pork chicharon

Chicharon is pork crackling or deep fried pork rinds in Tagalog. I got this pack in Manila for 30 Philippine pesos (about RM 2). This is sold as a snack in ’90s style popcorn packaging. Well, at least popcorn was packaged that way in my hometown of Sibu at that time and sold in bakeries (!!!).

The price for chicharon can range from 10 PHP to either side, depending on the brand. Also, the price can change from vendor to vendor for the same thing depending on how much they reckon they can rip you off for. The different brands mostly looks the same, with the manufacturer slipping in a small paper insert to differentiate their products.

chicharon

This one is called Angelo Special Pork Chicharon and comes with a smiling pig, very much oblivious to what he’s about to become by the looks of it. smirk

You can see that it’s slightly wet – the street vendors in Manila will offer to open and douse the packet of chicharon generously with vinegar from a dodgy recycled bottle with a hole at the top. It’s apparently the local way to eat it. I found it quite nice but there’s only so much pork crackling you can eat before you get sick of it.

7fresh

7-Eleven in the Philippines also sells a microwavable chicharon under their 7Fresh store brand. The price is heavily inflated but you can actually bring it back home – I brought back 2 packs, one for my family and one for a friend of mine. I think some people actually do eat it like popcorn!

The fresh ones packaged like the one I had in Manila doesn’t keep too long though – it’ll start to become stale after a couple of hours. You can usually find it where they sell balut. It’s quite tasty though but very, very oily, so if you don’t adore pork, this is probably not for you. :)

bus stop hotdog

Hotsilog is the Tagalog name for hot dogs. This is different from the Philippines chorizo type sausage called longganisa. Longganisa is short links of pork sausage while hotsilog is actual hot dogs as you know it – it’s also much longer. No, there’s no double entendre intended.

hotsilog

You can find hotsilog sold in bus stops and other stalls where quick travel food is required. It’s usually sold next to balut and chicharon (pork crackling). The history of the Philippines with the long American presence has created this long and *brightly colored* radioactive red hot dog that is sold on a stick or in a bun.

hotsilog hotdog

The ones in a bun costs 30 PHP (about RM 1.80) while the hotsilog on a stick costs 25 pesos (RM 2.20). The shorter hotdog in a bun actually costs *more* than the longer ones on a skewer! You’ll be initially surprised that a locally made bun wrapped around the hot dog will actually hurt your wallet more…especially when you see the length.

bus philippines

Hotsilogs on a skewer / stick is much longer than the ones in a bun. That means you get more meat for 5 pesos less for the former. Street peddlers will come on board while you’re in a bus and sell all sorts of stuff from Buko Pies to newspapers.

me hotsilog

The hotsilogs is a distinctively American influence that has been given a local twist. It tastes much like what you’ll expect a hotdog or sausage to, but juicier and mildly spiced so it’s good to eat by itself without other condiments.

philippines hotdog

It’s an interesting experience to eat it on long journeys. The way it’s cut into spirals before being cooked is something the locals have done to make it cook evenly.

hotsilog vendor

The local hotsilog is also surprisingly sweet and worth a try if you’re on a bus with nothing better to do. You might also require a hardy stomach. ;)

1. Hash Brown Burger

hash brown burger

This is a breakfast menu item from the fast food franchise giant Jollibee. Jollibee is all around the Philippines, you can literally see one at every street corner in Manila. I had this at the airport just before flying Cebu Pacific Air to Boracay.

jollibee hash brown burger

The Hash Brown Burger is made with a 100% pure beef patty and a slice of cheese sandwiched between two golden hash browns.

jollibee

It cost 88 pesos (RM 6.50) at the airport, I’m sure it costs less outside but it’s well worth it.

manila jollibee

I love how the crispy hash browns substitute the traditional burger – it’s crunchy on the outside and moist and tender on the inside, which makes the hash browns a much better bun!

burger bun substitute

It’s delicious stuff! I wish they had it here but I reckon you can make your own using hash browns and removing the patty from a regular burger. :)

2. Chinese pao burger with pork sausage

chowking

This comes from Chowking, a large fast food franchise specializing in Chinese food in the Philippines. The interesting bit is that they use a Chinese style pao instead of the usual burger buns.

unique burger pao

It’s even stamped with a “Ck” for Chowking on top. It looks like a typical burger bun but it’s actually a Chinese pau – the taste and chewy texture is spot on! :)

chowking pao burger

I find that it absorbs the sauces of the ingredients well, but doesn’t over-saturate it – it’s a perfect burger bun substitute!

burger lap cheong

I had the one with the Chinese pork sausage (lap cheong) inside for 39 pesos (RM 3) inclusive of chicharap (prawn crackers) and a drink right outside Intramuros.

chow pao

It’s ironically called Chowking’s Chow Pao – which means something totally different if you pronounce it the wrong way. Heh.

balut egg

Balut is perhaps the Philippines most notorious street food. It’s an duck egg that’s intentionally unpasteurized to create a fertilized embryo inside it. You can get a near fully formed chick if you’re lucky – complete with beak, feathers and other features you’ll normally associate with a duck.

