World Street Food Congress 2017: Why Philippine Street Food Was Misrepresented

For many Filipinos, Street Food is a part of daily life. While on your way to work, to school, and to church. It’s readily available, on the street corner, at the bus stop, in the marketplace. We look for it during our 15-minute work break, after school, and whenever the craving comes. We enjoy this guilty pleasure more than we care to admit, but what is Street Food?

According to Street Food Institute, “Street food is tasty, ready-to-eat food or drink sold on the street, in a market, fair, park or other public place. It is sold by a hawker or vendor from a portable stall, cart or food truck. 

 

Hong Kong Street Food
Street Food from UP Diliman (The Philippines)

 

We enjoy Street food for these reasons: It’s quick, It’s inexpensive, and it’s ethnic. Street Food is a way, to sample local delicacies and learn more about the local culture. Personally, I prefer to eat this, when I travel to see and live how the locals do.

Luckily,  it’s the World Street Food Congress 2017, and for a few days, we are able to sample other countries Street Food right here in Manila. No need to get on a plane, and no need to book a hotel. Just head over to the Mall of Asia Concert Grounds for a taste of these hawker groups from all over the world.

The Makansutra group has gathered over 28 stalls with 35 different kinds of delicacies, from 12 different countries all over the world. This food jamboree was from May 31 to June 4, giving us 5 days to try all these varying global flavors.

Untitled
Map of the 28 Stalls

Once we arrived at the venue, we paid an entrance fee of 150 PHP per head, the good thing is it’s consumable.

The many stalls can be quite overwhelming, so the best thing to do is to go to the whole length of the platform and review your choices before making your purchase.

For seating, there are several picnic tables available in front of the stalls, as well as, other tents.

Nasi Lemak, 270 PHP

Stall no. 8 belongs to WSFC founder KF Seetoh from Makansutra Hawkers in SM Megamall.  They presented their rendition of Singapore’s Nasi Lemak. Nasi Lemak is a dish composed of rich rice cooked in coconut,  topped with fried fish, sambal egg, ikan bilis, cucumber, peanuts, with a side of chicken wings served on a banana leaf. The varying textures and spices make this a flavorful and filling dish.

Pork Tostados, 280 PHP

Chopped up pork trotters, on a bed of black bean tostadas and avocado, topped with pickled radish and cabbage. Although the dish was very vibrant, the texture was not something I enjoyed. Everything was too mushy to a fault.

Aloo Tikki, 200 PHP

One of the most popular food stalls is Mangla Chaat, offering the popular street snack Aloo Tikki – this Indian croquette is made of potatoes, onions, lentils and various spices. It is then served with 3 different sauces topped with sweetened curd, coriander, and tamarind chutney. This vegetarian dish blew me away, the contrast of the textures of the potatoes from chewy to crunchy, and the diverse flavors that vary from sweet, sour, tangy, and spicy. This was easily the best dish from the whole congress.

Here is the Street Food available per country:

  • Philippines – Kaldereta Ramen, Sisig Paella, Kare Kare Palabok, Goat Sinigang, Tongue Lengua Con Setas Oliva Gua Ba, La Paz Batchoy, Empanada, Longaniza Bagnet Pizza, Pinakbet Pizza, Pork Monggo with rice, Pyanggang grilled chicken and Junay with egg, Bicol Express Risotto, Piaya, and Chicken Inasal in a pita.
  • Singapore– Nasi Lemak, Coffee Pork Burger, Curry Chicken Burger, Lamb Mee Goreng, Roti John, Fried Salted Egg Yolk Pork Ribs, and Crispy Fried Cereal Chicken Chunks.
  • India– Jhaal Murhi, Bhelpuri, and Aloo Tikki
  • Malaysia – Putu Mayam
  • Japan – Kushikatsu
  • China – Chinese Style Beef Stew, Soi Lum, Red Bean Soup with Aged Tangerin Peel and Ginger Milk Custard.
  • Indonesia – Bali BBQ Ribs, Batagor, and Martabak Manis.
  • Mexico – Fish Taco and  Pork Trotters with  Black Bean Tostadas
  • Taiwan – Oyster Omelette
  • Thailand – Moo Ping and spicy-tangy Som Tum.
  • Vietnam –  Banh Xeo and Bánh Bèo.
  • USA – Fish and Chips
  • Germany – Currywurst

Unfortunately, I was unable to try all the dishes that the World Street Food Congress had to offer I had a few insights that I feel needs to be addressed.

Insight 1: I don’t think that Filipino Street Food was given justice and NOT WELL REPRESENTED. Where’s the isaw? Where’s the Pares? Where’s the kwek-kwek and the balut? Ask any Filipino, monggo, ramen, and sinigang will not be in their list of Street Food. However, I also liked the fact that a lot of different regions were represented. We just cannot fathom why JP Anglo and his Sarsa stall was there- Chicken Inasal in a pita pocket is not necessarily a Filipino classic street food and clearly, they do not sell their Negrese dishes on the side streets.

Street food is gate to the countries culture, by definition it’s something tasty, served fast, and sold by the street or hawker stalls. People from all walks of life are able to experience it because it’s affordable. I don’t think that’s the right venue to just serve modern Filipino food.

Ask any Filipino and majority of those food served will not be on their list of their definition of street food. Btw, some notable dishes that I thought was appropriate was the Sisig, the palabok, the batchoy, and empanada, they had a right to be there so please don’t single those dishes out.

But what would be wrong to serve what is in the eyes of most Filipinos our local street food? Taiwan did it, Vietnam did it, Singapore did it, so what’s wrong with ours? I came there as a consumer with an open mind with no bias. It seems our usual Street Food is not enough for this Congress.

Insight 2: Street food by nature is relatively inexpensive but the prices in the Congress was from 150 PHP to 300 PHP.  In Filipino standards, that should already get you a good meal in a casual dining establishment.

Overall, It was a good experience and event to try all these different kinds of Street Food, all in once place without the need of getting on a plane. We’re just cringing to the fact that the Philippines, given that we’re the hosting country had been misrepresented. Nevertheless, this event is a good experience and we’re looking forward to next year.

 


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