All this buzz around Saturday’s huge La Cocina San Francisco Street Food Festival is making me crave for street eats I grew up with back home.  They aren’t plates of chicken adobo and sisig tacos but they aren’t fertilized duck eggs and grilled chicken feet either.  I know, I’m such a big whimp.  Street food from the Philippines.  I guess you’d expect something exotic, something bizarre, something Andrew Zimmern would dive face first into, like the notorious balut — the duck egg with a duck fetus inside, steamed and eaten in its entirety including the little duck’s tiny beak, tiny webbed feet and tiny feathers.  Or grilled chicken parts, perhaps — grilled chicken head (helmet), grilled chicken intestines (isaw), grilled dried chicken blood (betamax), or grilled chicken feet (adidas) in bamboo skewers fresh off the scorching hot charcoal grill.  I don’t think so.  I guess I was not as adventurous as I am now but, seriously, those things are nasty.  Absolutely nasty.

If I wasn’t nibbling on duck beaks or chicken intestines growing up then what was I spending my measly lunch allowance on?  Here are my top five favorite street eats, in no particular order.

1. Grilled corn.  Lightly charred golden ears of corn are the perfect snack on the street.  Firmly grab one end and start nibbling the juicy, smoky kernels on the other. Cornick, or corn nuts — deep-fried corn kernels tossed with plenty of garlic and salt — are tasty curbside snacks, too along with greasy deep-fried peanuts.


Grilled Corn


2. Pork barbecue.  Succulent cuts of pork butt and pork belly marinated in sweet barbecue sauce, threaded into bamboo skewers, and grilled over hot coals.  These pork barbecue skewers are the best grab-and-go lunch best enjoyed with an ice-cold bottle of cola.


Pork Barbecue


3.  Sorbetes.  Scoops of sorbetes piled high on a crunchy sugar cone are my quick sugar fix on hot summer days.  Back home, there are no ice cream trucks playing It’s A Small World nonstop all day but there are colorful ice cream carts peddling tasty avocado, jackfruit, coconut, mango, and, my all-time favorite, ube ice cream.




4. Tahô.  A tall glass of warm tahô is my kind of street beverage either for breakfast or afternoon snack.  Tahô is fresh soft tofu sweetened with arnibal — brown sugar and vanilla syrup, mixed with chewy spheres of sago — tapioca.  It always hits the spot.




5. Fish balls.  Minced mystery fish meat — just don’t ask what exactly they are made of, it may not be pretty but it’s definitely tasty — formed into doughnut-hole-sized balls, deep-fried, and threaded into bamboo skewers. These are my favorite after-school snacks, which are best enjoyed when dipped in a spicy vinegar-based sweet and sour sauce.  Classic street meat.


Fish Balls


La Cocina hosts this year’s San Francisco Street Food Festival on August 21st, which promises to be even bigger than last year, seven times the space and four times the number of vendors.  Follow this link to learn more information about this street food event.

  • MissTdJ

    Sour green mango on a stick, slathered in bagoong. I’m drooling just thinking about it.

  • Jun Belen

    That was my number 6!! I stuck with 5 because of the fabulous five favorite foods alliteration.

  • Brian

    banana-q deserves an honorable mention. remember to break the skewer in half before throwing it away!

  • Pepy @Indonesia Eats

    We call tahu for tofu. Your taho is call kembang tahu. It’s flavoured with coconut/palm sugar, ginger, and pandan leaves. How do you enjoy your grilled corn? We enjoyed it with hot sauce.

    We also love fish dumplings that we eat it spicy sweet tamarind sauce

    The dishes are very similar, aren’t they???

    I always love street food.

  • karmina

    have you ever had bbqed banana brushed with butter (or Star margarine) and sprinkled with white sugar? HEAVEN on a bbq stick!

  • Jun Belen

    Yes, Brian, banana-cue deserves a spot! And how responsible of you to remember breaking the skewer in half. So cool!!

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you, Pepy! It’s really amazing how similar Filipino and Indonesian food are. I’ve read about tahu and I was blown away. I actually love grilled corn as it is but I should try it with hot sauce next time. I was in Seoul a couple of years ago and they also love to grill their corn.

  • Jun Belen

    Oh my! How can I forget STAR margarine on banana-cue. Thank you Karmina for reminding me!! Like I told Brian, banana-cue deserves a spot in the list. So many good stuff!

  • Emma

    Yes, definitely the green mango with bagoong and the fish balls that you can dunk in whichever sauce your heart desired. I vividly remember the vendors waiting outside my school, Holy Spirit School. :) Thanks for letting me reminisce.

  • Marc

    I like how you say the chicken parts are nasty, yet you absolutely love the mystery-meat fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love fish balls as much as the next person (my dad makes the best fish ball soup ever). But chicken feet is just as awesome when cooked right.

  • Jun Belen

    Thanks, Marc for stopping by! I actually do like chicken feet — dim-sum style though. At least the mystery-fish-meat is presented more discretely than isaw or adidas! :-) Cheers!

  • Jun Belen

    Thanks for stopping by, Emma! Glad I made you reminisce those good ol’ times! :-)

  • MissTdJ

    To Emma: I went to Poveda grade school near Ortigas, and I think we had all the same vendors too! Mmmm fishballs dripping in thick sawsawan…

  • foodhoe

    Mmmm, they all sound so good! But I want that tofu drink, is there anyone local serving up a good one?

  • Jun Belen

    I don’t think there’s anyone serving taho in the Bay Area, maybe someone will pick up this post and run with the idea of making taho in the city! Maybe one of the food trucks or street cars. Thank you!

  • Noreylee

    i think its harsh + unreasonable to call those street foods you mentioned absolutely nasty. to me, those types of foods you mentioned are a lot of fun + meant to be social dishes — the types that you have to gimick wt friends + family in the philippines (or in my case, nhau in vietnam since i am a pilipino-american living in vietnam). when seasoned + cooked properly, those dishes + similar dishes (blood sausage, duck blood, chicken tails, cartilage, gizzards, etc) are delicious! very disappointing to read, especially coming from a pilipino food photographer/blogger.

    also if the purpose behind street food is a fast + cheap meal to fill you up for a meal, how can two desserts + a vegetable be the majority of your top 5 street foods?

  • Jun Belen

    Hello Noreylee,

    Please do not think that I have nothing good to say about Filipino street food. My intention in writing that a fertilized duck egg and grilled chicken feet are nasty was to poke fun and not to be disrespectful. I clearly have a preference based on my experiences but I hope you respect this preference. I guess this is what blogging is all about. Like what I said in a previous comment, I actually do love chicken feet — when done right, when cooked right. As a matter of fact I do love barbecued chicken tails. I hope I did not turn you off by my writing and I hope that you would continue to read my blog.


  • Tess (Out of the Ktichen)


  • Marianne

    I got your link from a common friend. I must say I love reading your blog. I am actually doing a get together at my place and my theme for the party is “Filipino street food”. I do agree with you about some street foods ie balut, chicken feet uggh. I think that there are so many street foods out there that you don’t have to love everything. I am not a picky eater, I will try something once but I will not try it again if I did’nt like it the first time. Keep posting I love your blogs and especially love your pictures.


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  • Field Trip Boy

    Fish balls are the best. Try also Banana Que, another favorite street food here in the Philippines. 

  • flymyself

    TAHO ! looks super uber delicious !