Well, a duck to be anyway, since it’s been boiled, it’s never going to hatch. ;)

balut duck egg embryo

Balut is also known for it’s eww factor with an almost ridiculous aversion bordering on stereotypical squeamishness.

I think there was a Fear Factor episode where the final contestants backed out from eating it. I honestly don’t get what all the fuss is all about – it’s just an egg…with a duck as a bonus. Heh.

cooking balut

I managed to get one that has a relatively intact and grown chick inside, complete with a beak and feathers. I reckon that’s the best kind – crunchy and well, feathery. smirk

balut duck embryo

The balut is kept in local cardboard insulated wood buckets and wrapped in layers of cloth to keep them warm – it’s quite nasty if you eat it cold coz part of the goodness of balut is the broth that comes out of the egg.

balut salt

The street venders sell it with a twist of salt in a conical newspaper wrapping – I got 2 balut eggs for 50 pesos (about RM 4). You’re supposed to eat it by cracking open the top of the balut egg, adding salt and slurping out the delicious juices before eating it.

I ate the first one without salt to get a more unadulterated experience and the second one with salt on the advice of the vendor. I preferred eating it without salt, the soup tastes almost exactly like chicken broth, and the half formed duck added a bit of texture and crunchiness to it.

balut

You can see the juices from the balut dripping down my hand in this photo. I’ve eaten balut before, it should have no offensive odors despite a lot of reports claiming otherwise – this is confirmed by a Pinoy friend of mine, who first introduced me to it by bringing it all the way from Manila to Sibu, causing a three day delay before I ate it. Heh.

Here’s a video of me eating it in a hurry (it was a high traffic area) and the associated local bystanders watching with interest and asking if I liked it.

There are a lot of myths associated with balut with claims such as improving male vitality and potency. That will put Pfizer and GSK out of business if it were true. ;) Similar claims have been made on dog meat, snake blood and bull’s penis. I am inclined to disregard all those and just eat it for the experience and taste.

eating balut

How does balut taste like? Well it just tastes like a regular boiled egg, except balut has a rich duck broth and a crunchy texture where the half formed chick resides. Xinxian agreed and added that it felt like she was eating egg shells.

I highly recommend that you try balut if you’re ever in the Philippines – it’s delicious in its own way and it’s one of those things that you have to try when you’re there. :)

broken teeth

I’ve been having trouble with one of my molars for a while now – it really hurts to chew but the pain suddenly went away one day so I thought it was fine.

…until just now that is. :x

intramuros

I was eating dinner at a local fast food restaurant in Intramuros, Manila where we had spent the day when I suddenly felt something crack inside my mouth. (!)

My initial thought was that it’s probably a stray bone, and I didn’t feel any pain so I ponderously chewed while attempting to spit the foreign object out. It looked harmless enough at first sight, until I ran my tongue along my left lower jaw and felt a hole with sharp jagged edges.

I have chipped my tooth! :(

I thought I’ll just get it fixed and since there wasn’t any pain, I figured I’ll just use the right side of my teeth to do the usual job of grinding food into manageable mush to swallow.

Unfortunately, about half an hour later, I felt a tingling sensation – the nerve endings in my gums are exposed!

That’s not too bad either, but later as we caught a cab back to the hotel I started to feel the onset of a headache of epic proportions. I used to suffer from migraines but it doesn’t have the characteristic warning signs of an impending one – it’s sensitivity to light for me.

I didn’t think much of it until I got a better look at my teeth. I was complaining about a headache of mysterious origin and suddenly it occurred to us that it could be due to the broken tooth. I don’t know if it’s infected or the massive migraine that I’m currently having is due to the exposed raw nerve endings on my gum but I’ve never had one this bad before.

chipped tooth

I really hope it’s not related but it’s starting to be quite apparent that it is due to the timeline and lack of migraine warning signs.

I just feel like puking, crawling into bed and curling up in a fetal position.

Posted: 11:54 pm Manila time (GMT +8)

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