ensaymada bread

Filipino Merienda #1: Breads and Pastries

In the previous posts, I mentioned in two parts how a typical Filipino breakfast is like. On this post, I’m now to describe those light meals or snacks taken in between meals. This kind of treat is what we Filipinos call merienda. It came from the Spaniards and is like an afternoon tea. The term merienda cena means an afternoon light meal almost near dinner time.

I grew up having meriendas at around ten o’clock in the morning and around four o’clock in the afternoon. Those in-between snacks are usually light to fill the tummy while waiting for the next meal. Again, digestion takes place in two hours. Filipinos instinctively eat almost about every two to three hours.

So what are the typical snacks among Filipinos? There are many choices:

(1) Savory light meals like the champorado (which is usually a breakfast treat), arroz caldo (or lugaw), tokwa’t baboy, dinuguan, etc.
(2) Noodles (pancit) – there are many varieties of pancit in the Filipino cuisine like bijon, Canton, palabok, etc.
(3) Kakanin (rice or root crop-based cakes) like bibingka, biko, cassava cake, sapin-sapin, etc.
(4) Bread (tinapay) and pastries like ensaymada, mamon, inipit, etc. which I’ll be featuring here.
(5) Street food like banana cue, camote cue, fishballs, squid balls, kikiam, barbecue, isaw, etc.
(6) Desserts like leche flan, sans rival, silvanas, halo-halo, mais con hielo, sorbetes, etc.
(7) Dim sum and dumplings like siopao, siomai, etc.
(8) Fruits of the season
(9) Chichiria (snack foods) like pilipit, shingaling, banana chips, ampaw, kropek, fish crackers, etc.

On this post, I’ll be focusing on tinapay, a Filipino term for bread in general. I’ve already mentioned about pan de sal, so we could skip that now.

Here in the Philippines, almost every street has a variety store (sari-sari store) that sells bread or a panaderia (bakery). These local bakeries produce a wide variety of breads, cookies, cakes, and pastries aside from the staple commodity, pan de sal.

Next to the pan de sal comes the ensaymada. It is a bread roll with cheese filling made into a coil, covered with butter and sugar. It comes in different shapes, sizes, and varieties. The one on the picture is the usual fare you’ll see on local panaderias. It’s a large one that fits a saucer.

Another bread is my mother in-law’s favorite: pan de coco. It is a bread roll filled with sweetened shredded coconut. My husband’s favorite is what Filipinos call putok. It’s a hard bread roll and it’s cratered surface is glazed with sugar. The name means “explode” or “crack” because the bread’s surface resembles a crack creating a crater on the surface after baking. Another personal favorite of mine is what we call kababayan. It’s a small, sweet, gong-shaped muffin with a tinge of lemon. Another panaderia staple is the Spanish bread. It is a rolled pastry filled with butter (or margarine) that resembles a croissant without the crescent shape. Pianono is a chiffon with filling, rolled and coated in sugar. Inipit are two thin layers of chiffon with a custard filling, topped with butter and sugar. Mamon a chiffon-type cake sprinkled with sugar, its name derived from a slang Spanish term for breast. Another mamon variant is mamon tostado, a mamon toasted to a crunchy texture.

The egg pie has very rich egg custard filling and is a mainstay in local bakeries. It is baked so that the exposed custard on top is brown. Buko pie has young coconut meat and dairy as filling.  Empanadas are turnovers filled with meat filling. It could be deep fried or baked.

So here are the well-known breads and pastries Filipinos like to have as snacks. These snacks are best served with hot coffee, hot chocolate, or cold drinks. What’s your favorite bread?

I’ll be featuring other types of Pinoy merienda next time.

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