Pampanga has long enjoyed a reputation as “the culinary capital of the Philippines”. Its chief agricultural products—sugar and rice—have enabled its excellent cooks to create exquisite delicacies in their kusinas—from simple kakanins to mouth-watering pastries and confections bearing elegant French or Spanish names. Here is a list of such goodies—often available at the local panaderia and pasalubong centers, or exclusively made only for the most special occasions.
Buñuelos—crisp, fried bread--are favorite snack treats often dunked in hot Spanish chocolate. They are the local equivalent of the French beignet. In old Sulipan, in Apalit, it is said that making and preparing buñuelos is a test of skill for wives-to-be, as it involves molding, slapping, beating and folding the flour dough to achieve the characteristic crispy layers of the bread.
These are slim, doughnut shaped cookies that look like bracelets, strung together when sold. In the days of yore, they were favorite giveaways during confirmation of Kapampangan kids, who often wore them, before enjoying them.
Filipino version of shortbread biscuits – excellent with coffee or tea. The circular cookie literally means “rotten dough”, but the taste is anything but that. The cookie is a rich-tasting with a crisp, crumbly texture made from butter, flour and sugar. The old bakery of Aurelio Diyco or “Apung Diung” in Plaza Burgos, Guagua, Pampanga (founded in 1880) popularized the masa podrida in Pampanga; they are perfect for eating with a steaming cup of robust kape barako.
Similar to an empanada, this half moon shaped pastry is filled with mung bean sprouts and shrimp, or sometimes grated green papaya. The pastry is made with rice flour instead of regular wheat flour. Pabalat lumpia (lumpia wrapper) makes a good substitute. The crunchy panara is dipped in vinegar then enjoyed bite by bite.
You will never eat another puto bumbong again after you try patcu, an original Kapampangan delicacy that comes out only during the Christmas season (the word patcu is a corruption of 'pascu,' Christmas). Only two towns in Pampanga still make them: Sta. Rita and Guagua. The Guagua variety is a roll made of ground malagkit (glutinous) rice wrapped around a hefty filling of ngungut (grated coconut), plus a secret ingredient. A solitary store in Guagua still sells it, located along the Guagua-Sta. Rita road in Brgy. San Roque
Pilipit—“ing biskwit a mamagasakit”—is so named because it is twisted like a rope. It is a hard, crunchy pastry, deep-fried until brown, then sugar-coated. Pilipit are still found being sold by smalltown bakeries all over Pampanga.
Molded milk powder sweets, made from toasted unrefined corn flour, butter, sugar, a pinch of salt. Sometimes, other ingredients like pinipig, coffee, casuy nuts are thrown in. They are traditionally wrapped in Japanese paper with fringed ends, but today, they are wrapped in cellophane. The most popular commercial brand today are the pulboron made by Sasmuan Delicacies.
Made with regular bread dough, this panaderia favorite is made interesting because of its twisty-curly shape that resembles the body of squid, hence the name. It's roughly the local equivalent of the bowtie donut. It is slathered with Star margarine and sprinkled with sugar. The old Bondoc Bakery in Mabalacat still makes them.
Pan de sal (local bread) halves are spread with mashed potato laced with sauteed ground pork meat (like pork torta), then swabbed with egg batter and fried—hence, putung babi (pork bread). A poor man’s version make use of mashed kamote flavored with bagoong (baguk) as filling. It is said that “putung babi” was a creative way to recycle old bread and is still a common merienda fare in many towns like Guagua, Sta. Rita, Mabalacat and Angeles.
The samani used to be a favorite table centerpiece during fiestas and banquets. This attractive and amazing confection is made from roasted peanuts, that are coated with caramelized sugar made from muscovado. The coated peanuts are then arranged to form a flower basket, using the sticky syrup as to hold and bind the nuts together, until dry. The vanishing art of making samani is practiced only in Arayat town.
Named after San Nicolas de Tolentino, saniculas cookies were introduced by Augustinian friars to Pampanga during the colonial times. The biscuit is made from arrowroot flour, and is imprinted with the image of the saint using specially-made wooden molds. Legend has it that San Nicolas, known as the healing saint, revived the sick with blessed bread mixed with water, hence the "panecillos de San Nicolas", or simply 'saniculas' in Pampanga. Mexico. The saniculas made by culinary historian, Lillian Borromeo of Mexico, are consistent bestsellers with her patrons.
Sans Rival – this is a very popular dessert found all across the country but is said to have its roots in Pampanga, particularly San Fernando. This is a Filipino take on the French daquiose, with generous layers of buttercream icing sprinkled with chopped cashew nuts interspersing with sheets of meringue. The entire concoction is smothered with the same buttercream and sprinkled generously with more nuts.
TOCINO DEL CIELO.
Mini-leche flan cups or tocino del cielo are typical desserts adapted from southern Spain. Like leche flan, it is made from egg yolks and caramel, and cooked by steaming. In Barrio San Jose, Concepcion, Tarlac, “tocino” is a kind of kalame (rice cake), made of galapong (ground rice), gata (coconut milk), similar to the tocino del cielo of Minalin.
TURRONES DE CASUY
“Turrones de casoy” are an age-old delicacy in Pampanga—crisp, crunchy nougats made from cashew, real butter, honey and egg whites wrapped in edible paper-thin “oblea” or wafer wafer. A Catholic nun from the Dominican order taught Felisa Lansang of Sta. Rita the original recipe for making this Spain-inspired delicacy in 1920. Her expertise in making this sweet treat resulted in a homegrown “turrones de casoy” (plus sans rival) business, the Ocampo-Lansang Delicacies, that has become famous in the Kapampangan region.
Small, flower shaped cookies, a specialty of Guagua. They are made from arrowroot starch extracted from several thick stems and roots (rhizomes) of the arrowroot (Marantaceae) family of flowering plants. The result is a sweet, powdery-textured hard cookie that crumbles and melts in the mouth. Because of their small shapes and generally white color, they are also called sampagita cookies. The uraros of La Moderna Bakery in Guagua are among Pampanga's bestselling take-home goodies.
Galang-galang, Masa Podrida: Mrs. Galang’s Kitchen, yutube series
Panara: Fernando Santos FB page
Patcu: Robby Tantingco’s FB page
Pilipit: pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/33847434669808371/
Polvoron: Emma Mary Tiglao FB page
Putung Babi; Cecile Yumul FB page
Samani: Singsing Magazine
Saniculas: Alex Castro photo
Sans Rival: my Lola Nor’s Meryendahan FB page
Tocino del Cielo; Ivan Henares FB page