Old and New Favorite Filipino Desserts

2010/11/02 § 2 Comments

For all that new York has almost everything foodwise, there are still food that I have to come home to the Philippines to eat.  Here is a list of my favorite Filipino desserts, mostly old and some fairly new, that’s quite difficult to find even in the Big Apple.

1) Ube (purple yam) Ice Cream has got to be one of my all-time favorite.  (Up there with Mango and Rocky Road).  It has such a distinct flavour and texture  that surprisingly went well with this melange of ice creams (green tea), fruit (peaches) and nuts (almond and walnuts).  This ice cream  reminds me of days in the province with my cousins, digging up yams and cooking them over fire.

2)  Taho. This silken tofu, arnibal (brown sugar and vanilla syrup) and sago (pearl tapioca) mix is a staple of my childhood and brings back more fond memories of us, cousins, (this time in the city) calling the “magtataho” walking down the street and running towards him with our biggest cups and pleading for more of the syrup or the sago, depending on how we like our taho.

3)  Fresh Mango Chiboust at Bizu. Everyone who knows me know that I don’t eat fresh ripe mangoes.  (I know it’s heresy, after all Philippine Carabao Mangoes are the world’s juiciest and sweetest mangoes). I  used to.  A lot.  The entire second floor of our house in the province used to be filled with crates and crates of mangoes during mango season.  Until some unfortunate incident involving fish bones stuck in the throat.   It’s been over twenty years though so I can manage small bits now. But I really like the Bizu french cheesecake  so that even if it has that crown of ripe mangoes that I can’t eat, I still order it.

4)  Bananacue. Deep-fried Bananas with Caramelized Sugar that are usually skewered in sticks. Another one of those after-meal sweets that fervently remind me of home.  There’s something about the simplicity of this food and the comfort it gives – both filling and sweet -that trumps more sophisticated desserts in my eyes.  This is food that we normally get from street stalls or sidewalk vendors, that we eat even while walking and chatting with friends.  I will always love bananacue (except when the bananas are not ripe or soft enough).

5)  Claude’s Dream.  Pandan gelatin and young coconut on buffalo milk’s ice cream. Again, I love that this dessert is simple, full of Filipino flavours  and rich in texture.  I like how the sticky, sweet macapuno blends  with the cool and refreshing ice cream, and how the pandan gelatin and  the young buko strips slide in the mouth. I sometimes ask pinipig crunch to be added.   I lived and worked in the city of Manila for many years and frequented Cafe Adriatico in Remedios Circle  so often that I dreamt of owning a house just like it….tiny, old, cozy, gleaming…filled with the smell of cooking and the sounds of camaraderie. Claude’s Dream is my memory of that era in my life…

6)  Frozen Brazo de Mercedes at Florabel’s.  Layers of yema, mantecado ice-cream, meringue and graham crust. This is a new fave.  It’s been around for a while but I only got to try it early this year.  I’ve always loved looking at brazo de mercedes.  I love how the yellow filling seems so rich and the white meringue around it seem so light and airy.  Until I try it.  Always, my hair stands and blood rushes straight to my head from its utter sweetness.  Can’t.  Eat.  It.  And so it was with trepidation that I tried the frozen one that everyone’s been raving about.  And I’m happy I did.  It was still sweet.  So it’s best with strong coffee.  But it was tempered by the ice-cream and the dots of raspberry and lychee vinaigrette.  I can finally indulge in the airy moist meringue and rich yema without feeling sick.  I craved for it when I was in New York…and so I ran to Florabel’s in between meetings one day and just ordered the cake and coffee.  Bliss!

Yes, for all that New York has almost everything in terms of cuisine, Filipino food and restaurants are sadly under-represented.  Especially when it comes to dessert.  I would have to travel far to get a pint of ube ice cream…I actually don’t even know where to get one.  I get my taho (silken tofu) fix in Chinatown but it sadly doesn’t come with sago (tapioca pearls) which is my favorite.  I can make bananacue at home except that it’s difficult to find just the right kind of saba (banana) to use.  I certainly will never find macapuno ice cream.  I  heard that I can buy frozen brazo de mercedes at a store in Flushings, but I’m not really sure.

So I’m very happy to be home and  I make sure  to eat these old and new favorites of mine…


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