Just right outside the city is the House of Silvanas Bakeshop. This tiny bakeshop in Filipino-town Daly City truly lives up to its name: it’s the House of amazing Filipino sweet treats, from food for the gods to polvoron.
Food for the gods are tasty candy bars made of dates and walnuts. Polvoron, on the other hand, is powdered milk candy, which is basically toasted flour, sugar, butter and powdered milk. I fondly remember enjoying making polvoron with my mom growing up in Manila. She would mix all the ingredients and toast them in a huge wok and I would mold them into oval-shaped candies. But I remember getting too frustrated though when I tried wrapping them in delicate Japanese paper.
But the real reason to make the trip to this bakeshop are their deliciously crunchy and creamy silvanas.
A silvana is a layer of buttercream sandwiched between two cashew-meringue wafers, coated with cookie crumbs. For those who grew up in the Philippines, it’s the cookie version of Sans Rival, a rich Filipino cake with layers of meringue, cashews and buttercream. It comes in truly Filipino flavors: ube or purple yam, buko pandan or coconut and mango. And there’s chocolate, mocha and strawberry, too. They are best enjoyed frozen. The crunchy wafers and the yummy buttercream just delightfully melt in your mouth.
The House of Silvanas is a bit of a trek from the city but it’s well worth the trip. Just a note though that the bakeshop is in a rather inconspicuous location, tucked away in a shopping center. The obvious landmark to watch out for is a weathered sign that says bake shop to your right along Gellert Boulevard.
A true Filipino Christmas is never complete without the beloved bibingka.
Bibingka is a native rice cake topped with cheese and salted egg baked over hot coals in a clay oven and served with butter, sugar and grated coconut. It is very popular during the Holidays but it’s virtually available back home anytime of the year.
I grew up enjoying this sweet treat, which brings back so many memories of Christmases past. Since I have this strong urge to indulge and, disappointingly, I could not find a decent place in the city that makes them, I decided to make bibingka myself. It’s technically not from scratch since I planned on using store-bought rice cake mix but I figured, I would use banana leaves, which would bring the level of complexity a few notches higher.
And so I drove to Manila Oriental Market, my newest discovery in the city. It’s a huge Filipino supermarket that sells pretty much all things Filipino, from notorious duck eggs to freshly baked pan de sal. I got myself a White King bibingka mix, eggs and butter. We had confectioner’s sugar at home and so I was fine. And I also bought frozen banana leaves for under a buck. I thought about getting salted eggs and coconut to grate but I decided to keep it simple for now.
Here are the ingredients.
1 250 g pack White King bibingka mix
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1 cup water
4 tbsp melted butter
Beat 3 eggs, add the rest of the ingredients and mix until smooth. Pour the mixture into ramekins lined with banana leaves. Top with slices of cheese. Fairly simple, right? I used four 5-inch ramekins and topped the cakes with a really sharp cheddar cheese.
Preheat the oven at 450F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes. The White King box says it’s okay to broil but don’t. I broiled my cakes on my first try and burned them! Apple pie déjà vu!
Brush with some butter and serve hot.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good it tasted, seriously. Dennis enjoyed it a lot, too. He got a kick out of the banana leaves, which I must say made it even better. Well, next time I want to try it with salted eggs and some grated coconut. Or better yet, I want to try the real thing. It’s time to plan a trip back home.
By the way, I was completely surprised to find out that bibingka is a close relative to the Indian dessert bebinca, a pudding made of flour, sugar, butter and coconut milk. The dessert is also popular in Portugal and Mozambique.
I was so excited to see saba bananas the other day at this Filipino grocery store I recently discovered in the city. The first thing that came to mind: I can fry them and make banana-cues!
Banana-cues are deep-fried bananas with caramelized sugar on a stick. It’s one of my favorite after-school snacks growing up. Instead of frying them after slicing or mashing like they do in Latin America, Filipinos deep-fry their saba or Philippine plantains whole and then stab a bamboo stick through them to make them a little more handy.
I actually have never made banana-cues before since my mom, of course, made them for us and they’re ubiquitous back home. Apparently, it’s really simple to do: heat a wokful of oil, roll the bananas in brown sugar and deep-fry them. It’s easier said than done, I guess. After burning a couple bananas in my first try, I managed to get the sugar nicely caramelized with the rest of the batch.
They were not perfect but they were truly homemade.
I have spent many Christmases away and this year will not be any different as Dennis, Stanford and I are spending Christmas in the city. But I still feel a little homesick when this time of the year comes. Christmas is huge back home, filled with traditions and brimming with Mom’s great food. Plus I particularly love the fact that the festivities are stretched two weeks out with more food and more presents over New Year’s and my birthday in January. As the youngest and the only boy in a family of eight, I fancied the lavish attention when I was growing up.
To shake off the holidays blues, I decided to seek out food in the city that reminds me of home and make up a list of my own favorite Filipino comfort food. At the top of my list is a plateful of fresh, crispy, and juicy Jollibee Chickenjoy.
Growing up back in Manila, a trip to Jollibee with my Mom and sisters was more than a treat, it was an event. My family wasn’t well-off and I certainly looked forward to the rare times when we would treat ourselves to fried chicken with rice, and french fries if we were lucky. My sister, Vangie, actually started her restaurant career at Jollibee. She would bring home goodies like burgers and fries every now and then and I would stay up late to wait for her when she worked the night shift. And when my sister, Liz, bought a tiny second-hand Toyota, we would cram five people and drive to pick Vangie up at Jollibee and get free vanilla and chocolate fudge sundaes on the way home.
Those were the days.