For Abi Balingit, the bite most emblematic of Filipino cuisine is halo-halo, the shaved ice soaked in evaporated milk and sweet toppings. The dessert, which is Tagalog for “mix-mix,” offers a variety of textures with a good balance of flavor.
“[Filipino sweets] are a play on texture but also flavor profile,” said the New York-based baker, whose experiences with the desserts of her heritage culminated in a dessert cookbook, Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed.
A few components bring out these characteristics, including kakanin, or rice and coconut delicacies, ube and pandan, which are used among the 75 recipes in Balingit’s book.
Philly is bursting with Pinoy flavors, from the pop-up Tabachoy, now open as a brick-and-mortar restaurant, and national chains like Red Ribbon BakeShop and Jollibee. More projects are on the horizon, including Baby’s, a cafe from the team behind supper club Tita Emmie’s, slated to open in Brewerytown this summer. Inspired by the treats and flavors Balingit highlights in her new book, we’ve tracked down some of Philly’s best spots for Filipino desserts.
For Chance Anies, Filipino cuisine is all about bold savory or sweet dishes often associated with personal experiences and flavor memories.
“My personal favorite dessert is bibingka,” said Anies, owner of Tabachoy. “Traditionally, bibingka is a rice or cassava flour cake. But the way that I grew up with it in my Filipino family’s household was very much like a coconut sheet cake, very dense with oil.”
While he doesn’t offer the dessert on the menu, Anies has a pandan cheesecake at his Bella Vista restaurant. It’s a Basque-style cheesecake wrapped in a banana leaf, with a texture profile akin to bibingka. “Although it is not the same, a lot of Filipinos will eat it and ask me, ‘Is this bibingka?’”
There’s also an ube sundae, which contrasts hot and cold temps. A swirl of ube soft serve is topped with coconut caramel and puffed rice, served in a tin cup, and accompanied by a crunchy turon, a banana spring roll.
“Let’s take these things that are traditionally Filipino in flavor — they don’t necessarily have to be served in the exact same way — and cross over into Western technique,” said Anies.
📍 932 S. 10th St., 🌐 tabachoyphilly.com
This national bakery in Northeast Philly is one of Balingit’s childhood favorites.
“[Red Ribbon] was kind of my first experience with Filipino desserts, along with my family making it home,” she said. “It’s a good place to start.”
Find mamon sponge cakes bursting with mocha and butter flavors, soft bread rolls known as pandesal, Filipino chiffon cake called taisan loaf, and Ube Overload Cake with layers of Philippine ube halaya.
📍 2201 Cottman Ave., Suite 113, 📞 215-449-8389, 🌐 redribbonbakeshop.com
Chef Raquel Villanueva Dang of Tita Emmie’s says her favorite dessert is taho, a cup of silken tofu layered with brown sugar syrup and tapioca pearls that’s typically served at breakfast. She says each bite brings the nostalgia of mornings in the Philippines where “the guy yells out, ‘taho!’”
You might find taho for brunch at Baby’s this summer — Dang is still working on the menu for the forthcoming Brewerytown cafe. But you can expect a rotating selection of Filipino pastries like pandesal, sticky rice, cheesecakes, and other desserts.
Kathy Mirano is the queen of Filipino food at Reading Terminal Market. The lunch counter in Center City’s prime dining destination highlights the dishes of Mirano’s childhood. There’s a menu dedicated to desserts, including layered halo-halo, creamy ube jam, half and whole cake rolls with ube, matcha and mango creams, and sweet crispy turon. Macarons stuffed with ube, matcha, banana, pineapple, coconut, and mango are also available.
📍 51 N. 12th St., 📞 215-800-8844, 🌐 tambayanphilly.com
Strawberry Shortcake Sapin-Sapin
In this recipe from Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed, Abi Balingit was inspired by the Good Humor strawberry shortcake bars of her childhood to remix the tropical tri-layered rice cake into 18 vibrant mini strawberry shortcake sapin-sapin.
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted (for brushing)
1½ cups glutinous rice flour
½ cup rice flour
1 cup sugar
1 (13.5-ounce) can unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk
¼ cup organic strawberry preserves
2 to 3 drops red gel food coloring
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons robust molasses
⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
1 ounce freeze-dried strawberries
3 tablespoons Latik (see recipe below) or crushed shortbread
For the Latik
Makes 1 cup
1 (33.8) Carton coconut cream or coconut milk
Pour the coconut cream into a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to low and stir occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent the cream from boiling over. Continue to cook as the oil and solids start to separate, stirring frequently to make sure nothing is burning at the bottom of the pan. Keep cooking until the curds are a golden-brown color, 65 to 75 minutes.
