Tuesday, July 24, 2007


[Cavite kesong puti/water buffalo white cheese]

I am thankful for the commissary and exchange just across where I and the family now live - it is subsidized - all items are tax-free. That means a lot when you have kids, and the price difference in milk fomulas can reach up to Php100 per can.

However, the commissary is a big study in paradox - it is stocked with olive oil, sesame oil, and all kinds of cooking oils. But it carries only Hunt's tomato and spaghetti sauces, there is only one kind of pasta - Fiesta spaghetti - and to my horror, there is no butter, and the cheese shelf contains only Eden and Quezo processed cheeses. A quick tour of other grocery stores downtown yielded the same type of cheeses, and the nearest supermarket is an hour away.

Good thing I discovered, quickly, since I am a purveyor of bakeries, kasilyo. It is Cavite City's local fresh cheese - kesong puti - made from carabao's milk, in thin squares wrapped in banana leaves. I've had kesong puti before I came to live in Cavite, but those were mainly bought from supermarkets at hefty prices, were almost always too salty, and not very fresh.

Kasilyo is made fresh daily in Cavite City, available all throughout the morning, starting with the fresh batch of pandesal. Pandesal with kasilyo is the Cavitenos' favorite breakfast fare - it's heavenly with a steaming cup of thick tsokolate - that it is common to find kasilyo in bakeries all ready to go with your morning order.

And because I believe in the saying that "When in Rome.....", in this case, in a home not quite my own, I find myself buying kasilyo every morning to go with my pandesal. I eat it with a pat of salted butter melted by five minutes' toasting, open-faced. Or with my favorite fruit jam - the kasilyo is the perfect foil for the cloying sweetness.

Kasilyo is delicately soft and creamy, with mild sour notes that are barely noticeable, no hint of salt, fragrant from the banana leaf wrapping. Making kasilyo is actually a way to preserve excess carabao milk, which lasts only a day, even when chilled. Kasilyo can stay fresh up to a week inside the refrigerator. I'm in awe, though, about the volume of carabao milk that churns up the kasilyo, since I see no ricefields in the city, only marshes and ponds and bays hoarding mussels and clams.

Kasilyo makers at the public wet market tell me the Cavite kesong puti is made only with vinegar, whereas the kesong puti from Laguna and Quezon are made with rennet (the acid inside a goat's or calf's stomach) and/or vinegar, always with salt. The way they described the process made it sound easy - just add the carabao milk to boiling water with vinegar - but I haven't tried making it yet. I don't wake up that early to catch the fresh bottles of carabao milk.

But I am enjoying bought kasilyo to the hilt. Besides being a part of my morning fare, I incorporate it into a lot of dishes. It is the perfect local, fresh substitute to mozzarella - so my baked macaroni, lasagna and pizzas are now Filipinized - they are now Cabitenya. Kasilyo is also excellent for baked tahong. Fresh Cavite mussels topped with a mixture of butter, crushed garlic, salt, pepper and kasilyo and baked til bubbly - a purely Cabitenya dish I can now enjoy anytime.

Cooking with kasilyo - Baked Tahong
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Unice said...

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Unice said...

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docemdy said...

Cavite kesong puti is my family's favorite too because both my grandmother and grandfather traces their roots to the province. Lovely post. Nakakamiss ang kesong puti. Masarap nga sa pandesal.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kai, thanks for the memories! :) I'm a Cavitena born and bred and it's only now that I remembered how kesong puti is called in Cavite. We do eat it as well with some warm pandesal. Yum!

Kai said...

Thanks for the messages, Em Dy and Ate Celia, kesong puti veterans. I'm just starting to enjoy the delicacy.

Anonymous said...

Yay, buhay na ulit si Kai! Loved this article -- never knew about the term "kasilyo". In Laguna we just called it kesong puti, also made fresh and still warm when you buy it from the ambulant vendors.

Anonymous said...

Hello there! Katrina here from the Marid Agri Business magazine. Can you please tell me the exact addresses where I can find Kasilyo in Cavite? I'm from Cavite too and I was assigned to make a story on that. Here's my email address :
kat3na@gmail.com hope you reply soon.

Unknown said...

Thanks for sharing this! When I go to cavite I would definitely try Kasilyo and introduce them to my friends in westborough.