Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Sweet and Sticky in Quezon

I am always giddy with anticipation every time a trip south is scheduled - to the Quezon Province, and even on to Bicol, as long as it involves a road trip.

The one, sole reason for my fevered agitation is Quezon's special tikoy, that hefty, copper-colored block of malagkit, sugar, butter, milk, and cheese mixed into sticky sweetness that defines what ecstacy is for me.

I don't need to declare I am a kakanin addict, I'm sure that's pretty obvious. This tikoy, this very special tikoy, is the height of kakanin heaven for me.

It is toffee, it is caramel, but not so sweet it hurts your throat, and not hard-sticky that bits and pieces bury themselves in between your teeth, stubbornly clinging there however much you suck on them and prod them with your tongue.

No, the toffee-caramel is tempered by the soft, chewiness of properly mixed ground glutinous rice that ends in a fine, smooth texture. Cheese prevents sawa, but who says this special tikoy is nakakasawa? I could finish an extra-large hunk of this and still hanker for more.

Truth to tell, the sizes that this tikoy come in are puny compared to regular, ordinary and common tikoy. It even comes in bite-sized individual pieces, which to me are cut too small, just the size of an average thumb.

Quezon's special tikoy lasts only three days. Beyond that they develop fuzzy molds. I've tried hoarding and putting them in the ref. The mold development was retarded a bit, but the tikoy lost its distinct gooey chewiness, becoming hard as real caramels. They still tasted great after a stint in the toaster (or microwave), but not as great as when newly cooked.

That's why this special tikoy cannot be found anywhere else outside of Quezon. That's why I become crazy with joy when I go visit the province, or pass by it on my way farther south. As they say, absence makes the stomach fonder....

All along the way to Lukban, in the municipalities leading to it from Laguna and around downtown Lucena, I espied hand-written placards advertising yema cake in all the street-corner bakeries that we passed.

I've never heard of yema cake, though I of course knew yema. Which is egg yolk custard - egg yolks, sugar and milk (though the short-cut version is to use condensed milk for the sugar and milk), with or without a dash of calamansi juice that provides bursts of tangy sunshine, hand-stirred over low fire til thick.

Yema is caramel that is eggy, a bright, deep yellow. It is mixed til dry and formed into triangular candies wrapped in colored cellophane. In its spreadable form, it is the filling for brazo de mercedes, that roll of sweet paean to eggy heaven.

Most serious bakeshops I've come across have caramel cakes in their repertoires, but never a yema cake. Now why is the biggest question I have after sampling one. Now I wish all bakeshops had yema cakes, or yema rolls, to be precise.

The yema roll I tasted was purchased on a last-minute whim as we stopped by a pasalubong stall in Lucena City on our way back home. The vendor said it was newly delivered (apparently a bakery supplies the shops), and had several rolls as well as individual slices for sale. The yema piled around the rolls was enough to make me buy an entire roll, and I regret I didn't buy more.

Yema was thickly smeared all around two layers of angel food cake, with a thin spread in between the layers. Grated cheese adorned the top, interspersing saltiness with the yema's sweetness. It was brazo, resurrected in cake form. More voluptous than caramel cake, it teased out the inner child in me, and brazenly played with my kids' sugared dreams.

The ride back home hadn't been kind to the cake - but I only had to scrape the yema that stuck to the plastic container back onto the cake.

Now I have two reasons for longing to go back to Quezon.

Pencil-thin mini pianono (chiffon roll) from Dealo's Koffee Klatch, filled with toffee caramel instead of the usual sugar and margarine. In Quezon, sweet and sticky tortures never end.

Related Posts
Home-made Tikoy
Pili Roll
Caramel Cake
Pahiyas 2011
Pancit Hab-Hab
A Weekend in Chinatown


i♥pinkc00kies said...

i love that tikoy. i remember we have that in my dad's province in bicol.. :D and the pianono... yummy!! i love it with pili nuts from bicol too.

what i remember from quezon is their yummy cassava cake (called budin) :D

Ela said...

I'm from Quezon but now I live in the United States. I always crave for Quezon's tikoy, Araro and Broas. Everytime I go home to the Phippines and to Quezon for vacation I buy a lot of those, I miss it so much!

Anonymous said...

I love cassava cake. There used to be an eating place in one of our shopping malls that served pinoy food. One thing I miss not having a car is being able to drive to the pinoy places to buy food. Roz

Kai said...

Ahhh, yes budin, I completely forgot! Maybe because I have discovered some good cassava cakes elsewhere, and I was able to bake a good version. But let me correct the mistake, I'll be sure to buy some when I go back, soon I hope!

steve said...

ang sarap talaga ng tikoy, budin, broas, pinagong, puto seko, pansit habhab at miki.. yan ang hindi mo makakalimutan pag umuuwi ka ng ng quezon....