Street Treats

December 21, 2012: Yes, it’s another post about food. This time two of our favourite sweet treats from the streets…or at least favorites thus far.

I think we mentioned bibingka once already. Tonight, we learned more about how it’s made. Ana’s kiosk is only open in the evenings and there always seems to be a line up. We’ve been there a few times.

This evening, while we waited, we started talking to this older Filipino man named Dan who was just ahead of us in line. He told us that bibingka is a traditional rice cake normally only available around Christmas. Lucky for us, the Christmas season is a long one!

Bibingka is baked in a terracota pot placed on top of an “oven” made out of a large tin can containing hot coals. First line the pot with a banana leaf and then pour in the batter. Add in some salted egg and spoon on some sugar before placing another tin holding hot coals on top. Once the surface has set, place another piece of banana leaf over the cake and continue to bake.

Each cake takes about 10 minutes to reach perfection with just the right amount of charring on the surface. They are then topped with a little Star margarine before being handed over to the waiting customer in exchange for 35 pesos (88 cents).

With only six or seven ovens on the go and people ordering multiple cakes at one time, it’s no wonder there’s a wait. But they are worth it. The texture is a bit spongy and the slightly charred, salty sweet flavour is very tasty!

You could buy mini bibingkas at a little kiosk inside the mall. But why? They are made in muffin tins and baked in a commercial oven. Somehow that just doesn’t have the same appeal.

Obviously proud of traditional Filipino food, Dan suggested we try another Christmas treat that’s cooked inside a stick of bamboo. Intrigued, he pointed us in the right direction. With our hot bibingkas in hand, we set off to find Amy’s puto bumbong kiosk.

This one was around the corner on a side street, so without Dan’s direction, we probably never would have stumbled upon it. And missing out on this would have been a shame because it’s so different.

Sticks of bamboo are packed with a purple sticky rice and steamed. Amy said they add lavender to give it the purple colour. Then the bamboo stick is knocked against a stone and the rice slides out onto a sheet of bamboo. Three of these are covered with Star margarine, a generous handful of shredded coconut and an equally generous spoonful of sugar mixed with toasted sesame seeds. The whole thing is then wrapped up and handed over for a mere 16 pesos (40 cents).

I thought the puto bumbong was going to be way too sweet to eat, but it was just right. We’ll definitely be back there for more soon!

Watching how these delicacies are made is almost as good as eating them afterwards. And in their own way, these ladies are helping to keep traditional Filipino cuisine alive in a world increasingly filled with fast food joints like Jollibee’s, Chowking, Wimpy’s, McDonalds and KFC.

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