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Weird Street Food – Pag Pag In Manila

Pag Pag in Manila

Being The Street Food Guy means that I often try truly weird food, from bugs, to spiders and even baby bee, but when it comes to gross out food, perhaps nothing can take on Pag Pag.

This dish is most famous for being a staple of the poor in the Smokey Mountain slum area of Manila, with dishes costing next to nothing. This though is not what shocks about Pag Pag, but rather what goes in it and indeed how it is prepared.

So, what is Pag Pag?

In Tagolog the word Pag Pag quite literally means “to shake off the dust”. This can be used in many different contexts, but in the food one it means getting leftover food and then “dusting it off”. This first began as a form of dumpster diving, before being turned into the industry it is today.

Technically the food that issued can be gotten from anywhere, but by and large comes from leftover takeaway, particularly fried chicken and things like McDonalds. The collection of said pagpag occurs in the early morning/late night, before being transferred to the restaurants who then clean it, before a chef cleans it again. In fact despite sounding really gross, a lot of preparation is done into the cleaning of this dish.

Where can you eat pagpag?

Pag pag is frowned upon by the government, so you will not find it in high society, but mostly in slum areas such as Smokey Mountain. Here many ingredients are used to cook it, but most famously is done by the “Pagpage Queen” who mostly uses KFC and Jolibee chicken to make her plates. And when I saw her at least there seemed to be some mystery meat on the table as well.

She has become particularly famous as news and media have ran stories on this unique dish, although with no blogger, or foodie as yet having tried it. I was personally up for giving it a go, but my group would have passed out, particularly as they were moldy disgusted by me even trying “street drinks”.

Is Pag Pag safe? No of course it is not, with diarrhea being the least of peoples concerns, with cholera and typhoid also being serious dangers. Sadly and as I have previously written these are lesser to the evils or hunger ands starvation. Whenever you see a story that the Philippines has a drug problem, remember this, in actuality it has a poverty problem.

How much does pag pag cost and how prevalent is it?

Much like the drink I had costing less than 10 cents, the food is also at the bottom of the barrel price with, a full dish costing anywhere from 20 cents, depending on the size and indeed ingredients of the pagpag.

Again while it is only found in the slums of Manila and the Philippines, there are whole streets in Smokey Mountain and other parts of the slum that concentrate on making Pag Pag alone.

Is it possible to gentrify Pag Pag?

You’d think not, but in actuality there are robust twats in western countries that are trying to make dumpster diving a thing, said twats, such as the gutter gourmet advocate this practice in developed countries. One can only imagine what poverty ridden people within places like the Philippines who rely on this to survive think of them.

With that being said though I once used my own leftover KFC to make my own version of homemade pagpag, just before I left living in Siem Reap. With hindsight it was not only a silly idea, but perhaps should have given me a clue on how things were to go from here….