Pinoy At Heart
British Backpacker: "Eating Chicken Intestines, Pig’s Ears & Duck Embryos Felt Good"
Will Hatton | Jul 13, 2015
Whenever I hit the road, people always ask me the same question ‘Why have you been travelling for seven years, what is it you love so much about being in a foreign country?’ There’s no simple answer. I love the freedom. I love being able to throw all my gear in my battered rucksack and to rock up somewhere totally new. I love being able to have new experiences, even minor ones, on a daily basis. I love meeting new people. And, perhaps most importantly of all, I love trying new food!
Since I first touched down in Manila, I have been blown away by the sheer variety of delicious, nutritious and downright weird foods on offer. I have tried ‘eggs with legs’ - the fam balut. I’ve feasted upon crocodile sisig. I have dined upon chicken adobo, slurping my way through plate after plate of proteiney goodness!
Following my tattoo with the legendary Whang Od, I made a beeline back to Manila so I could catch my flight to Palawan; a stunning island which has been on my ‘must-visit’ list for years. I had 24 hours to kill in Manila so I arranged to meet up with another couple of travel bloggers; Tom and Anna, a British-Filipino couple who had met on the road whilst backpacking through Vietnam and had been together ever since. Anna is probably one of the sweetest girls I have ever met, instantly providing me with endless stacks pancakes after I stumbled into their flat at 4 in the morning. The next day, she said, I was in for a real treat. Anna brought me and Tom to one of her favourite places, the famous Mercato market, where we would be dining upon every Filipino delicacy under the sun.
We started the evening with a few (perhaps a few too many!) Red Horse beers before heading down to Mercato food market and piling our plates with all kinds of weird and wonderful foods. We began with something which I can only describe as ‘a squiggly line of meat on a stick’ - Anna informed it was known as Isaw, a Pinoy streetfood that I still couldn't quite understand the taste.
Next up, Betamax, coagulated pig’s blood which kind of tasted like smoked salmon and scrambled egg, the very same meal my mum always cooked for breakfast on Christmas day. Just thinking about it got me all nostalgic, and before I knew it, I had pretty much digested the whole of the meat-stick. Tom struggled somewhat, chewing dutifully upon the sticky blood but I could tell that deep, deep down, he was enjoying it. Maybe.
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We laughed, messed around and quickly made friends with nearby Filipinos, the lovely ladies serving the food clearly thought we were insane - surely nobody ever ordered ‘one of everything’?
The evening continued, more red-horses were drank, we said toasts to The Queen (us British folk are patriotic like that!) and snacked upon Balun-Balunan, chicken gizzards; my favourite out of everything I tried that evening. The bright lights of the market twinkled above us as crowds milled around, snacking and shopping, haggling and queuing.
I was growing full, surely there was only so much weird and wonderful meat that could even exist in this country? I passed on the ‘one day old chick’ and moved on to Walkman - chewy pigs ears. I don’t think I have ever had to chew anything so rigorously in my entire life but heck, it was worth it, pig ears are surprisingly delicious!
Eating all this tasty yet, to my mind, weird food got me thinking. It’s fascinating really, in western culture, food like this would be considered down-right odd, perhaps even unclean, but in the Philippines, it’s totally different and I can see why. The idea of eating chicken intestines, pig’s ears and duck embryos may seem weird but I truly felt good about it - this is relatively healthy food; full of protein, full of energy and extremely cheap; what more does an English backpacker on the road need?
All too soon, it was time to leave the market, I had a flight to catch - soon I would be skimming over crystal waters, snorkelling in search of turtles and sunning myself on isolated beaches. I already had plans to befriend a fisherman and purposefully maroon myself on an isolated island in search of a Robinson Crusoe experience! All I needed now was to catch some fish and to buy a hammock...
A huge thank you to Tom and Anna for putting together this epic video of our time sampling foods in Mercato market. Check out Tom and Anna’s website at Adventure in You to follow their escapades around the Philippines as Tom gets to grips with Filipino culture and Anna teaching him everything he needs to know; from mastering a selfie-stick to driving in Manila’s hectic traffic!