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Filipino Desserts

Filipinos love desserts. The Filipino term for dessert is “Panghimagas”. Most Filipinos would not consider you a good cook if you don’t know how to make desserts, specially the Leche Flan. Most desserts are the sweeter varieties of rice cakes (discussed here) such as the Kalamay, Polvoron, and Sapin-Sapin. The Banan-que, and Turon (even the Saging con Hielo) I mentioned in the recent post also qualify here as desserts. Some would also consider the “Guinataan””, and the “Halo-Halo” as desserts, but I have am making a separate post for them.

Leche Flan
Arguably the most common dessert in the Filipino Cuisine is the Leche Flan or Sweet Milk Custard. It’s basically a custard made from condensed milk and egg yolks, with a sweet syrup topping and sauce, and looks similar to the French Crème Brulee. Although Spanish in origin, it has captured the tastebuds of Filipinos like no other dessert can.

Ube Halaya – Ube Jam
Ube (Purple Yam) is a kind of Yam root crop common all over the Philippine islands. Ube Halaya is candy-like concoction made from finely sieved Ube pulp, mixed with milk, lots of sugar and coconut milk. Ube Jam is a version of this dish where condensed milk replaces the coconut milk in the recipe. The difference is that Ube Halaya is sticky (almost like toffee) and sweeter, while Ube Jam is creamier and has a consistency almost like paste. Unlike the Leche Flan, this is a uniquely Filipino dish.

Macapuno is technically a mutant coconut. As opposed to regular coconut, it’s meat is much softer, a bit sweeter, and has a nuttier taste. The meat is shredded and cooked in water and white sugar. It can be eaten as it is, but it is most often used as an ingredient in various dessert concoctions such as Ube-Macapuno cake, Halo-Halo, and Macapuno Tarts. In the past, Macapuno is a rare delicacy since a coconut tree rarely produces the Macapuno coconut. Planting the mutated coconut fruit does not guarantee that the tree it will become will yield Macapuno coconuts. Extensive research on Macapuno propagation lead to the discovery of a variant of coconut tree that can produce coconut which almost all are Macapuno. Until the late 1980’s Macapuno can only be found in the Philippines. Then a scientist from Thailand took interest in this mutated marvel and now it has also become a popular treat in Thailand. However, you can still differentiate Thailand Macapuno from the Philippine variety. The Philippine Macapuno is thicker and denser, while the Thailand variety is watery. The official English translation of Macapuno seems to be "Coconut Sport". How it got that name is beyond me, so I'm sticking to Macapuno.

The Yema is a custard like candy that is most likely to be served shaped like a tall pyramid. The Yema’s history is a fascinating one. It is believed that the Yema was invented during the Spanish era, where egg whites were used to be mixed with cement when constructing buildings. Some ingenious Filipinos saved the egg yolks that were to be discarded. They mixed the egg yolks with milk, sugar, and finely ground peanuts and cooked them until thick. The product is the dessert we now call the yema. Some say that the first yema’s used to be spherical in shape. I don’t know yet how it acquired the tall pyramid shape it now has. Though some still prepare it in spherical balls, tall pyramid shape is still more popular.

-to be continued-

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