10 Street Food Business Ideas in the Philippines

A popular saying tells us that for you to be acquainted by the country’s culture, “You must taste its food.” The Philippine food will bring you discoveries about how Filipinos treasure their resources by maximizing its usage.

The street food in the country is one of, if not the best, food creations in the world.

It is simple, easy-to-prepare and rich in history and meaning.

Street food caters to the basic need of man – to eat. Thus, it gives people opportunities to earn money.

When money was tight, Filipinos definitely find ways to provide for their needs. For example, every part of a chicken is equivalent to money– literally every part of it. It can be fried or grilled and it really tastes delicious. The sauce, on the other hand, portrays a big role in this business.

It varies from sweet to spicy, to sour or a mixture of these, to suit everyone’s taste preference. The street food is usually skewered on a stick, put in a plastic cup or even in a bowl. Food preparation is not an issue, but it’s the taste that matters.

Years ago, street food can only be found, as the word suggests, along with the side streets and corners of highly populated places. Simple food stalls with plastic tables and chairs are set up along the way. This attracts people in blue-collar jobs; construction workers, traffic aides, public utility drivers and even students who have a limited food budget.

Today, the street food business can be found in the commercial center, food markets, and malls. A franchise is also common nowadays– from being served only in stick to expensive fine dining restaurant. Indeed, street food added a flavor to the Philippine Culture.

Why is street food so popular? Why do people show great interest in it?

No matter who you are, what brand of clothes you wear, where you live, whether you drive a car or just take public transport when tough times come, the need to survive arises.

Street food remains affordable. One can have an order of dumplings (siomai) with rice and black gulaman juice for only P 40.00. A complete meal for less than one dollar, or a tapsilog (tapa, sinangag or fried rice/rice) for 70.00 pesos. This can be the reason why people from corporate world are also patronizing street food business.

I have a friend during his hard times, survived by eating in street food for about three years until he became financially stable again. Now, he still chose to eat at his favorite street food store though he can afford to buy a steak. For him, eating street food is a reminder of what he went through and the struggles he overcame.

Aside from being affordable, street food is easy to prepare and served conveniently. With people always in a hurry, street food satisfies their fast-paced life. One can grab easily a certain food and go on their way. Living with the worst traffic daily, buying a street food allows you to avoid being hungry during your travel. Street food stalls are everywhere. You can find it in train stations, outside of school, bus terminals and near offices.

Eating street food has become socially acceptable. It has been featured many times on television shows or even in internet videos both locally and internationally, showcasing the influence and benefits it has to the people. International shows about travel and leisure like that of “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” and “Street Food Around the World with Ishay Golan” regularly feature Filipino Street Food.

And just recently, Furious Pete, famous speed-eating champion, documented his visit in the Philippines eating a famous Filipino cuisine – balut. The person, however, who put Filipino Street food on the limelight was Anthony Bourdain, a famous American chef, and a best-selling author. He had eaten balut many times, and his shows “Parts Unknown” and “No Reservations” promote Filipino food. He also ate halo-halo at a recent stint with “Live with Piers Morgan” on CNN.

Indeed, Filipino street food has become very famous. It made its mark in the world of food. Filipino street food is typical of low-cost value, no need of too much manpower, with lesser capital compared to big franchises, it caters people from all walks of life, the location can be anywhere, and marketing is easy because the foods are affordable.

There are many available concepts in starting a street food business. But if you have plans of starting your own, let me give you the Top 10 Filipino Street Food ideas that can help you in venturing your own business.

1. Dirty Ice Cream

This is one of the most loved Filipino food. Mamang Sorbetero or ice cream man scoops the ice cream and put it either in a cone, cup or bread without wearing gloves. Flavors vary from mango, chocolate, and ube or purple yam. One can have a delightful taste of all the flavors in one bite through the ice cream sandwich – a bun stuffed with all the flavors you want. Anyone who experienced this can tell of so many memories of how they would cry their heart out just to please their parents to buy one for them.

