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Bizarre Snacks in the Philippines

Traveling to the Philippines would expose you to certain kinds of food that you would never encounter again in other parts of the world. Since the range of gustatory delights in this country is quite extensive, we will just orient you with the Filipino concept of snacks. The Filipino term for snacks is “merienda”, pronounced as mer-yen-da. A merienda is any food that is eaten outside the three major meals, breakfast, lunch, and supper. This means that you may take a merienda after breakfast and before lunch, after lunch and before supper, and after supper before going to sleep. You may also take a merienda before you have had any breakfast. This would take away the concept of breaking fast in the morning, but who cares?

The favorite before-breakfast merienda of Filipinos is the pandesal, pronounced as pan-de-sal. It is basically bread made of flour and biscuit powder, and shaped into round pieces that are half the size of a man’s fist. There is nothing bizarre about pandesal except that when these are not sold, the baker slices and cooks them again and transforms them into a harder slices.

In after-breakfast merienda, you may be treated to snacks called “ginataan”, pronounced as gee-na-ta-ahn. In the Philippines, any food that contains coconut milk as the main ingredient is called ginataan. Thus you have types such as “ginataang mais (corn)”, “ginataang mungo” and “ginataang langka (jackfruit)”.

In after-lunch merienda, some Filipinos would slice unripe mangoes and dip them in a paste called “bagoong”, pronounced as ba-go-ohng. This salty dip is made of either small fish or shrimp. Bagoong may also be used as an appetizer or the main “ulam” (viand) in any of the three major meals.

After supper, late in the night, you would hear a man on the streets shouting, “ba-looot!” You think that the guy is crazy, conducting business at night. But what he is selling is actually a great after-supper merienda, the “balut”, pronounced as ba-loot. Most western stomachs cannot tolerate balut. It is actually a duck egg which is already fertilized and boiled. This means that the embryo of the duckling was already formed and the egg white has become several degrees harder. You may want to forego tasting this snack. But if you’re adventurous enough, eat it the way aliens eat birds in that old TV series entitled “V”. Eat it whole, moist feathers and all, because otherwise, you may just throw it up.

When Filipino men get together in an activity called “inuman” (ee-noo-man), they are actually engaged in drinking alcohol. The beer or gin is paired with a certain “pulutan” (poo-loo-tan). This refers to any meat, poultry, pork or beef, and cooked in any way, boiled or fried. But the favorite pulutan is called the “kinilaw” (kee-nee-law). It is raw fish or roasted pork that is marinated in vinegar with ginger, onions, garlic, and sometimes, pepper.

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