Once they’re done cooking, turn off the heat and strain the coconut oil from the saucepan using a large sieve. You can save the oil at room temperature in a glass jar with a lid for up to 2 days; you will be left with latik in the strainer.
Store the latik in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week if you’re not immediately using it.
Note: If you don’t have coconut cream, you can alternatively use coconut milk. Just note that the yield will be much less than the original recipe since coconut cream has more solids.
For the Sapin-Sapin
Prepare a steamer by filling a large pot with 2 inches of water and fitting the pot with a steel steaming rack. Bring the water to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a pastry brush, grease 18 aluminum egg tart molds with the coconut oil. Set aside.
Whisk the glutinous rice flour, rice flour, sugar, and coconut milk together in a large bowl until the mixture is smooth. Divide the mixture evenly among three small bowls.
In the first bowl, mix in the strawberry preserves and red gel food coloring. In the second bowl, mix in the vanilla. In the third bowl, mix in the molasses and cinnamon. Mix in the strawberry preserves and red gel food coloring in the first bowl. Set aside.
Pour 1 tablespoon of the strawberry mixture into each prepared mold. Place the molds on the steaming rack and cover the pot with a lid. Depending on the size of your steamer, you may have to steam the sapin-sapin in multiple batches and add more water as you go. Steam for about 5 minutes, or until the layer is set and no longer liquid.
Remove the lid, pour 1 tablespoon of the vanilla mixture over each of the strawberry layer, and cover with the lid again. Steam for another 5 minutes. Using tongs, remove the molds from the steamer and let them cool completely at room temperature.
In the bowl of a food processor, blitz the freeze-dried strawberries until they turn into a powder. Set aside.
Use a small rubber spatula to gently loosen the sapin-sapin from their molds. Invert upside down on a plate with the strawberry layer facing up. To serve, top each sapin-sapin with ½ teaspoon of the latik and ¼ teaspoon of the freeze-dried strawberry powder (Instead of latik, you can also use crushed shortbread for a similar textural component.) If not serving immediately, store the sapin-sapin in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Explore this Northeast Filipino grocery and food store. There are boxes of assorted polvoron (shortbread cookie) with flavors like pandan, ube and toasty pinipig, coconut, and pineapple. Also find the pandan-filled moon cake-like pastry called hopia and macapuno ensaymada, a soft, sweet bread covered with butter, sugar and topped with grated cheese. It delivers a perfect blend of salty and sweet.
What if bibingka was made with corn masa typically used in tamales and tortillas? Roxxanne Delle Site-Jeronimo created a version of her favorite childhood dessert with ingredients of her husband Alfredo’s Mexican heritage. The couple combines their cultural backgrounds to offer Filipino-Mexican delights on their Instagram pop-up shop.
Delle Site-Jeronimo remixes tres leches with Pinoy ingredients like sampaguita (jasmine flower), ube, pandan and Milo hot chocolate mix. Her ensaymada-concha hybrid is filled with ube and macapuno (jellylike coconut), and doughnuts come with a calamansi-poppyseed glaze and a caramelized plantain cream filling.
To order the treats, keep an eye out on Instagram — the couple offers items monthly.
In Mount Laurel, find turon with ube ice cream, halo-halo and more on the made-to-order menu at Manila Cafe. Plus, cassava cake, banana fritters, sapin-sapin, and other types of rice and coconut cakes are served on certain days.
You’ll find sapin-sapin, cassava cake, and sweet fried saba bananas at the Somerdale location.
📍 200 Larchmont Blvd., Mount Laurel, 📞 856-222-0604, 🌐 manilacafenj.net;📍 20 S White Horse Pike, Somerdale, 📞 856-435-4999, 🌐 manilacafe2nj.net
Over in East Passyunk, chef Lou Boquila is a master at kamayan family-style feasts. At Perla, a chocolate coconut budino concludes the impressive meal.
News Source: https://www.inquirer.com/philly-tips/mayumu-cookbook-abi-balingit-filipino-desserts-philly-20230315.html?outputType=amp