The world of dirty ice cream evolved through these years with flavors like avocado, ube macapuno, cashew or langka and even durian being introduced in the market, which received a warm welcome from ice cream lovers. Who knows maybe carabao’s milk or even goat’s will soon be served? A simple trivia: Did you know that when you eat ice cream, you do not taste its full flavor? This is because the cold numbs the taste receptors on your tongue. Better to warm the ice cream in a microwave until it simmers to fully taste its flavor. A friend suggested it to me and I did just what he told. And he was right! It almost knocked me to my feet when I tasted it! To add a mouth-watering idea, you can have an otap or a toasted bread to eat together with it.

2. Balut

Some say this is the most disgusting food we have. International shows like “Fear Factor”, “Bizarre Foods”, “Street Food Around the World”, “No Reservations” and many others feature Balut as the ultimate challenge to one’s stomach. Many contestants of a reality show find it ridiculous eating this food, to the point of making some of them vomit. Balut or “boiled duck embryo” is simple yet nutritious street food.

It has protein, no trans fat and just a gram of carbohydrates. An egg has only 80 calories, just enough for a full meal a day. Balut is best eaten with salt and spicy vinegar. The fame of balut caught the eyes of some fine dining restaurants’ owners, making them include balut in their menu. They serve it with toasted bread and with a twist, adding lemon juice, sautéing it in garlic, onions, pepper and adding salt to taste. With its neutral flavor, you can come up with many ideas to make Balut more presentable and attractive to eat.

3. Siomai

This street food is very popular in the market. Siomai is the fastest growing street food franchise in our country today. You can find siomai stalls almost everywhere, in schools, commercial centers, food courts of the malls or even in public terminals. It is so affordable. You can have four pieces of pork siomai for as low as P28.00 with soy and chilli sauce.

With its great taste, siomai is really something every person would always want to eat. Preparation in making siomai is easy and would not cost you much money. It is usually steamed and served hot. Unsold siomai can be fried the next day or served with hot noodle soup. Just like any other street food, sauce is a big factor to add flavours in siomai. Some just preferred soy sauce and calamansi extract while others choose to have chilli sauce.

4. Pinoy Barbecue

Barbecue comes in many flavors depending on which country you buy it. Countries like Australia, Brazil, and the USA compete for the best tasty barbecue which includes steak, ribs, and sausages. Well, perhaps the unique barbecue creation is from the Philippines. Just what I’ve said earlier, we had maximized all the chicken parts just to cater the basic need of man to eat. Chicken intestines or isaw, chicken ass or pwet, chicken feet or Adidas and even chicken blood or Betamax are sold in the market. Talking about being resourceful, the secret of barbecue is on its marinade. You can have it sweet and spicy or savoury. People would patronize your barbecue if it suits their taste.

5. Fish Balls

Fishball can be considered as the “Pambansang Street Food” of the Philippines. When the word “street food” is mentioned the first thing that would come to our mind is fish ball. It can be found almost every street of the Philippines. Just like any other street food, what makes fish ball more marketable is the sauce. The sweet sauce is the favorite of the many, and then it ranges from spicy to extreme spicy with vinegar. Have your pick! Alongside fish balls, one can find squid balls, chicken balls and kikiam which are also cooked by deep frying. Fishball is a street food you can always eat anytime, anywhere at a very affordable price.

6. Banana Cue

Filipino’s choice of food is extraordinary. They love spicy and sour foods, but most of them love sweet food. Just imagine putting sugar or milk in spaghetti sauce. Now here comes a banana coated with sugar. Banana cue is a popular snack for most of the Filipinos. Bananas are deeply fried, added with sugar until it melts and covers the whole banana. Turon or banana wrapped in lumpia wrapper, sweet potato or best known as camote cue, are fried and sprinkled with sugar to satisfy the cravings. There are also stalls inside the malls that serve these snacks too.

