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One of the most fascinating places for a tourist to visit in the Philippines (or in any foreign country really) isn’t a touristy locale at all – it’s the grocery store. Any first-timer who makes a trip to a Philippine supermarket and makes a turn at the junk food aisle is in for a unique treat of quirky snacks and flavours. Here are the Filipino snacks every traveller should try.
Chicharron are fried pork rinds, and Filipinos love them. They are usually dipped in vinegar, and they go wonderfully well with beer. But it’s no secret that they’re not the healthiest of treats – it is, after all, deep-fried pork skin. However, Filipinos have created the snack out of vegetables, allowing themselves to enjoy delicious chicharron without the guilt. Remarkably tasty, the healthier variant is made of dehydrated green peas and potatoes and comes in an original salted flavour and a vinegar one. The most well-known brands offered in the market today are Oishi Marty’s Cracklin’ and Chicharron ni Mang Juan.
Yes, this is an actual flavour combination, and it’s fantastic. These golden yellow crackers, by the Monde Nissin Corporation, will have you hooked from the moment you rip the pack open. Have one bite of the coco-buttery goodness, and you’ll soon find yourself finishing the entire pack on your own.
This treat has been a longtime favourite, as generations of Filipino children grew up with this sweet-savoury snack. It’s like the country’s version of the classic Planters Cheez Balls. Except here, the addicting round corn puffs are coated in a sweet corn-flavoured powder. The original, well-loved Golden Sweet Corn, is by the Regent Foods Corporation.
Another snack that goes perfectly with beer is garlic-flavoured cornicks. They’re salty and crunchy and don’t hold back on the taste of garlic. Though Boy Bawang by KSK Food Products is the more famous brand, another cornick line by the name of Corn Bits by W.L. Foods is just as good. Both brands have grown to offer a great variety of cornick flavours, but the classic garlic is always a wise choice.
An absolute classic Filipino favourite is Choc Nut. About the size of an eraser, the small bars are made mostly of two things: chocolate and peanuts. The sweet treat is quite fragile and quick to crumble. But this texture doesn’t mean it’s powdery and dry; once it hits the palate, you experience it in all of its melt-in-your-mouth goodness. The taste is not a case of one ingredient overpowering the other; because the flavours of the milk chocolate and peanut are balanced, they complement each other perfectly. Though King Choc Nut is the proud original, another brand producing the treat is Hany.
To Filipino children, Yakee! gumballs are not just snacks – they are a challenge. Vibrantly coloured, these are regular sweet-tasting gumballs encased in an extremely sour coating. Trying to get past the acidic exterior without making a face always makes for a good dare and funny attempts.
Last but not least, Stik-O Wafers are another addictive Filipino snack. These wafer sticks come in a bucket-like container, so expect to keep subconsciously reaching in. Before you know it, all that remains are the sticks that are clinging to the container’s walls. They now come in a range of flavours, including chocolate, mocha, and ube (purple yam). And though there are several other wafer sticks brands in the country, Stik-O is still the most popular, with its closest competitor being Superstix.