There's a good deal of excellent street dining to be had in Cebu. In some cases, it will even come to you.

Let's start with breakfast. A common breakfast snack is taho, essentially Cebuano style tofu. Here it is taken warm, mixed with syrup and gulaman (coconut jelly). The taho seller - who will advertise his wares by yelling loudly - will set down the buckets he carries, expertly scoop up the tofu using a flat spoon with fluid motions, mix it with the syrup in a disposable plastic cup, and hand it to you for only 5 pesos. Taho sellers start walking at 4 AM and cover huge distances as part of their daily route.

You may have heard of tempura, but Cebuano tempura differs from the original Japanese kind. Tempura is basically fish flavored pastry which is deep fried and dipped into a hot sauce. It costs only 5 pesos and is delicious.

Cebu is to all intents and purposes the peanut capital of the world. Peanuts are absolutely everywhere, available in a hundred and one styles. One of the more common styles to enjoy peanuts is, like tempura, fried on the street.

The short, squat bananas known as kardaba are also fried. Served on a stick, this snack is known as banana cue. One banana cue costs 5 pesos, giving the vendor a gross profit margin of 2.5 pesos per banana.

Then there is fruit salad. You can tell a fruit salad vendor's trisikad is approaching if you hear a characteristic Atari-like electronic sound. You might also notice a bright purple-pink plastic bucket originally designed to hold trash. Almost all fruit salad vendors have adopted these two traits. Cebuano fruit salad consists of chunks of fruit and jelly swimming in a milky liquid, served with ice in a disposable plastic cup. It usually costs only 5 pesos and isn't bad at all.

Ice cream vendors come in three forms. There are those who walk around lugging a styrofoam box; these sell "buko bars," essentially popsicles containing young coconut. Others pedal a trisikad with a large stainless steel drum and a dome shaped cover; this is real home-made ice cream served in scoops atop of cones. Lastly, there are the Nestle and Selecta vendors, who wear uniforms and hawk products consumers are familiar with thanks to massive TV advertising. Both Nestle and Selecta vendors carry battery-powered electronic contraptions which play their respective corporate jingles over and over again; I wouldn't be surprised to discover that a large proportion of patients at Cebu's mental hospitals are former ice cream vendors.

The king of all street snacks is balut. The balut vendors are often jokingly referred to as Cebu's opera singers; they apprise potential customers of their approach by yodelling: "baloooooooooooooooot!" So what is balut? Well, it's Fear Factor fare. They look like hard-boiled eggs, but many a foreigner has been shocked out of his wits when cracking open the shell. Inside are unborn chicks, the degree of their development indicated by a number written in pencil on the egg. The numbers - 14, 16, 18, 21 - indicate the number of days the egg has been under incubation. With a number higher than 20, your snack will include a crunchy beak. Balut are taken with salt, and kept hot by an assortment of rags and towels. Balut vendors can be found, usually, after dark, and are most prevalent on Friday and Saturday nights. Apparently, balut are good pre- or post-party food. The toasty chicken foetus will set you back 10 pesos.

Last but not least, you can get yourself an entire meal on the street. Pongko-pongo stalls are set up on the sidewalk outside abandoned buildings and places where otherwise no-one will complain about their presence. The sud-an on offer are usually chunks of fried fish, fried drumsticks, fried sausages, fried eggs... You get the picture. The rice is in the form of puso aka hanging rice. Instead of utensils, you will be given two small plastic bags; these are used as gloves. Drinks are available in the form of bottled softdrinks such as Coke or 7-Up. If you're greedy and down drumstick after drumstick, you might be able to run your tab right up to a 100 pesos. Most meals, taken by slightly built Cebuanos, cost about 30 pesos.


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