Home-made Mini Bibingka (Rice Cake)

IMG_0988.JPGAh, the memories of warm, freshly-made bibingka on chilly Christmas season mornings, sold near church premises during the traditional dawn masses – Simbanggabi. Or dining out with family and friends at Filipino restaurants specializing in popular cuisine and delicacies.

Now, in home kitchens, modern technology has replaced traditional cooking implements like claypots and charcoal-fired grills.

How about an inexpensive pancake maker to enjoy your bibinka anytime at home? Mini bibingkas to be exact.

Mini bibingkas are great for family gatherings.  You can definitely impress your guests with these home-made replicas of that favorite “coconutty” Filipino delicacy!

(Use of banana leaves to hold the mini-cakes optional)


1 cup rice flour (available at most Asian grocery stores)

2 tsps baking powder

4 tbsps butter, melted

A couple pinches of salt

1 cup sugar

1 cup coconut milk

¼ cup fresh milk

3 eggs

1 salted duck egg (itlog na maalat, sliced)

6 slices, cheddar cheese

1/2 cup  grated coconut


In a mixing bowl, combine rice flour, baking powder, salt, eggs, butter, sugar, coconut milk and fresh milk.  Whisk and mix well.

Pour the mixture into the pancake maker. Top each cake with a slice of cheese and salted egg. Cook until mixture is set and lightly browned. Remove from pancake maker.  Transfer to a plate and top with grated coconut and, if desired, some extra butter.



What’s That Purple Color In My Eggroll?

imageI’ve concluded long time ago that one can make eggrolls out of anything — pork, chicken, beef, vegetables and fruit.

In the Philippines, one particular eggroll is popular as a snack or dessert.  It’s called turon which basically contains banana of the saba variety.  Some variations include other local fruits like jackfruit.

But I was intrigued one day to find a recipe that included purple yam in the egg roll, specifically the jam that’s quite popular in my hometown of Baguio City.  It’s called ube halaya in the local dialect.

So I did prepare this in my kitchen and I’m afraid I’m going to be hooked with this recipe.

Note: Brown sugar is usually added to the eggrolls and is carmelized to add sweetness.  But I skipped the sugar because the purple yam jam already provides the needed sweetness.


3 bananas of the saba variety, peeled and sliced lengthwise (if using smaller eggroll wrappers, you can slice each banana crosswise, then lengthwise to make 4 pieces)

A teaspoon of purple yam jam for every eggroll

6-12 eggroll wrappers (depending on ther size of the wrapper and the number of slices you’ve made of the bananas0

Olive oil for frying


Take one eggroll wrapper and place it on a plate or clean surface.  Place a teaspoon of the jam in the center of the wrapper.  Place a slice of banana in the lower third of the wrapper. Fold in the left and right sides of the wrapper before rolling it away from you.  Seal the end of the wrapper by moistening with water.  Repeat process for the rest of the eggrolls.

Heat Olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat.  Fry the eggrolls, making sure they’re nicely browned on either side.  Remove from heat and set on a plate lined with paper tower to drain excess oil.

Serve warm and enjoy!



Bangus Shanghai (Milk Fish Egg Roll)

imageLumpiang Shanghai is a popular food fare in the Philippines. It is basically a tiny egg roll stuffed with ground meat, usually pork or chicken. It is commonly served as an appetizer (but also as a side dish) at family and community gatherings.

This version of Lumpiang Shanghai uses shredded milk fish instead of pork or chicken. Leftover cooked boneless milk fish can be used for this recipe which makes preparation a lot easier. If there are no leftover cooked fish, one can always buy pre-packaged and sometimes pre-seasoned  raw boneless bangus in preparing the stuffing.


1 whole fried or baked boneless bangus or 1 cup shredded leftover cooked boneless bangus

1/2 cup shredded carrots

1 small onion, chopped

1/3 cup green onions, finely sliced

1/3 cup green peas (optional)

1/3 cup dried raisins (optional)

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp vinegar

Salt and pepper to taste

2 doz. eggroll wrapper

Olive oil for frying


Shred the cooked boneless bangus and transfer into a mixing bowl.  Add carrots, onions, peas and raisins and mix well. Add soy sauce, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

Take one egg roll wrapper at a time and place about a teaspoon of the fish mixture.  Tightly roll the wrapper and seal the edges, moistening them with water.

Heat Olive oil in a frying pan over medium-heat.  Fry the egg rolls in batches until they become golden brown.  Remove from heat and place on a plate lined with paper towel to drain excess oil.

Serve warm with a side of sweet sour sauce or vinegar with sliced Thai chillies.


Fruity Nutty Sweet Pear

photo(1)Spring is upon us and what a better time to think about healthy salads, desserts or appetizers. This fruity, nutty roasted sweet pear is the perfect warm dessert to follow a hearty meal, but you can also make this dish a topping for your favorite fresh green salad.  Then again, how about making this recipe for your mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack?  Feeling a little warm on a sunny spring day? No problem. How about serving this recipe with a scoop of ice cream or chilled yogurt?


1 medium ripe but firm Anjou pear

2 tsps toasted walnut pieces

1 tsp dried raisin

2 cashew halves

1 medium fresh strawberry, cut in half

1/2 cup apple cider

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp crumbled feta cheese



Peel the pear and cut in half, lengthwise. Using a small paring knife or a melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each half, creating a rounded well to put in the filling. Turn each half over and slice off a small amount of the rounded center so that the pears can sit steady on a baking dish.  Place both halves, core side up on a baking plan lined with aluminum foil. In a small bowl or cup, mix the sugar and the apple cider until the sugar is fully dissolved, and set aside. Place half the amount of walnuts, raisins and feta cheese in the center core of one pear half and do the same with the other half. Pour the cider over each half.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking dish in the oven and cook for 30 minutes, occasionally basting the pear with the cider juice.  Remove from heat and place on a serving plate.  Place a cashew half  and a half strawberry on each pear, adding in the remaining cider juice.

