You’d be hard put to find a Filipino without a sweet tooth, so our affinity for the sugary stuff is manifested in a lot of the traditional dishes we come up with. In this article, we’re giving you five iconic Filipino desserts we believe are representative of the Filipinos’ love affair with all things sweet.
A few notes for those not familiar with Filipino cuisine: popularly translated as panghimagas (roughly defined as food consumed to wash away the cloying taste [umay] of the main course), the idea of eating sweet dishes as the endnote of a meal is still relatively new in the Philippines and is most popular in urbanized cities like Manila, Cebu, Davao, and their kind. On the other hand, people from rural areas, though well aware of the food items featured here, are more likely to eat them as an afternoon snack than as a dessert. Still, for purposes of this article, these dishes’ sugary compositions make them a good fit with the traditional concept of dessert adopted by Westerners and Filipino urbanites.
1. Halo Halo
Possibly the most popular dessert in Filipino cuisine, the classic halo-halo is a study in contrasting elements: the best kind uses food items you normally would not think is suitable for dessert such as gulaman, corn flakes, rice crispies, nata de coco, ube, macapuno balls, bananas, and more. These items are all placed upon a bed of ice, conspicuously drizzled with evaporated milk, and, if you’re feeling especially hungry, topped with a scoop of ube or vanilla ice cream. There is no subtlety here, just mix the whole thing until it turns into a purplish (if with ube) or whitish soup, then eat.
2. Suman at Latik
Suman at latik is a local rice delicacy made of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk (suman), drizzled with a thick syrupy caramelized coconut cream (latik). For an extra punch of flavor, you can eat it with a slice of Philippine mango.
Traditional suman at latik may be found in a lot of places in the Philippines (such as Antipolo or Pangasinan), but may be a bit difficult to find in Manila. As an alternative, you can try the following places which serve suman with a twist: Abe and Bacolod Chicken Inasal.
3. Sans Rival
Sans rival is a type of cake made up of layers of meringue, rich buttery icing, and cashews, peanuts, or pistachios. Depending on who you talk to, the best kind is either distinctly crisp or mildly chewy.
4. Leche Flan
A very simple dessert, the leche flan is a staple of all Philippine parties and fiestas. It’s a simple custard made from eggs, milk and sugar, with the golden brown sheen of a thin layer of molten white sugar on top. Very sweet, and best eaten in small doses. It also goes well with the halo-halo.
5. Buko Pandan
The buko pandan is usually described as a ‘salad’, although it’s far (very far) from healthy. It’s made from the shredded meat of a young coconut (buko), cubes of pandan gelatin, enough sweetened cream and condensed milk to make the average person palpitate, and a few drops of pandan extract. These ingredients are then mixed together and refrigerated before being consumed. Really simple to make but very refreshing on a nice summer day.
Hands down, the best buko pandan is sold by Nathaniel’s. Everything else seems mediocre by comparison.
Featured photo was taken from here.