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A popular Filipino street food, kwek-kwek are hard-boiled quail eggs dipped in a bright orange batter, then deep-fried. The batter is usually composed of flour, baking powder, some salt, and food coloring, allegedly once used to coat eggs that failed to sell the day before. (The day-old bit is pure speculation, not based on any historical account.) While the origins of the name and the dish have been lost, cholesterol-rich kwek-kwek is arguably the tamest of the eggy treats you’ll find on the street, which may include balut (boiled duck embryo), penoy (underdeveloped balut), fried day-old chicks, and a smattering of other tasty (or shall we say fowl?) morsels.
Cringing yet? Fear not: Kwek-kwek and its ilk are actually beloved after-school and after-work snacks—protein-and-carb pick-me-ups liberally sprinkled with salt and dipped in spicy vinegar. They're a must-eat in Manila.
Good to know: Be wary of how the vinegar and other sauces are served at any street stand, as serial “double-dippers” (those who have the habit of biting into food and dipping it back into the communal sauce) could be spreading viruses and diseases. Most street-food vendors conform to a general standard of safety and sanitation (more common sense- than government-imposed), so the better ones will have a serving spoon or ladle for the common condiments like sauces and dips.
Where: Trust the Filipinos and their sense of humor to use Eggbucks as the name of their egg-cart franchise. We found this one at the Ayala Avenue MRT station (corner Ayala Ave. and Epifanio de los Santos (EDSA) Ave., Makati City, map), in a corner not far from the ticket counter. Its compact glass showcase displayed quite a selection of street snacks, including tokneneng (whole chicken eggs done the same way as kwek-kwek) and the fried day-old chicks
When: This cart is open daily from around noon till 8pm or 9pm.
Order: One order of kwek-kwek costs Php15 and arrives as four little orange-colored eggs on a disposable paper plate. Ladle out a generous amount of the spicy vinegar (found in a tall plastic container at the side of the cart) and take a pointy stick to use as skewer. Truth be told, these kwek-kwek were a little stale from being fried earlier in the day; anything coated with batter and fried would suffer the same fate. But the quail eggs inside were still flavorful, and the spicy-sour vinegar did its job and made up for the unimpressive batter. Our verdict? Not bad for cheap food on the run. Judging from the number of people who went up to the stall at 4pm, kwek-kwek and its kin are totally acceptable fillers for the sprint between office and dinner at home.
Alternatively: Kwek-kwek and its cousins are true street food and therefore best tried there, hopefully just-rescued from a wok of frying oil. Should you pass a street corner, a side street near an office, or a school and see people congregating around a kwek-kwek vendor still working his wok, go ahead and get on line.
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