Your parents may have taught you to eat with your spoon and fork, but that wouldn’t necessarily apply if you were Filipino. Before the introduction of utensils, the traditional way of eating in the Philippines was with the use of one’s hands, and many Filipinos remain to eat with their hands today, especially during big celebrations. This has made Filipino dining culture one of the most unique in Asia, thanks to the simplicity and practicality of it. One place where you will definitely witness this type of practice is in Cebu City, where a street food trend that has lasted many decades has turned into a cultural phenomenon among the locals. Pungko Pungko stalls are all the rage, thanks to its price-to-satisfaction ratio. Very popular among younger age groups, this budget friendly trend is a perfect choice for a quick and accessible meal.
The word “Pungko Pungko” is derived from the word “pungko,” which means to sit or crouch. In the trend’s infancy, many vendors would walk around with a basket full of Cebuano food delicacies that they would sell at a corner where a number of hungry customers wait. Customers would squat on the floor while eating an assortment of fried food and puso (rice wrapped in coconut leaves) with their bare hands.
Over the years, vendors have claimed their very own respective spots all around Metro Cebu. Places like Carbon have many stalls that have become go-to spots for lovers of this kind of cuisine.
WHAT MAKES PUNGKO PUNGKO APPEALING?
One of the things that makes Pungko Pungko stalls very enduring is its price. Travelers can already have a full meal worth50. Young professionals and students love Pungko Pungko stalls because they barely break the bank. This also means that business is booming among these stalls, especially during lunch hour, so make sure to arrive early to get a chance to sit down and enjoy your budget friendly and satisfying meal.
These tiny eateries are microcosms of many expensive restaurants. They may not have haute cuisine, interior design, or formal service, but what you do have is a simple way of eating where you are left with only the bare essentials, and you can focus on enjoying the food.
It also helps that vendors are always excited to have people try out their dishes. The camaraderie is set up not only by the vendors, but also the customers. You will meet many people from different walks of life, and catch up with the people you love and care about. Food can be the catalyst to building new relationships and a worthwhile conversation, and the intimacy it brings is something you will definitely appreciate.
A typical Pungko Pungko stall consists of one table with a big tupperware in the middle, which contains tons of fried food to choose from. You will be given a plate and a small plastic, the latter to be used as gloves for your hands to avoid the grease and oil of the various fried foods, all because you will be eating with your hands.
This may seem weird for some people, but it has been one of the ways that Filipinos consume their meals, and the best way to eat Pungko Pungko.
Fried food is the most common dish you will see at any Pungko Pungko stall. Many favorite Filipino meals like hotdogs, sausages, and spring rolls are almost always present. The most popular of the bunch has to be the Ginabot, the Cebuano equivalent of the Chicken Bulaklak.
Most of the spreads you will see at the Pungko Pungko stalls are filled with these crunchy treats, all varying in portions. You will eat these viands with whatever amount of puso or hanging rice at your disposal. The rice may be small, but they are relatively cheap, so you can buy as many as you want. To top it all off, it is said that your meal should be paired with soft drinks like Sparkle or Mountain Dew, but most stalls also sell all major soft drink brands.
PUNGKO PUNGKO SA FUENTE
There are a lot of stalls everywhere around the city, but there are several options that are quite popular in Cebu. One is the Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente, which, based from the name, is situated near the center of Cebu City. Located right behind Fuente Circle near the Hi-Precision office, this is definitely a good spot for many tourists and workers to go to have a quick bite, thanks to its proximity to many other tourist spots.
Pungko-Pungko sa Fuente is one of the most successful of these stalls, and they were even awarded “The Best Pungko Pungko” by Sunstar Cebu. Their success has given them notoriety among Cebuanos as a go-to eatery. They are open every day from 6AM to 10PM. However, if you are unable to go to Fuente for whatever reason, luckily, you can find many of these tiny restaurants along the road and near many other tourist destinations.
If you are looking for an adventurous and affordable meal, the famous Pungko Pungko should definitely be on your radar. It may not be for everyone, but these stalls give a good balance of value and satisfaction, endemic only to Cebu food culture. These are places that many locals prefer to go to since they won’t have to shell out so much money. With the many options available, you can never go wrong with a cheap yet satisfying meal.