Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bring Home Bicol

What else to bring home from Bicol aside from bade and bags? Pili, of course, in all imaginable forms. Pili brittle, roasted pili, crunchy pili with honey, pili tarts, pili marzipan, pili-coco jam, pili bar, salted pili, it can go on and on. No apologies needed, because that nut associated with the Bicol region can only be found in the eastern middle portion of the country - from Bicol down to Samar-Leyte.

In photo up top are samples of pili sweets from Sorsogon. Clockwise from bottom right - bombones de pili, with the consistency of a moist macaroon; pudding de pili; pili tart; pastillas de pili. Not so sweet, all of them, which lets the unique, milky flavor of the nut be the lead in the experience of enjoying the treats. All are wrapped in colorful, shiny cellophane, and can be put in hand-woven, environmentally-friendly mini bayongs.

One, relatively new pili product that has entered the pasalubong market recently is this wrapsody, squares of crispy but syrup-drenched wafers encasing chopped pili, which come in individual foil wrappers.

This is much like baklava, but not as sweet. The wrapper layers, however, are not as thin, and with the syrup and packaging, they come off as a bit chewy, as opposed to crackly phyllo layers.

Then of course we have pili panutsa, pili halves in molasses cooked to form round flat discs that are then wrapped in dried leaves. 100% biodegradable.

Ever since I ran that cake of the month series two years ago, I have always been alert to any cake finds. So in my travels I always try to have at least a slice of cake, or, if my stomach won't permit, at least I try to bring home some. My kids have come to expect nothing less.

The Penafrancia being such a lucky season, it wasn't a surprise that I had cake luck, too. It was while waiting for our pinangat orders at Molino Grill, which took quite some time, that I decided to venture into the neighboring Bean Bag Coffee to inspect what was on offer. They had these mini cakes that stimulated my salivary glands even though we just had dinner. My companions weren't cool about coffee or cakes, so I decided to just take out, either for later that evening or the following day.

What's good about taking out is that you could order a lot without worrying if you could finish everything in sight. So I got the mango cheesecake, because the blueberry cheesecake was allegedly the bestseller but I didn't like how it looked so I took the next best thing. Unfortunately, it was a bad choice. More like a mousse than any cheesecake. No mouse would go near that cake.

Next was this intriguingly-named cookie monster cake, a version of which was also available at Biggs Diner. I was expecting layers of chocolate cookies inside the ganache topping but it was a very dense, very chocolatey, chewy cake that I regret I didn't try the one at Biggs, too.

But what took my breath away was the strawberry cake. I expected the least from it, as Naga is so far away from any strawberry farm (of course discounting any artificial flavorings - I'm always an optimistic gal). But it's a cake that's meant to exceed any impression anybody might have.

That icing is so straw-very it's like having strawberry milkshake made with tons of the fruit. With the natural tang to it. No, this cake is not strawberry-creme-sweet. It is strawberry tangy. The chiffon is another thing - fluffy, soft, moist, my chiffon quest stops right here. And that strawberry syrup that drench the chiffon layers and decorates the icing gives another dimension to the strawberriness of the cake that I was huffing and puffing out of extreme excitement.

This strawberry cake, easily, trumps down Vizco's.

I also brought home two, very long pili rolls, which is a popular merienda fare and is called pianono in the region. Finely chopped pili is cooked in eggs, sugar and milk resulting in a yema-like mixture (custard caramel) that is spread on a layer of chiffon and then rolled.

The kind that I got used a very inferior chiffon - it was parchingly dry, which was too bad, because the pili-yema filling was so good it should be jarred and sold commercially. Nevertheless, an entire, three-foot roll was gobbled up at home by some in-laws who were visiting at the time I arrived from Bicol.

Bean Bag Coffee
Magsaysay Avenue, Naga City

Wrapsody Pilinut Filled Pastries
C.O.P. Pili Sweets and Pastries
Banag, Daraga, Albay
Tel. No. (63) 916-6430696

Related Posts
Bade at the Naga Market
Bob Marlin, Take 2

My Previous Naga Trip
Biggs Diner & Bob Marlin
Pinangat Pizza at CWC
Pili Brittle Discs


Anonymous said...

Wow Pili nuts and different sorts of them, I miss those. I miss when my relatives bring back Bicol goodies to Manila when I was a child. Thanks for sharing


Kai said...

Thanks for visiting, Raymund. Happy cooking in NZ!

Anonymous said...

the leaves used in the panutsa photos are not pili leaves. i think the plant's called hagikhik. it does add a unique flavor to the pili

Kai said...

Oops, ok, thanks for the info!

i♥pinkc00kies said...

i love that pianono!! we have some at home now :) love pili tarts too.. have you tried their kakanin called angko?? :) it's like mochi (made of glutinous rice) with ground peanut paste filling! yummmm

Kai said...

No, I haven't tried the angko, but I've heard about it and I think I'm missing many other delicacies beside. Hoping to make up for the lack when I revisit, soon!