Palitaw: Glutinous Rice Cake With Coconut

imageThe Philippines is known for many unique and sweet delicacies prepared from rice, coconut and sugar which are among its major agricultural products. One of these delicacies is called palitaw, loosely translated as “to appear.”  It probably got its name because in the preparation process — while boiling — the one sign that this glutinous rice cake is done is when it starts to rise  (appear) to the surface of the pot.

Palitaw  is always present in family gatherings and town fiestas, and is often sold by street vendors especially during the holidays, including  Christmas. It is a “flat” cake made from glutinous rice flour (available in most Asian grocery stores), sweetened with cane sugar, and topped by shredded coconut and toasted sesame seeds.  Other variations of this cake may include those that are flavored with substitute or additional ingredients such as ube or purple yam which gives it a different color and taste.

This rice cake is really easy to make — no baking necessary.


2 cups glutinous rice flour

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup sesame seeds

10 cups water for boiling

Enough water to make the dough


In a small frying pan, toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned.  Set aside.  Place the glutinous rice flour into a deep bowl and gradually pour in  water, constantly stirring to make a soft dough.  Knead the dough and form into 3 to 4-inch oval shaped cakes.  Flatten the cakes.  Bring 10 cups water to a boil in a large pot.  Drop the cakes into the boiling water in batches.  Simmer for a few minutes until the cakes rise up to the surface.  Remove from the pan.  Drain by laying the cakes on a plate or flat surface lined with a clean kitchen towel, and pressing them with a spatula or the back of a large spoon.  Coat both sides of each cake with shredded coconut.  Sprinkle both sides with sugar and toasted sesame seeds.  To have a truly Filipino experience, serve the cakes on fresh banana leaves.

Move Over Spam Sushi, Here Comes Steamed Bun Spam

bunsSpam Musubi, or more popularly known as Spam Sushi, has become extremely popular in Hawaii where every corner ABC Store or Food Court would have it in their refrigerated section or as part of their regular menu. Its popularity has crossed the Pacific Ocean. Many Hawaiian-themed restaurants and fast-food places in the U.S. Mainland now offer this comfort food item.  During my days living in the Philippines, Spam was a prized commodity, initially available only in U.S. military commissaries or in the “black market” where business people obtain goods without paying taxes then selling them through the regular retail trade channels.

There must be some other way to enjoy my Spam or luncheon meat, I thought to myself one day.  Then, while shopping at my favorite Asian grocery store, I saw some prepackaged frozen dough — folded Chinese buns ready for the steamer.  I’ve had these buns many times before, with meat or vegetable fillings, as in the case of siopao.   But I’ve also had them at gourmet Chinese restaurants where they are served along with roasted duck skin.  And so, I thought of combining the Spam Sushi and steamed bun concepts and this is what I came up with.  If you like Spam, but are cutting down on your rice, try it with steamed buns!


1 can Spam or luncheon meat, sliced into 1/4-inch pieces

1 package frozen steamed buns (folded)

Sprigs of fresh cilantro, thoroughly washed

Hoisin Sauce (you can also use regular soy sauce)

1 tbsp Olive oil

2 cups water


Fry the spam slices in a pan or skillet lightly greased with Olive oil, about one minute on each side. Place the frozen steamed buns in a steamer basket.  Bring 2 cups water to a quick boil in a sauce pan.  Place steamer basket over the boiling water. Cover. Turn off heat and let the buns steam for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  Take a folded bun and spread the inside with desired amount of Hoisin or soy sauce.  Place a slice of cooked Spam or luncheon meat inside each folded bun and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Home-Made Brazo de Mercedes

photoIf you speak Spanish, then you would know that Brazo de Mercedes literally translates into “Arm of Mercedes.”  How it got its name is uncertain, but this rolled cake — at least before it is sliced — looks like part of someone’s arm. Given the Philippines’ colonial past, there is little debate that this rolled cake has its Spanish origin.  It’s probably the Filipino version of the Spanish Brazo de Gitano, which means Gypsy’s arm.

I very rarely make cakes nor claim to have the expertise for it, but I thought I’d try to make a home-made version of this popular Filipino dessert/snack.  I know I’d be better off picking up a roll or a slice from Goldilock’s Bakery in San Jose.  But there’s always room to learn and experiment.

It is quite a tedious process to make this cake, but it is worth the effort, even if it doesn’t turn out to look exactly the same as the ones prepared in a commercial bakery.


10 eggs, whites and yolks separated

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1 cup condensed milk

1 cup evaporated milk

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp lemon zest


Prepare the meringue by combining egg whites and cream of tartar in a large bowl. Whisk well.  Slowly add the granulated sugar and continue to whisk until the texture is almost firm.  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a large baking tray with parchment paper and pour in the mixture, spreading it evenly.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Prepare the custard filling by mixing egg yolks, condensed milk and evaporated milk in a medium pan.  Cook the custard mixture in medium heat, stirring constantly until it thickens.  Add vanilla extract and lemon zest.  Stir well before turning heat off.  When the meringue is done, remove from oven and let it cook down.  Spread the custard filling on top of the meringue sheet then carefully roll the sheet to form a tube.  Return the rolled cake to the oven and continue to bake for a few more minutes until the outer layer turns light brown.  Remove from heat, let it cool, then slice and serve ( You can also chill the cake before serving and slicing). Sprinkle confectioners sugar over the cake or slices.