When we Pinoys have our meals, dessert is often inexistent. I mean, a chunk of melts-in-your-mouth pork humba with its sweet, salty and tangy sauce slathered over a cup of rice is already a complete meal for a typical Filipino. It’s great if there’s a glass of juice or softdrinks, or maybe a banana or a slice of mango because that would be the “sweet” part of the meal.
But desserts, the actual sweet stuff eaten after a rich main dish, are commonly reserved during special occasions as fiestas, birthday celebration or Noche Buena dinner on Christmas Eve.
Nevertheless, Pinoys are fond of sweets. Like many other nationalities, the Filipino people will never say no to a dessert. And so we eat sweet dishes and delicacies throughout the day as snacks in between meals. We even go for sweet rice cakes and the bittersweet sikulate at dawn – which technically could pass for dessert taken during the earliest part of the day.
Now, if you’re asking where do Pinoys get their servings of the sweet stuff when virtually none is served on their dining table at home? The answer is: at the streets. Here are ten of the best-tasting, dessert-quality treats you can buy off the streets of the Philippines, which goes to show that Filipinos eat dessert whenever, wherever. And no, it dessert doesn’t always have to be the last part of the meal served on a dainty dessert plate.
10. Chocolates & Local Candies
Whether it’s a bar of commercial chocolate or chocolate candy, there’s a lot of it you can buy from small sari-sari stores scattered along the highways or from street peddlers that intermingle with motorists during a red light. A favorite among Pinoys would be the more affordable ones like Cloud 9, Goya and Big Bang. For P5, you already have a chocolate dessert on the go. If you’re not into chocolates, you can also go for local candies like yema, peanut brittle, cotton candy, pastillas, masareal, and tartlets, among others.
Bakery chains are scattered along the high traffic streets of the country, and they serve an array of breads and pastries. It’s amazing how you can buy a slice of chocolate cake, lemon chiffon cake or custard cake for only P10. More refined bakeries and restaurants would charge at least triple each slice.
8. Sweetened Buko
As a tropical country, coconuts grow almost like weeds everywhere. So it’s common to spot a cart with a pile of coconuts parked along the streets. Coconut vendors sell coconuts per piece usually from P25 to P30 and offer to pack in plastic bags the fruit’s shredded meat and juice (you can have the juice and meat packed separately, if you wish). They also sell sweetened buko juice with shredded meat of the fruit packed in small jars or disposable cups. If you want, you can drink up the juice straight from the husk with a straw pierced through a small opening, and then afterwards have the coconut sliced in two so you can access the sweet, soft meat inside.
7. Maja Blanca
Maja Blanca is a sweet pudding made of cornstarch, coconut milk, and sugar, topped or mixed with toasted peanuts, sweet corn, and/or coconut. It’s a typical Pinoy dessert that’s easy and affordable to make. The pudding, while hot and fluid, is poured into molds and then cut into bars or triangles after setting. The slices are then placed inside clear plastic for easy peddling in the streets. You can buy Maja Blanca for P10 per slice.
6. Fruit Salad
Fruit salad is another local favorite. Pinoys would buy fruit cocktail in a can, blend it with cream and condensed milk to create a quick and easy fruit salad. Today, you can see vendors with their stalls lined up along sidewalk, or salad peddlers roaming the streets with their scooters with a huge container of salad in between the seat and the leg shield. Sometimes these vendors sell variants of the dessert salad such as buko or mango pandan, ice scramble or “sa malamig” milk and jelly drinks. These concoctions have two things in common: they contain milk and sugar.
5. Banana Cue, Turon, Etc
Filipinos are fond of cooked bananas smeared with caramel sauce or sprinkled with sugar. Banana cue is deep fried saba bananas covered in sugar and skewered in bamboo sticks, hence the name cue. Sometimes, the banana is sliced thinly and spread like a fan, dipped in flour batter and fried. Sometimes, it is wrapped with rice or flour paper along with a few strips of jackfruit, and deep fried. To make these saba banana dishes lean towards the sweet side, they are covered in caramel or sugar crystals. Prices of banana desserts you can buy off the streets start at P10.
4. Dirty Ice Cream
Sorbetes or dirty ice cream is essentially the only ice cream that’s readily available along the streets at very affordable prices depending on the amount of ice cream you buy. They are not really “dirty” but called as such because the ice cream doesn’t contain goat’s or cow’s milk but coconut milk, is street-peddled and doesn’t follow strict regulations. Case in point, the waffle cones aren’t wrapped in tissue for sanitary purposes, but held by the peddler’s bare hand as he dips his entire other arm into the deep, narrow container where the ice cream is kept frozen. If you analyze it too much, you might cringe at the thought of eating ice cream this way. But I’ve eaten a lot of sorbetes years back and I never recalled having upset stomach after. I’m just not too sure about the peddled sorbetes sold today. When in doubt, you can go for commercial ice cream in bars and cups sold by larger sari-sari stores along the streets.
3. Rice Cake
The Philippines is known for hundreds of rice cake delicacies. You can see street vendors bring a tray of individually wrapped masi, biko, bingka, etc. You may also notice a peddler roaming the streets and neighborhoods, bringing a hand bell and carrying on his shoulder two buckets balanced with a wooden rod, which contains his merchandise – the infamous pair of puto and kuchinta. If you’re observant, rice cake vendors are also present in rural areas, along national highways to showcase the town’s delicacy.
2. Ice Candy/Ice Pop
If you ever see people carrying Styrofoam ice buckets around the city, they’re not actually selling the styro buckets, but ice candy. Ice candy is basically a local version of a fruit popsicle. Fruit meat and/or juices are blended with sugar and sometimes milk, and packed individually in long, narrow clear plastic tied at the end, and then frozen. Once frozen, the sweet, fruity blend turns into an ice-cold dessert that you eat as you would a regular popsicle.
Halo-halo is the hallmark of Filipino icy dessert. It contains different ingredients such as fresh fruits and fruit preserves, jelly, candied beans, leche flan, milk, sugar, and of course shaved ice topped with ice cream. Halo-halo means mix, and this dessert is therefore best eaten by mixing all the ingredients first. While there are fine Filipino and Chinese restaurants that offer halo-halo, you can visit street-side stalls selling halo-halo and other iced desserts for nearly half the price.
Care for some dessert? No matter what time of day it is in the Philippines, it’s always a great time to have some sweets. Head down to the nearest street corner to find any one of these sweet treats to satisfy your dessert cravings. Meanwhile, share this story with your social media friends. Let them know that affordable desserts are just around the corner.