Decoding the Filipino Menu 2: The Pinoy Merienda (Snack)

If a foreigner stays long enough in the Philippines and spends a lot of time with Filipinos, they will notice one thing: that we, Pinoys, love to eat. Any occasion calls for some eating. It is not even an exaggeration to say that as we eat, we are already thinking of the next meal and by next, it need not be lunch or dinner but the ever popular Pinoy merienda (snack) that occurs between breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, and even between dinner and breakfast!

Photo courtesy of Natalya Quall
Any sandwich, spaghetti, noodles, corn on the cob, pizza, doughnuts, chips and crackers (especially taken with a soft drink in a plastic bag and straw) can comprise a typical Pinoy merienda. But for that really local feel, try any of the following:

Photo courtesy of Turning Boholano
Pan de sal
Pan de sal (bun; pronounced as “pun-de-sahl”) is a Filipino breakfast staple as well as merienda that is best eaten hot and fresh from the oven. It is mildly sweet so it can be eaten alone or with the usual bread filling like butter, peanut butter, cheese, etc. You might even want to dip it in coffee.

Photo courtesy of Kusina Animanang
Ensaymada (pronounced as “en-sai-mah-dah”) is pastry baked in butter and topped with grated cheese and sugar.
Photo courtesy of Food Pick Me
Siopao (pronounced as “sho-pow”) is a steamed pork bun which comes in either asado (“ah-sah-dough” pork barbecue) or bola-bola (“ball-lah” minced pork) fillings. Usually eaten with a separate sweet thick sauce to be spread on top before taking a bite.

Photo courtesy of Food Pick Me
Siomai (pronounced as “sho-my”) is a Chinese pork dumpling that has become a Pinoy favorite. It is eaten with soy sauce and lime dip.
Photo courtesy of The Filipino Food Blog
Pancit Palabok
Pancit palabok (pronounced as “pun-sit pah-lah-bok”) is a glass noodle dish with shrimp sauce topped with shrimp, pork, smoked fish flakes, crushed pork rind, fried tofu, fried garlic and sliced eggs. Like spaghetti, you need to mix them first before eating.

There are other variants of pancit noodles that are equally popular merienda staples like pancit bihon (“bee-hone”) and pancit canton. They differ on the type of noodle used and slightly on the toppings. 

Photo courtesy of Delicacies in Binan
Puto (pronounced as “pooh-toh”) is a bite-sized steamed rice cake that may be served plain or topped with cheese and a slice of salted egg. It is usually white in color but if you see colored puto, it is indicative of either flavoring or just coloring.

Photo courtesy of YouTube
Sapin-sapin (“layers;” pronounced as “sah-pin”) is a three-layered glutinous rice made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, water, purple yam and coconut flakes. It is usually served like pizza where you slice a piece for yourself---and another, and another….

Photo courtesy of Panlasong Pinoy
Suman (pronounced as “sue-man”) is another form of rice cake that is steamed and rolled in banana leaves. It is usually eaten by dipping it in sugar before taking a bite. Flavored sumans are also popular.

Photo courtesy of Maganda Filipino
Banana cue
Banana cue is a popular street food that resembles a barbecue but instead of meat, it uses deep-fried saba (“sah-bah” a cooking type of banana) coated in caramelized sugar. (Me, I just lick off the sugar and I’m good to go!)

Photo courtesy of Maganda Filipino
Turon (pronounced as “two-ron”) is another type of caramelized deep-fried saba street food with some jackfruit and wrapped in crunchy spring roll wrappers.

Photo courtesy of The Filipino Food Blog
Ginataang Bilo-bilo
Ginataang bilo-bilo (“gi-nah-tah-ung beelo-beelo) is a sweet stew of chewy rice balls, purple yam, banana, and tapioca cooked in coconut milk.

Photo courtesy of
Halo-halo (“mix;” pronounced as “hah-lo” and not “hay-low”) is the most popular Pinoy shaved/crushed ice dessert that is made of sweet beans, banana, nata de coco, jackfruit, gelatin, tapioca, corn flakes, evaporated milk, purple yam, leche flan (caramel custard), or whatever may tickle your fancy. It is usually topped with a scoop of ube (purple yam) ice cream. It must first be mixed together with a long spoon before eating but you will later end up drinking it straight from the tall glass.

Photo courtesy of Yum Filipino Food
Mais con hielo
The next most popular Pinoy crushed or shaved ice dessert is the mais con hielo (pronounced as “mah-is con yellow”) made with sweet corn kernels, evaporated milk, and sugar. Like the halo-halo, you mix it first with a long spoon before eating and drink from the tall glass later.

This is certainly not a complete list---not by a long shot but hopefully it’s enough to get any tourist started on living the Pinoy merienda life which is best served with friends!


Next in the Series: The Pinoy Meal

No comments

Powered by Blogger.