The World Street Food Congress Jamboree in Manila, the Philippines can be positively overwhelming for the first-time visitor; in 2016, they had to close the gates by 7:30; the line to get in snaked two blocks past the gate, and many stalls reported running out of food by 9pm, or three hours before the slated closing time.
The 2017 edition - running from May 31 to June 4 - looks to be bigger and grander. “We got over 30 stalls, and 90 percent of them are different dishes [from last year's],” explains Makansutra and World Street Food Congress founder KF Seetoh. “First time we're having people from Germany, Mexico, Guangzhou, and then we're having different dishes from India that people have never seen before.”
For anybody planning to try this year's Jamboree, Seetoh suggests you hack the Jamboree with your homies.
“The trick is this,” Seetoh explains. “Come with a small group of friends, the minute you get in, you scatter! Pick up different dishes, get back together and share – the portions are not small!” Grab the dishes listed here, which represent a tasty tour of Southeast Asia's street food scene.
Coffee Pork Burgers from Singapore
The second-generation chefs of Keng Eng Kee in Singapore specialize in taking old, hawker-food favorites from their own heritage, and refashioning them into something both familiar and jarringly new.
“The K.E.K. boys, they did burgers, but they took traditional Chinese street restaurant dishes and turned that into a burger,” Seetoh marvels. “Like coffee pork ribs – people eat that regularly, they turned it into a burger!”
Keng Eng Kee's Coffee Pork Burgers were first launched in Singapore as part of a larger “Wok Hei Burger” menu that also includes burgerized variants on Marmite Chicken and Salted Egg Chicken. Coffee pork ribs – a familiar sight at food courts and hawker stalls all over Singapore – get a second lease on life as a boneless pork patty drenched in an aromatic coffee sauce and sandwiched between burger buns.
Iga Bakar (Pork Barbecue Ribs) from Indonesia
The Balinese have a wonderful way with local herbs, and Warung Sunset's Chef Gede Yudiawan is no exception. The spicy pork ribs he's presenting a second time at the World Street Food Congress is marinated in the Indonesian sweet soy sauce called kecap manis, grilled over charcoal, then served with rice and a side of their famous sambal matah: a salad garnished with peanuts and shrimp paste.
“Chef Yudi”, as his fans know him, formerly ran a beef ribs joint in Yogyakarta, before returning to his hometown in Bali to answer a family calling as a village priest. (There's more to Bali's culture than just masks and dances.)
Chef Yudi continues in his double role as a community religious leader and as proprietor/chef of Warung Sunset in Kuta, where the ribs come in different varieties: black-pepper-spiced, sweet and sour, and honey glazed.
Sisig Paella from the Philippines
You can't have a street food event in the Philippines without bringing in local flavors, and Philippines chef and Pampanga native son Sau del Rosario steps up with an original take on that Pampanga food favorite sisig.
“I'm always saying that culture is best served on a platter,” Chef Sau tells us. “In my region, you try the sisig, but you have to put it in another level. This is what we're trying to do now – reinvent, reimagine the business you can do out of sisig.”
Chef Sau's mashup of sisig (a street food from Pampanga beloved by Filipino beer drinkers) and paella (a Spanish rice meal adopted by Hispanophile Filipinos) creates a whole new taste experience entirely: mixing the crunchiness and umami of sisig with the heft and herbal touches of paella.
This unique dish makes its debut at the World Street Food Congress this year, courtesy of Chef Sau: “We want it to be really known that it started with us,” he explains. “People are looking for something new, something like sisig that you can reimagine.”
"Water Olives" from Guangzhou, China
Discerning sweet tooths can count on the World Street Food Congress to deliver for dessert – such as this bean-paste mochi ball from the Cantonese city of Guangzhou.
Bathed in a chrysanthemum-infused syrup, soi lum (which translates to “water olive”) is rarely seen outside of southern China, and will surely find a warm welcome in the Philippines. Stuffed mochi balls are not new in these parts – Japanese mochi ice cream is all the rage around Southeast Asia – but this Chinese adaptation takes bits and pieces from Cantonese cuisine and combines it to form something new.
In short, it's true to Seetoh's vision for the Street Food Congress: “This whole event is just, 'look back at your heritage food',” he tells us. “It's really about world heritage street food.”
Chocolate Martabak Manis from Indonesia
Another holdover from 2016's World Street Food Congress, this Indonesian street food staple – martabak manis, or sweet martabak, a pancake sandwich that we last encountered while staying in Alila Jakarta – is back by popular demand. Quite simply, as Seetoh puts it, “that's crazy good, man!”
This martabak variant was developed by Bong Kap Kap Djun in the Indonesian city of Bandung in 1965. Later named Martabak San Francisco, the establishment serves chocolate martabak manis that wins fans over with its crisp borders and chewy body, developed with surprisingly no need for yeast.
Martabak is individually prepared fresh for customers; Martabak San Francisco rides the flavor wave with different takes on the dish, including (but not limited to) “death by chocolate” martabak, vanilla Oreo martabak, and even a Nutella martabak – which comes with a tiny jar of Nutella with every order!