Posted in Sweets for the Sweet, The Flavors of Asia, The Joy of Snacks

The Non-negotiable Bibingka

Ferino's bibingka

It’s one of those things that both locals and balikbayans agree upon: a large, thick, flat-surfaced cake still piping-hot off the coals, dripping with butter and covered with a veritable snowdrift of grated coconut.  It should be subtly sweet with a rather fragrant smokiness from the scorched banana leaves that lined its baking tin.  And while they aren’t exactly obligatory, fat slivers of kesong puti (white carabao milk cheese) and salted duck egg add a savory twist that is most welcome, most comforting.

This glorious concoction is called bibingka, an unctuously good cake made with rice flour (galapong) and specifically baked over coals in a traditional clay oven (kalang putik) and with more coals heaped over it in a tin receptacle.  Traditionally, the appearance of bibingka and the glutinous purple treat known as puto bumbong are edible heralds of the Christmas season as these are served in churchyard kiosks after dawn Mass.  Today, however, it is served regardless of the season and is available from food court stalls and posh establishments.

Ferino’s bibingka, in particular, is one of those non-negotiable delights most Filipinos who have been away from home shores demand upon their return.  For one thing, it’s certainly fatter and richer than most of the bibingka sold in this frugal age: it’s a golden yellow, has the right amount of fluffy stodge to its texture, it isn’t very sweet, and it comes to your table with a mound of coconut, lashings of salted butter, cheese, and slices of salted duck egg yolk (yes, the shockingly delectable yolk!).

Via Mare's bibingka

The bibingka at Via Mare is a less baroque affair, but it’s just as good.  Then there’s the one served over at Heavenly Chocolates which is thick, fluffy, incredibly buttery, and comes snowed under with grated cheese – it’s perfect with a hot cup of single-origin Davao or Sao Thome hot chocolate.

Whichever way you have your rice cake, each warm mouthful is certainly filled with a harmonious set of flavors you can build memories on.  😉



Midge started her career in PR writing at seventeen when she began drafting documentaries for a government-run television station in the Philippines. Since then, she made a career in advertising and public relations which ended in June 2016 These days, she works full time at Philippine Tatler as a features writer under the nom de guerre Marga Manlapig. Aside from what she does for a living and her poetry, she has turned her home kitchen into a personal culinary lab and is currently working on another novel. Follow her on Instagram at @midgekmanlapig.

3 thoughts on “The Non-negotiable Bibingka

  1. OMG, I got into so much trouble eating bibingka during our visit last Christmas – I would have a piece every morning at the breakfast buffet and then couldn’t resist ordering it during the day if we were out at the mall or in a restaurant. I want to try making it myself but am worried that if it turns out well, I’ll be in trouble again! 8-D

    Thanks for these suggestions on where to go for the best bibingka. Now I can’t wait to visit PI again!

  2. Rice flour! Oh how forgetful I am. I went to pick up some banana leaves, coconut milk and a few other things at a filipino shop in Milan yesterday but got side-tracked when I saw the multi-colored tapioca pearls. From there it all went haywire, because instead of the rice flour, I added halo-halo mix and natural peanut butter to the cart!

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