Filipino-Americans, as a whole, are more susceptible to cardiovascular complications such as high blood pressure, hypertension, and increased levels of cholesterol. This trend among our people can be attributed to a number of factors, the least of which is most certainly not our diet. So, this begs the question: what are the most delicious of our crunchy killers?
I asked friends on Twitter to tweet me their favorite Pinoy snacks. Answers ranged from the usual hits…
These things defined my childhood. pic.twitter.com/goPrrMULH3
— JM (@bromesticliving) March 4, 2019
to a remix…
Shrimp chips…the spicy ones!!
— Eliza Romero | Aesthetic Distance (@aesthdistance1) March 4, 2019
…and an exhaustive, sodium-filled list.
nagaraya, tomi, piattos roast beef specifically, nova chips, cracklings salt and vinegar flavor, roller coaster, chiz curls
— 🍯halo halo honey🍯 (@tadyak) March 4, 2019
While all these replies contain very fine snacks indeed, it must be noted that not all of these snacks will be considered for ranking. But each of the snacks mentioned in the tweets above will definitely be considered for consumption (by me for me in the very near future).
Much debate can and will be had about which salty Filipino snack is best. Personally, I will hear none of it. If you have objections, please feel free to argue in the comments and tweet to no avail. The following list is definitive and completely infallible and if you think otherwise, please know that while you are entitled to your opinion, that opinion is very, very wrong.
Oh, a couple of things about the parameters used to construct what I am now referring to as “The List™”:
- All the snacks are salty and savory. No sweet snacks.
- The snacks are often packaged. Usually these are snacks you can find either in your local Filipino grocery store (Seafood City, Island Pacific, etc.) or at the combination bakery/turo-turo joint/convenience store. Street snacks are delicious, but if I can’t buy them in a store and easily take them home to enjoy while I binge 25 straight episodes of Terrace House in the peace and privacy of my own home, then they will not appear on The List™.
- Not all snacks are made by Filipino vendors, but all snacks are widely consumed by Filipino people. Just hold your judgment until you see which snacks were picked.
- This list is based on the availability of snacks in Southern California. This, and I can’t emphasize this enough, in no way makes The List™ any less accurate, credible, or absolute in any way, shape, or form.
Now that that’s squared away, here’s The List™:
Dilis and Oishi Salt & Vinegar Cracklings are top-level snacks in their own right and it would be a travesty if they were not mentioned along with snacks that make the rankings. Both of these have qualities integral to a top Filipino snack: crispiness and an element of acid. Oishi Salt & Vinegar Cracklings are dusted with a salty and vinegary powder that cuts through the unctuousness of the thick chip, pairing phenomenally well with beer. Dilis are best enjoyed dipped in suka and as an impulse buy when picking up trays of pancit and kare kare for your family party.
1. Clover Chips
Clover Chips are the cheese dusty snack to put all other cheese dusty snacks to bed. For the uninitiated, clover chips are scoop-shaped corn snacks with a light medium cheese dusting and whole bunch of “don’t worry about it.” They are scoop-shaped to ensure that you are maximizing your sodium intake with each chip. It is impossible to eat these one at a time. If there is anyone out there who has figured how to achieve such a feat, please let me know because I shouldn’t keep finishing bags of these within two hours of arriving home from a trip to Seafood City.
2. Shrimp Chips
There are two types of shrimp chips and it is imperative when discussing shrimp chips that you specify exactly which type of shrimp chip that you are speaking about. One of the two types are the Calbee brand, which are in the shape of french fries:
The other is the Marco Polo brand, which are shaped like chips but are actually named “Shrimp Snacks”:
These two wield such great power in their own right and, in my head, are forever intertwined that they rank equally in the same spot on The List™. They’re crispy, puffy, and packed with loads of flavor (salt).
3. Boy Bawang Cornick
Now, one can argue that the hand-packaged, small-vendor style cornick replete with pieces of fried garlic chips in every bite is better than the monolithic Boy Bawang—and they would be correct. However, those are not readily available stateside at your local market and you can usually only get these as pasalubong from benevolent titos or titas. But Boy Bawang is not to be taken lightly. This cornick, though smaller than their American Corn Nut counterpart, has a much more satisfying and forgiving crispy texture. Corn Nuts are far too difficult and, according to my father, bad for your teeth. (This coming from the same man who fed his son White Rabbit candy.) My dad wasn’t wrong about Boy Bawang being better than Corn Nuts, though.
Although in a close race with Oishi brand Salt & Vinegar cracklings for Best Pulutan That Isn’t Sisig, chicharron is top. Chicharon is similar to cornick in that it is superior to its American counterpart. Filipino Chicharon has a much airier texture with a much more satisfying crunch. When combined with suka for dipping and a cold Red Horse, the only ingredients missing from this loud Filipino fiesta are family and five different renditions by five different uncles of “My Way” by Frank Sinatra on your Magic Mic.
5. Fried Chicken Skin
There is only one snack better than fried pork skin: fried chicken skin. The flavor itself is more comforting with a nice crispness and a slight resistance to the bite. This is definitely a hot take and will surely cause outrage but, as a reminder: I will not be hearing it. Fried chicken is simply the best salty Filipino snack.
And that concludes The List™. There are a multitude of Pinoy snacks out there, almost all of which your primary care physician would not approve for regular consumption. But they warm our hearts. A gift of Boy Bawang or shrimp chips expresses love from family member to family member in a tangible way not often seen. Kasamas exchange stories and laughter over salt & vinegar cracklings. You may not agree with the ranking of The List™, but you can probably agree that Filipino snacks are the most delicious path towards high blood pressure and heart disease.
A note: Please consume these and other Filipino snacks in moderation. While cardiovascular diseases are referenced heavily in jest, hypertension, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol are very real and very common health defects that plague a majority of our people.
Aaron is a 2nd gen Filipino immigrant from San Diego currently based in Southern California. He is a music industry professional and Executive Director for the Lakas Mentorship Program. His passions include food, social justice and equity, travel, and living life clumsily.
Follow him on Twitter @aahaahron.