Tender Juicy, Swift, Bibbo, and More: We Relive Kiddie Party Memories With 6 Brands of Filipino-style HotdogsMay 2, 2018
What would the Filipino childhood be without hotdogs in our lunchboxes, at every children’s party (skewered with mallows, of course), or mixed into the equally-red (and sweet) meat sauce that goes atop Pinoy spaghetti? Though hotdogs originate from the West, what you’ll more frequently find in these parts is a distinctive beast that’s often sweeter, (artificially) colored red, and more associated with birthdays than baseball. You’ll find a couple of brands at your local supermarket, but which wiener hits a home run?
Note: The photos used in the article were shot in November 2017. For tasting, hotdogs were cooked according to package instructions as dictated per brand. Feedback was gathered across multiple trials, and we took note of which qualities would consistently show up.
Taste: Odd as it sounds, one word that comes to mind upon taking a bite of Bibbo: chopsuey. This brand exhibits an earthy, vegetal taste (as well as a mild metallic tint) that isn’t unpleasant (the author, in particular, enjoys it) but feels out of place in a hotdog.
Texture: The overall texture (particularly its bounciness and juiciness) is mostly similar to Tender Juicy’s, albeit with a slightly looser consistency that makes it softer and less satisfying to chew.
Taste: Frabelle offers a flavor with a sharp, meat-centric hit which reminds the author of Purefoods brand chicken luncheon meat. But it stays within the category of Philippine-style hotdog, thanks to a slight sweetness for balance toward the end.
Texture: This brand flaunts a good amount of firmness that makes for a good snap, and a satisfyingly juicy interior.
Mekeni Picnic Hotdog
Taste: Though this Kapampangan brand is a fast favorite in its hometown, it was not our favorite, what with its oddly sweet, plastic-y taste that strikes us as overly chemical-laden. Even when drowned in ketchup, the off flavors stand out (and not in a good way).
Texture: Mekeni bears a rubbery, doughy consistency that hardly does its already unpleasant taste any favors.
Swift Mighty Meaty
Taste: Swift tastes highly similar to Tender Juicy with its classic “red hotdog” profile, but with the balance of flavors skewed more toward saltiness (and a welcome touch of smokiness) rather than sweetness.
Texture: With a hearty, firm interior, Swift provides a decent snap that comes close to higher-end versions—much like Frabelle’s (if not a degree better).
Taste: Tender Juicy’s was the easiest identified by tasters. Each bite balances a meaty savoriness, a touch of sweetness, and just a hint of spice (in particular, we can identify black pepper) to form that distinctive “Philippine-style red hotdog flavor”.
Texture: Though it barely compares to real-deal hotdogs in terms of snappiness, Tender Juicy does stay true to its name: it’s tender and juicy. Its skin is just firm enough to provide some resistance, but easily yields to the bite to reveal its bouncy yet juicy interior.
Taste: Virginia’s has a more mellow profile that’s a little less salty and less “exaggerated” than Tender Juicy’s, with tasters specifically pointing out its chicken-y, “Vienna sausage-y” taste. Though not sweeter per se, the said qualities allow its underlying sweetness to shine through.
Texture: It initially feels firm (which makes us expect a snappy dog), but we’re met with a doughy consistency (with what seems to be a higher proportion of flour than meat) as we carry on chewing.
The Verdict: Tender Juicy
Even when tasted blind, the (supposed) most popular brand in the country proves to be our top pick; more than its familiarity, this wiener also carries the most stellar balance of flavors. Coming at a close second is the highly similar-tasting Swift Mighty Meaty, whose flavor was preferred just slightly less but whose texture and snappiness in particular reigns supreme. Frabelle’s, too, stood out—it’s a little too “dominant”-tasting for a kiddie hotdog, but as a standalone sausage it’s great. Whether you’re 7 or 17 (or, heck, 70), there’s absolutely no shame in indulging on hotdogs (in moderation); keep a pack in the fridge and you’re a few minutes away from basking in the happy memories of your youth.