Biniribid, Sinapot, Puto Sa Bao, Mazapan—These Are Bicol Street Food’s Greatest Hits
Have a taste of Bicol’s finest kakanin and other sweet treats—many of them can be found on the streets!
When I was a child, I would go with my father to nearby Zambales and Bataan (we lived in Pampanga) just for two things: the banana cue and buko we would buy beside the road on the way to his farm. That was my idea of street food. Hot, fresh-off-the-oil banana cue that scalded my mouth and sweet buko juice to wash it down with.
Recently, Metro.Style was brought to the region of Bicol by the Best of Bicol Food Tour and I was fortunate enough to walk down memory lane with our street food detour—only this time, it was a different kind of banana and coconut.
There’s a stretch of street in Ligao, Albay that has a number of stalls lined up, everyone selling different kinds of Bicol delicacies that don’t usually make it to many restaurants. And what’s great about street stalls like these is you can easily get off your car to buy one, the transaction made in less than a minute; or you can take your time and ask for a new one to be cooked for you.
One of the more familiar delicacies the stalls offer is sinapot, which is very similar to the maruya we are used to—only with less flour and sugar. Maybe it’s because it uses good quality bananas, so there’s no need to bury it in thick layers of sweet batter.
There’s also an interesting kakanin called biniribid, known as pilipit in other parts of Bicol. True to its Bicol roots, this kakanin uses coconut milk and rice flour, and then is deep fried and doused in white sugar or brown sugar glaze.
One of our favorites along this kakanin strip is puto sa bao, a kind of puto native to Bicol and Quezon. Its purple color confuses people to think it’s made with ube but it’s actually just food coloring! Its regular color is white because it’s made from glutinous rice.
The puto itself is delicious and fluffy, and only takes seconds to cook in the makeshift steamer that the street vendors use. Once you bite in, you’ll be surprised by the sweet coconut filling inside that makes the dish such a treat.
We’ll also let you in on a little secret. On your way to Albay, you’ll see a red gate along the main highway with a sign reading, “Mazapan de Pili Available Here.” This quaint home is where you’ll find one of the best Mazapan de Pili you can ever buy in Bicol. Mazapan is pretty easy to do at home, but when you need three cups of pili nuts, you can’t really do it outside of Bicol without it costing too much.
Non-street food delicacies
Since we’re already talking about Bicol desserts and delicacies, let us introduce you to some of our other favorites along the way. Nilubak is a popular traditional delicacy that comes in many names in different provinces. Sometimes it’s called nilupak or nilusak, but it all comes from the Tagalog word “lusak” which means “to pound.” That’s because it’s made with boiled cassava pounded into a pulp, and them mixed with young coconut, condensed milk, coco sugar, and margarine.
Nanay Edna Basterrechia, the family cook of Rica Buenaflor, owner of Que Pasa restaurant and Que Rica Bicol food, showed us how to do her version of the nilubak, where she finishes it with chopped nuts and margarine.
Bukayo is much more popular, and is a Filipino candy of sorts. It’s made with coconut strips sweetened with panocha, a solid clam-shaped molasses that I sometimes see inside my mother’s refrigerator. Nanay Edna’s version is made with pandan for a more complex flavor.
The street food delicacies and Nanay Edna’s sweets are all beautiful discoveries when we went to Bicol. But probably my ultimate dessert favorite, one I will travel all the way back to Bicol for, is the anko, a kakanin we got to taste at Que Pasa restaurant.
Que Pasa is a Bicolano-Spanish restaurant in Naga, Camarines Sur owned by Rica Buenaflor, wife of Biggs magnate, Carlo Buenaflor. We’ve talked about some of our favorites from Que Pasa—their laing and sinantol are to die for—but equally delicious is their dessert.
This anko variation is concocted by Chef Jet Sumayao, who used to cook at Chef Chele Gonzalez’s Vask. It’s a rice ball with a sweet coconut jam and dulce de leche filling, and then rolled in freshly grated coconut and sesame seeds. It’s an elevated version of the usual anko, and the filling is just sweet enough to end a meal. Think the Bicolano version of palitaw, only it’s the coconut jam filling that makes it sweet, instead of white sugar.
This piece is part of a three-part series on Bicolano food.
Tempted to experience Bicol the way we did? Check out Best of Bicol on Facebook and Instagram to stay tuned to their food tours, offering soon!