What Netflix’s “Street Food” gets right about the Philippines

A country’s food can tell you a lot about its people. Photo courtesy of NETFLIX

By Chang Casal/cnnphilippines.com – As a Manileño, when I think of local street food, my mind immediately goes to the usual tusok-tusok: fish balls, kikiam, tokwa, quek-quek, betamax, isaw. The list goes on forever. Yet Netflix’s new show, “Street Food,” presents something entirely different. The documentary series explores the street foods of nine different countries across Asia, including (to much fanfare) the Philippines. Episode nine, however, focuses solely on the province of Cebu, venturing from the city of Talisay where lechon vendors abound, to the sleepy coastal town of Cordova.

Instead of umbrella-topped fish ball carts parked on busy sidestreets, the episode opens with a seaside shack at dawn. An elderly man awakens as fishermen begin their morning routine, waiting for them to return with a fresh batch of bakasi — small, slithering reef eels that will be cooked in a sour stew and served to dozens of visitors each day.

Unlike many food documentaries, “Street Food” is neither history lesson nor recipe guide. Its focal point is on people — mostly self-taught culinary maestros — who’ve transformed and uplifted their communities with food. It reflects who we are as a nation: people whose survival rests on creativity, resourcefulness, and grit.

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