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.
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 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.