Tuesday, January 27, 2009



D'Unik Oriental Food, $2.39 for 2 sachets of mix

While I'm on the subject of pre-fab Filipino delicacies, allow me to present bibingka, a golden cake essential at Christmas but popular year-round. Innumerable variations are enjoyed throughout the Philippines and neighboring countries. Even having read more than a dozen different recipes, I can't say for certain what definitively separates bibingka from any old cake.

I bought a box of bibingka mix from the Filipino grocery because I couldn't figure out what to do with the coconut jam or jars of chickpeas in syrup and was feeling inadequate; "Baking," I reassured myself, "I can do that!"

My confidence made it as far as the register, where the cashier looked me up and down and speculated that I probably didn't have any fresh banana leaves.

Banana leaves? Uh, nope, none of those in the pantry.

"Oh well, I guess you'll figure something out."

So I lined my pan with wax paper (the banana leaves of the Pacific Northwest) and set to mixing. The mix itself is made up of rice and wheat flours, sugar, and baking powder; to that I added water, eggs, sugar, and melted butter (although the box called for margarine, which I consider to be the Devil's own spread).

Then I had to choose my cooking method from a fascinating range of options. The preferred method is cooking the batter in 4 small batches in a toaster oven; instructions are also given for cooking in a ice cream can (apparently Filipino ice cream comes in huge tins) over live charcoal, cooking on the stove in a skillet or "mini kawali", and last but not least, boring old oven baking (my choice).

About 20 minutes later I was slicing into a hot, plump, golden-skinned bibingka. It was perfectly pleasant but a little ho-hum, like a moist yellow cake with the richness dialed down a notch and the texture set to "slightly rubbery". I definitely wish that I had sprung for some or all of the popular toppings--sugar, salted duck eggs, white cheese, melted butter, and grated coconut. To see bibingka done right, check out the [eatingclub]Vancouver blog.

D'Unik Oriental Food
18002 15th Ave NE
Shoreline, WA 98155

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