Posted in The Flavors of Asia, The Joy of Snacks

In Which We Talk About Binatog

Binatog for a lazy afternoon...
Binatog for a lazy afternoon…

The clang of a bell in the mid-afternoon is considered a herald of light yet satisfying eating in many residential districts throughout the Philippines.  An ambulant vendor on a bicycle cheerfully rings his bell between two and four in the afternoon – a sure sign that there is binatog on offer for hungry souls seeking something heavier than crisps but not as hefty as rice cakes.

Binatog is one of the simplest dishes in Philippine cuisine.  It is, basically, starchy white corn soaked in salt-water until the innards get all puffy.  The soaked corn is then drained and boiled in fresh water just until the skins on the kernels are beginning to slip off.  The cooked corn is then drained thoroughly and stored by vendors in a large, cylindrical container made of stainless steel.  Several smaller containers are attached nearby, each containing such accoutrements as freshly grated coconut, salt, and sugar.

A bowlful of binatog will set a diner back P 10.00 (about US$ 0.22), though individual diners have to provide their own crockery as there is no room on the vendor’s bike for even the flimsiest of paper plates or cups.  It is a deeply satisfying snack: the bland corn gains savour from the addition of salt (we never ask for sugar when we buy binatog) and there is a muted sweetness from the coconut.  It is, to me, the taste of summers past; it is a taste of my childhood.



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.

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