lechon is the perennial fiesta food in the Philippines. On Christmas and New Year celebrations, wedding and baptism feasts, and any other feast you can think of, people look for lechon or its smaller version, the lechon de leche (roast piglet). Eat it with rice, smothered in gravy, or by itself, washed down with beer. How do you know it’s good lechon? It has to be tasty even without the gravy, and the skin has to be crispy and easy to bite even when it’s cold.
You don’t have to look for this balut in the Philippines. The locals will eagerly offer it to you, gleefully anticipating the look of disgust that foreigners often display the first (or second or third) time they see this Frankenstein version of a boiled duck’s egg. What’s so bad about a boiled duck’s egg, you may ask. Well, the chick inside is partly formed already.
The way to eat a balut is to crack the rounded end of the egg, peel off a section of the shell, sip up the juice inside, open the shell, and swallow the boiled chick whole before eating the boiled yolk. The white part is usually very hard and does not need to be eaten.
The Philippines is a hot country, and what better way to refresh yourself than with an icy delicacy? The halo-halo (which literally means “mix-mix”) is made by filling a tall glass with beans, slices of banana, jackfruit, and coconut strips, all boiled in sugar syrup; sliced gelatin, toasted rice, and sugar; shaved ice, evaporated milk, then topped with custard or ice cream.
You eat the toppings first, then mix the milky ice with the rest of the sweet stuff for a milky sweet icy treat – a perfect antidote for the hot summer.
The taho vendor passes every Philippine street every morning to sell this sweet curdled soy milk to children and adults alike who are looking for a quick, nutritious, and very portable breakfast. The taho itself is really tasteless – just like soy milk. It is sweetened by the sugar syrup the vendor pours on it, and garnished with tapioca pears, known locally as sago.
Fish balls and squid balls
As the taho man comes every morning, the fish ball and squid ball vendor comes every afternoon. Thick batter made of flour, water, and pureed fish or squid are fried as you watch, skewered on a bamboo stick, and served with sauce. Choose from the sweet or spicy sauce, or mix them together and enjoy this quick afternoon snack with a glass of ice cold gulaman (sliced gelatin in ice water sweetened with sugar caramel syrup).