The mother-daughter duo behind a family-run bakery tell us the best Filipino baked goodies to try.
Dubai’s supermarket shelves often stock delicious treasures from the diverse cultures that call this city home. Filipino breads are one such treasure, but where do you start? You may be curious about those purple-tinged buns or stuffed, flaky pastries and would love to have them in your shopping cart, but it would be handy to know what’s what.
On this episode of the Deep Fried Podcast, we called on Marivic Fuentes and her daughter Mae Fuentes to walk us through the top 5 Filipino baked goodies we should start off with while exploring the bakery aisle. Marivic founded Pies Basket Bakery (@piesbasket) in 2006 in Sharjah and believes that the mission of their bakery is to feed as many people as possible. A sentiment that we can all get behind. Tune in to our podcast using the player below to hear them talk about Ensaymada, Pandesal, Hopia, Inipit and Mamon. We’ve also put these in a convenient list below with images for each.
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Pandesal is the staple bread roll at a Filipino table, usually eaten for breakfast or for merienda (a midday snack). It’s best buttered and dunked into a cup of coffee, though it also goes well with all the other breakfast staples: jam, cheese, canned beans and eggs.
It looks like a dinner roll with a layer of fine breadcrumbs all over the outer surface and is slightly sweeter in flavour, even though the name translates to ‘bread of salt’ or ‘salt bread’.
Mae recommends warming or toasting the pandesal slightly before eating it.
Ensaymada are the flagship product at Pies Basket and the one that led them to start the bakery. They would bake ensaymada at home and deliver it to family and friends and eventually, the demand was so high that they decided to open a bakery to cater to the community’s needs.
A good ensaymada has a luxurious, brioche-like texture and is often topped with powdered sugar and processed cheese. A seemingly strange but dangerously addictive combination that is likely to derail many a diet.
While the bread is originally from the Bulacan province, every region in the Philippines has its own variations and so does Pies Basket. They have an ube (purple yam) one and have previously experimented with pandan and coffee-caramel flavoured ones too.
Ensaymada are traditionally given as gifts and are associated with festivities—with ones as large as dinner plates made specially at Christmas!
Another favourite for pasalubong—gifting to loved ones—is Inipit (meaning pressed) which is a cake sandwiched with a cream or custard filling. Although made with a light chiffon cake, the inipit looks dense and squished since the sheet cake is layered with filling and then pressed together.
The classic flavour for this merienda favourite is a vanilla custard, though ube is quite popular and Pies Basket have developed a jackfruit one as well.
Indicative of the many influences on Filipino cuisine is Hopia, a dense but flaky, pressed, biscuit-like snack with a filling at the centre, usually monggo (mung bean).
Hopia evolved from Chinese Moon cakes, which have a bean filling and also come in a delicious caramelized onion variant. Some regions in the Philippines even do meat and custard-filled ones.
The texture is hard and crusty on the outside but flakier as you bite through the buttery layers to reach the soft sweet filling inside, somewhere between a croissant and cookie.
Some suggest that it makes a fitting gift for the amorously inclined, when you want to say “Hope ya’ like me!”
Mamon are made with a batter similar to chiffon cake with beaten egg whites mixed in to give it the required fluffiness. They’re dressed with powdered sugar or buttercream on the top, and just like Pandesal and Ensaymada, Mae recommends heating them slightly before eating.
A common idiom in Filipino culture is to refer to a soft-hearted person as “pusong mamon”—with a heart as soft as a mamon!