World Street Food Congress 2016

My sister and I went to BGC last Thursday and met some friends at the World Street Food Congress (WSFC) 2016 (located at 9th Avenue cor. 25th Street, BGC, Taguig) to stuff ourselves silly with all them Asian goodies we can get our hands on. I’ve been itching to go to this event ever since I got wind of it, and now that I’ve actually been there…well. I can say it was an interesting experience.

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WSFC 2016 is a five-day event, which started last Wednesday, April 20. It will end tomorrow, Sunday, April 24.

A bit of a background on the event: the World Street Food Congress was first held in Singapore back in 2013, created and organized by Makansutra food guide founder KF Seetoh. The goal of this jamboree is to showcase the diverse Asian food culture to the world and to maybe promote culinary tourism. WSFC has always been held in Singapore but this year, the Philippines was chosen to host one of the biggest food festivals in Asia, with 25 hawkers from all over the world (Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, India, USA, and the Philippines) ready to serve authentic street food to the eager and hungry Filipino foodie.

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Before we get to the food, here are some tips (based on what we experienced) if you’re planning to check them out:

1. GO EARLY. We were fortunate enough not to encounter heavy traffic on our way to BGC and arrived at the jamboree just as the gates were opened. Still, by the time we parked and entered the WSFC grounds, the lines were already long (especially the ones for the lechon and ribs).

2. PREPARE TO WAIT. It’s probably going to take you 30-45 minutes before you actually get to the front of the stall.

3. DIVIDE AND CONQUER. Here’s what we did – one of us stayed behind at the table, while the rest chose different stalls to buy from. The more friends you’re with, the more stalls you can try, the more food you can share.

4. Speaking of sharing, SHARE YOUR TABLE. Sadly, the amount of tables and chairs available can’t accommodate the sheer number of people pouring in. If your table has a bit of space and someone approaches you with pleading eyes while holding a hot bowl of laksa, then share your table. Strike a conversation. Make a new friend. Or who knows, he or she could be your forever. *wink wink*

5. EAT IN LINE. This is for those who will go alone. Instead of going to a table after buying from a stall, go to the next stall you want to try and eat while in line. I saw some people doing this and they get to finish their food since the lines were pretty long.

6. BRING MONEY. LOTS OF MONEY. Trust me, you’re going to need a lot of money if you want to try everything.

7. BRING AN UMBRELLA, TISSUE AND ALCOHOL OR HAND SANITIZER. Again, trust me.

Let’s get to the food!

My friends and I were able to sample nine stalls in five hours. Here’s what we had:

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Smoked Chili Grilled Tofu Bao by The Cinnamon Snail, USA (Php200). I did a bit of research and apparently The Cinnamon Snail is an award-winning vegetarian food truck from the US. This bao has grilled tofu, kimchi, pickled basil, and sambal oelek cream (a Southeast Asian chili sauce made from peppers, salt, vinegar, and onions, mixed together using a mortar and pestle). The bao was soft and somewhat chewy, and the kimchi and oelek cream had quite a strong kick of heat. One of the tastiest vegetarian food I’ve tasted. But 200 pesos for something this small? Nope. Even if it was good.

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Penang Laksa by Wan Dao Tou Assam Laksa, Malaysia (Php250). I’m used to laksa being heavy on the coconut cream but this one is different. It’s a refreshing, tangy (from the tamarind), sweet (probably from the hae ko or sweet prawn paste), and spicy noodle dish topped with fish flakes (not sure what kind, though) and mint. Textures exploding in my mouth in every bite is wow. Is it worth it? Yes. Nakakabusog, in fairness.

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Braised Zhu Hou Chicken by 102 Private Kitchen, China (Php200). One of the few stalls that serves rice. The sauce, according to the WSFC website, is made of soy bean, salt, sugar, sesame seeds, and light soy sauce. The chicken was tender, but I thought they put a little too much sauce and it was a tad to sweet for my taste.

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Sticky Rice Banana by Nam Bo, Vietnam (Php180). Soft, cured banana encased in sticky rice and then wrapped in banana leaves and grilled. It tastes much like Ginataang Bilo Bilo, but that sticky rice texture with a couple of crunchy parts here and there is so addictive.

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Sili Ice Cream by Colonial, Philippines (Php100). There’s something about the taste that’s a bit weird but I can’t put my finger on it. The heat kicks in after you swallow, so your throat’s the one on fire. Not your mouth. And excuse the blurry picture. LOL.

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Bali BBQ Ribs by Warung Sunset, Indonesia (Php350). Half slab served with cabbage and picked radish. Also known as Iga Bakar, these wood-fired ribs are marinated in a kicap manis base sauce (sweet soy sauce, spices, and sambal). I can understand why people are lining up for this – it’s familiar, it’s tender, and it’s good. It has a sweeter and spicier flavor that your usual barbecue sauce.

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Bahn Can and Bahn Xeo by Bahn Can 38, Vietnam (Php320). These seafood pancakes were cooked in clay pots over wood fire, which explains that intoxicating smokey flavor.

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Chocolate Martabak by Martabak Kota Barat, Indonesia (Php400, half pan). This is a variation of a Chinese pancake (mee chang kueh). It’s like pizza, except it’s actually a pancake with crispy edges and a soft, gummy body and then topped with 8 variations of chocolate. Here, we have white chocolate, milk chocolate, Nutella, and green tea (I think they used crushed Kitkat Green Tea for the last one, but it was already rubbery or makunat). If you have a huge sweet tooth, this is something you should try.

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Hoy Tord by NCC Catering, Thailand (Php300). Seafood omelette made of tapioca flour, rice flour, lime, eggs, mussels or oysters, coriander, spring onions, and bean sprouts. I think out of all I ate, this one felt like street food. However, I’m a bit confused as to why they keep calling this oyster omelette, when it had mussels in it. I don’t think any of us got any oysters.

After all that food, I honestly felt like Adele – rolling in the deep (badum tssss!). In Tagalog, “gugulong na ako sa busog, shet.” And after standing there for almost 7 hours effectively turning my legs into lead pipes, here’s everything I have to say about the World Street Food Congress:

THE GOOD: Flavors are awesome. It’s a bit of a dream come true for me, since the main reason why I want to travel is because of food. Getting to experience different kinds of Asian food was a lot of fun. My stomach sure did enjoy itself.

THE BAD: First, the heat. Second, the venue, specifically the area where the tables and chairs are located. It’s an open field, and though the occasional gusts of wind may help beat the heat, it also kicks up a lot of dust. At the end of the day, I felt like I had applied powder on my face. My phone would always have a thin film of dust, which I would often wipe off. Imagine how much dust got on the food if we didn’t cover them with plastic or plates.

THE UGLY: The price. Aside from the fact that everything is paking expensive and the portions are small, the price also keeps changing. My sister wanted to try the Ayam Taliwang (Indonesian Chicken Wings) but changed her mind because it was priced at Php400. Later on, it was Php280. Talk about “prices may change without prior notice.” Did I mention that everything is paking expensive? Php50 for bottled water and canned softdrinks, Php80 for beer. Jusme.

THE I-DON’T-KNOW: They have portalets inside the venue but I did not get the chance to check it out. I don’t really trust portalet cleanliness. If you’re not comfortable using these, then try to cut back on the liquids.

Overall, I enjoyed WSFC 2016 despite a couple of inconvenient details. The company I had helped a lot in making that night fun, but I think one visit to this food festival is enough. My wallet won’t be able to handle a second wave.

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