Street food was officially off-limits to me as a kid. Between typhoid, cholera and intestinal parasites (just some of the supposed evils associated with street food at the time and, perhaps, still today), I was not allowed to purchase anything from a street vendor, not even dirty ice cream. I may be just a bit older than most of my readers as I actually recall that the vast majority of street food on offer when I was a kid was not hot, fried (or grilled) and oily. There were several barbeque, fish ball and other ambulant vendors, but I remember mostly the fruit and snack vendors â€“ street food was predominantly snack food back then. Without a doubt, my favorite street food is a crunchy sour green mango, sold with bagoong or shrimp paste. I went to grade school in Quezon City and right outside my school there were several vendors and despite the ban on anything streetside, I used to occasionally buy some green mango. I never did get sick but the dire warnings of the plague usually meant I enjoyed this snack at home in more hygienic conditions. The sourness of the mango and the jolting saltiness of the bagoong are a match made in heaven. I also liked the sweeter and less acidic indian mangoes with saltâ€¦
Other fruits or veggies on offer included peeled santol that bobbed in acidulated water until customers purchased them. They used to sell santol with some rock salt with little cuts into the fruit so you could easily take the rind off and get to the seeds inside. If one’s allowance was running low, then a single singakamas or jicama with salt was another snack alternative, though I have to admit I have never purchased this off of the street. Other totally clean, nutritious and delicious (though not to a 10 year old) snacks were senorita bananas (fantastic packaging), lanzones or any other fruit in season which the buyer peeled themselves. At the height of the season, one could also purchase carefully peeled pinya or pineapple sold by the slice or wedges of bright red pakwan or watermelon. How can I not mention fresh buko or coconut and cantaloupe juices that were stored in tall plastic containers that they would stick a ladle into to fill your plastic cup with?
Corn was also a popular street food option as well. For some reason, most Filipinos subscribed to the â€œyou must cook corn for hours school of thoughtâ€ so the corn sold was always way overcooked. Sold from carts that also ply busy intersections, hot boiled or steamed corn was, and still is, a favorite. While on self-packaged fruits that are then steamed to kill all the cooties, how about steamed or boiled peanuts that are also sold streetside? Yum. Even better are their greasy version â€“ fried peanuts with lots of garlic. Finally, my all time favorite cooked fruit is saba bananas and as street food they were sold as turon, banana-que or maruyaâ€¦ the smell that comes from a boiling vat of fat with caramelizing sugar is burned into my memory banks foreverâ€¦ blindfolded, I would know if you walked me past a banana-que vendor!