Philippine Cuisine: Isaw Love

Appetizers , Featured , Main Dish Jan 04, 2016 No Comments

No one can exactly pinpoint how and where in the Philippines the street food phenomenon started but it’s a fact that this occurrence has invaded the entire country like a plague. In fact, Manila was named by CNN as one of the greatest street food cities in Asia.

In these hard times, the street food has become an important everyday Filipino food for many especially for students who are cramping on their allowance. Even a large portion of the working sector patronizes these types of food stalls. Why, because they are not only delicious but also cheaper and are available 24/7 in most regions, rain or shine. Truly, the whole of the Philippines can be considered a haven for street foods.

isaw filipino food

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You have numerous choices of inexpensive cuisine being peddled in street corners, bus and jeepney terminals, along the outside of school campuses, and so on. Such dishes are either fried, grilled, steamed, boiled or just simply mixed and matched. You can choose from fruits, veggies, to chicken or meat.

But perhaps the most popular of all is the ‘isaw’ made from pig or chicken intestines, either barbecued or deep fried.  How to prepare them? Of course, you have to clean them thoroughly, turn them inside out, and wash again and again, repeating the process several times until you think they’re safe enough to eat. For those who are curious, here’s the simple recipe:


1 kilo pork or chicken intestines, cleaned inside out and boiled

ketchup-oil mixture for basting


cloves of garlic, minced

powdered black pepper

lemon juice, as you wish

½ cup vinegar

½ cup soy sauce


  1. Wash intestines turning the inside out several times.
  2. Place them in a pot and boil until tender.
  3. When done, drain, set aside to cool.
  4. In a large bowl, marinate meat with the soy sauce mixture for about an hour.
  5. Skewer on sticks and grill, turning sides when slightly brown
  6. Baste with the ketchup-oil mixture just before getting them off the grill.
  7. When opting to deep fry, stir constantly over medium heat to avoid burning.
  8. When done, drain and let it cool before skewing them on sticks.
  9. Serve with rice and papaya pickles.

Some people don’t boil the intestines anymore but they simply grill them on sticks after they’re washed. Others prefer to deep fry them and when done, skewer them up on sticks.

There are also those who serve them at home who try to give it extra flavor by adding a squeeze of lemon juice to the marinade with a dash of powdered pepper. Basting the meat with ketchup and oil when roasting makes it more savory. Most commercial isaw though, are not necessarily prepared this way, so there is really a big difference as to the flavor.

The most exciting finale is the eating of isaw by dipping it in sukang pinakurat or just about any vinegar soaked with onions, peppers, and other spices.

Because of its long cord-like appearance, the isaw earned for itself some nicknames like ‘IUD’ and ‘PLDT’ for Philippine Long Distance Telephone, the country’s main telecommunications provider. It sells for P5 to P6 per stick depending on the region.

Undeniably, Filipinos have come to love the isaw. Being a food for all seasons with its low cost, the lowly isaw is here to stay and will be counted in as one of the most favorite Filipino recipes of all time. 

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