I’m sure we’ve all been broke before. I mean, not for lack of economic opportunity in our adult lives, but there was a time where we were young, dumb students living on whatever allowance we could scrape up. That tends to narrow our options down for pretty much everything. But hey, it’s a life and luckily there are still ways to get by.
Think of this situation, you want to go to the movies over the weekend. Great, but you also have a nice pair of shoes you just HAVE to cop because they’re on sale. What do you do? Simple. Cut down on everything else. Most of us spend so much on food, so that’s where people tend to start when the penny pinching begins.
On a related note, I'm also too broke to get my own stock images. Anyway...
It’d be cool if you could just eat what everyone does at home. That’s great if you live with your family, but for dorm-dwellers and people who generally live on their own with little or no time to cook, you don’t really get a lot of options.
Say hello to street food, then. Inexpensive, readily available, and a reminder that things do get better eventually. At the very least, you’re going to enjoy the next box of fried chicken you get. Humbling, yeah. That’s the word.
Let’s take a quick look at the life-saving and effortless comfort of some of our favorite street foods!
Set lasers to savory
Major staple meals are usually the first to go when your budget starts wearing thin. I mean, you could have three meals a day, but it’s just not the same if it doesn’t inspire you. This is where savory and mouthwatering street favorites come in.
On top of your run-of-the-mill ulam, these dishes are found pretty much everywhere. Whether it’s your friendly neighborhood karinderya or a lonely stand in the middle of nowhere, a satisfying plate of the good stuff is never too far. Oh, and they rarely ever cost more than 50 bucks!
Some favorites include the brisket and soup tandem of pares, the savory-sweet taste of Filipino barbecue, a steamy bowl of lugaw or arroz caldo, and the unmistakable experience of being half-drunk and slumped over a serving of street noodles.
A budget-sized sweet tooth
Street treats aren’t always about sneaking a power lunch in that break before your 2:30PM class. Sometimes, you just need a little pick-me-up. Or a reward. Or just a little something to say, “You tried! Nowhere to go but up!”
School life wouldn’t be complete without a couple of stands flanking your campus with fruits on a stick, slathered in sugar and prepped for the frying pan. Turon is an iconic Filipino snack made up of fried banana rolls. It’s an incredibly inventive dish that’s near endlessly customizable. Need some caramel or jackfruit in there? No problem. Roll that sucker in!
Bananacue is another familiar sight. It’s exactly what it sounds like. It’s a banana on a stick, all sugared up and fried to a nice, golden-brown color. (Mental note: I should really swing by that school around the block for some)
If you need to cool down on a hot day, your favorite street vendor has that figured out too. With how crazy the weather’s been, you’ll be needing something cool. Ice scramble or iskrambol (no, it’s not a Hare Krishna band) is a streetside drink that’s made up of crushed ice, evaporated milk, banana syrup (or flavoring), and a bit of sugar. Toppings optional, but preferred!
A loving walk down hepa lane
Ah, THE iconic Filipino street food. It’s not so much a singular dish, but a revolving cast of bite-sized treats dunked into an oil-filled pan. Much like the hawker stands and carts that dot Hong Kong and Singapore’s culinary landscape, our very own street vendors take anything they can and turn them into an afternoon of grilled or fry-and-dip fun.
Whether it’s the intestinal innovation in every stick of isaw or the flavorful coagulations of a block of betamax, you’re always in for a ride. It doesn’t always have to be blood and guts though! Fish balls, chicken balls, and squid balls are a great all-day snack. Oh, and some stands even fry tiny hot dogs too!
There’s tons of variety there, and if finding a use for a chicken’s proventriculus isn’t a sign of streetwise imagination, I don’t know what is. Yes, it’s a real thing.
While that sounds like a lot, the other half of the experience is being able to dip an entire stick of your hot friends into tubs full of vinegar or sweet and sour sauce. Other streetside favorites include boiled peanuts or nilagang mani, and deep-fried chicken skin.
It's all good. Don't be shy.