7. Beef / Chicken Pares

People often visit this stall, especially during lunchtime. “Pares”, a product of our Chinese heritage means to pair with. Traditional Pares which can either be chicken or beef noodle soup is eaten with siopao, a Chinese bread delicacy with meat stuffed inside. To add flavor, Pares soup is drizzled with soy sauce, sometimes fish sauce or “patis” and calamansi juice. This helps neutralize the oil in the soup. Pares is affordable meal which can be eaten during breakfast, lunch or dinner. The key to having a delightful taste of pares is through its broth. Broth is either mixture of two or all of chicken, pork and fish bones boiled with spices until the natural flavor come out.

8. Tapsilogan

Tapsilog is the Filipino counterpart of New York’s “Steak and Eggs”. This is traditionally served during breakfast. But as time goes by, much franchise now offers it for the whole day as demand rises. Tapsilog is the combination of the words “tapa” or marinated beef steak, “sinangag” or fried rice and “itlog” or egg. With the evolution of tapsilog comes longsilog (longganisa, sinangag and itlog), tosilog (tocino, sinangag and itlog), hotsilog (hotdog, sinangag and itlog), among others.

There are beef tapa which is cut in small pieces while some are shredded. The taste doesn’t depend on the way the meat is cut, however, but on the marinade. So far, the best tapsilog I’ve ever tasted comes with a condiment made with radish, onions, ginger, sugar, peppers and vinegar. The meat is shredded and mixed in a bowl of rice, of which you can choose between white and brown anyway. To have a great finale eating a tapsilog, try it with a bottle of chilled fresh dalandan juice. Such a perfect combination, satisfaction is guaranteed! You can also try eating it with Filipino’s all-time favorite “tuyo”. The best value of street food right before your eyes.

9. Taho

Taho is a bean curd matched with sweet syrup and sago. One can wake up in the morning hearing a man shouting “Ta-ho! Ta-hooo!”. Served while hot, this Filipino food is considered as the cleanest among the known street food. There are changes with taho these past few years. New flavors were introduced like ube, buko, pandan, chocolate and strawberry taho. Though all flavors taste good, as for me the original one still rocks! It has stood the test of time and remains one of the sought-after street foods in the Philippines.

10. Halo-Halo

Halo-halo (literally translated as Mix-Mix) is a mixture of different fruits, and ingredients like to name a few; macapuno, sweetened jackfruit or banana, purple yam, rice crisps, garbanzo beans, leche flan, shaved ice and sweetened milk. This is an ideal street food in the Philippines because of the refreshing and cooling effect it has on one’s body especially during summer season. Many versions of Halo-Halo exist in the country. Fast food chains and restaurants have their own versions, too.

This typically points to the fact that Filipino’s creativity is also showcased in the way they serve the food. In the show “Top Chef”, a Filipino with the name of Chef Dale Talde, made his own version of this famous food which gained him praise from all the judges. There are some halo-halo makers who use smooth ice that melts like cream when the ingredients are mixed. While others add flavored syrup, ice cream, and condensed milk. Halo-halo business is a good investment. You just need to have the right mixture of ingredients and great ice shaver.

Start your Street Food Business. If you would take time exploring the vast richness of Filipino street food, you will know that what I have enumerated are just a few of the many street foods you can invest in. Just to add to the list, there’s “maruya” or banana fritters. Also, binatog or steamed white corn kernels mixed with coconut milk and sugar; mouth-watering “manggang hilaw” served with shrimp paste; “day old” deep fried chicken; “Ginanggang” a charcoal grilled banana dusted with sugar and “bulaklak”, deep fried intestine added with salt.

To have all of the top 10 street food in one restaurant is a great venture in recognizing the importance of every street food in the economic aspect of every Filipino. These famous street foods need not prove their taste because from generation to generation, Filipinos are still craving after them.

The simplicity of Filipino street food manifests the lifestyle and creativity of Filipino in making an income. Though they need not be extravagant in presentation, the taste from every bite of these foods will already make one ask for more.

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