Hopia (好餅, known in other parts of Southeast Asia as bakpia) – flat-surfaced pastries filled with a sweet paste and cooked on a flat griddle – have long been a popular snack among Filipinos. First brought into Southeast Asia around the turn of the last century, these little treats take their name from the Fujian Chinese phrase hó-piá which literally means “good pastry”. It consists of a flaky puff-style pastry made with lard (as opposed to Western puff which is made with butter) encasing a filling made of mashed and sweetened mung beans. It belongs to the same group of Oriental sweets as Chinese mooncakes and the chestnut or sweet yam-filled manju of Japan and Korea.
Hopiang monggo – the kind filled with sweet mung bean fudge – is the most popular kind sold in the Philippines and is made by a number of reputable Chinese bakeries and sweet-shops. But the gold standard, in my family’s opinion, is barely even commercial. In fact, you’ll have to trek all the way down to the Quinta Market in Quiapo to taste it.
Welcome to the factory!
The Master Hopia Factory is a tiny bakery located in the side of Quiapo known as Echague, just past all those stores hawking native crafts beneath Manila’s Quezon Bridge, a stone’s throw away from the Islamic Quarter, and a short walk to the famed Church of the Black Nazarene. The mixed cultural heritage of its location, the historical significance of the nearby Quinta Market, and its interesting menu of offerings have made it a go-to spot for both local and foreign foodies for decades.
Still fresh and warm from the griddle – and only P 8.00 apiece!
For starters, hopia is its primary stock in trade. (Obviously!)
The hopiang monggo are a bit smaller than those sold by bigger players such as Eng Bee Tin and Polland, but they certainly are more flavorful. The crust is a bit charred, giving it a smoky flavor and a crisp texture. The smokiness of the crust helps even out the richness of the mung bean fudge within – and the fudge itself appears to be sweetened with less sugar than its commercial counterparts, allowing the natural taste and sweetness to shine through. The resulting cakes are crisp and crumbly when you bite into them and the filling is creamy and moreish. Just the thing, I daresay, to go with a hot cup of coffee or tea.
You can choose from a number of flavors
If hopiang monggo doesn’t crank your chain, Master Hopia also offers a number of other flavors that you could choose from.
On the traditional side, you can opt for the hopia kundol or the hopia pinya. The former is filled with sweetened wintermelon (kundol) mixed with a bit of fat pork; for this reason, it also goes by the name hopiang baboy or “pork hopia”. The filling for the latter is more obvious: a rather thick, tartly-sweet pineapple jam.
But this particular shop also offers some savory options. Cheese hopia – traditional hopia pastry wrapped around processed Cheddar-style cheese food – is also on sale, as is a ham-and-cheese version featuring slivers of Hoc Siu ham. The latter is rather Season-appropriate, seeing how Hoc Siu ham is a Holiday staple in many Filipino homes.
The classic hopiang monggo goes for P 8.00 (US$ 0.18) apiece; the fancier kinds go for P 10.00 (US$ 0.22) each.
Different dough, fancier design
The store also sells the doughier hopiang Hapon – Japanese-style cakes- which feature a sweet adzuki bean puree wrapped in a thicker, more buttery dough. The resulting cakes are given a fancy design by being molded in a press and are baked in an oven as opposed to being cooked on a griddle.
There are also a number of other sweets – cookies, polvoron (Spanish-style milky shortbread bites, sometimes coated with compound chocolate), Chinese peanut bars, and local pastillas (milk or jackfruit-flavored fudges) – for sale, along with locally made tapioca crisps, shrimp chips, and tamarind candies.
You can also buy ampaw – those crunchy sweet puffs of deep-fried rice dough rolled in crushed peanuts, puffed rice, or toasted sesame seeds, meringues, and a selection of savory nibbles such as dried anchovies and teriyaki-flavored squid bites.
It is truly one of those stores where there is definitely something for whatever it is you’ve been craving for. It’s a bit out of the way, but the treats are always worth a trip.
Master Hopia Factory Inc. – 206 Villalobos St, Quiapo, Manila