Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Bibingka-esk: A Modern Twist to the Traditional Filipino Treat

One of the things that I do love during the Holiday season is when I get to pig out on traditional holiday foods like Lechon, Queso de Bola, Puto Bumbong, Bibingka and many more. Even when the Christmas season is over, I still find myself craving for all of those...especially Bibingka.

Since some of my readers aren't from the Philippines, it might be the first time that you've heard of this seasonal treat. Bibingka is a type of rice cake made with rice flour and coconut milk or water. Other ingredients can vary greatly, but the most common secondary ingredients are rice and milk. It's traditionally cooked in clay pots lined with banana leaves. Curious what it tastes like? No worries, I've met with a Head Baker who wants to popularize Filipino cuisine so that everyone could get to experience having a taste of our famous desserts.

A few days ago, we got to sit down with the Founder / Head Baker of New York's Bibingka-esk, Eileen Formanes where she brought with her some of her best-selling bibingkas freshly baked from New York. I was lucky to get to try one since most of her creations always gets sold out. Bibingka-esk was first served to customers in Manhattan's Lower East Side. The uniquely-flavored bibingkas Eileen created immediately took New York City's food fairs by storm, eventually gaining the trust of even the pickiest eaters with her assurance that her bibingkas are gluten-free and are baked with the freshest ingredients in USA. What makes it more interesting is when she incorporated different flavors to the bibingka and it stuck. Imagine this, have you ever tried a Peanut Butter with Chocolate Chip Bibingka? Or Too Much Chocolate? How about a Cinnamon Sugar flavored one and many many more? Yummy, right?

The "B" in Bibingka-esk stands for "Better". For a few dollars, you get to enjoy a better pastry that's delicious, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly, devoid of those artificial ingredients. Eileen tells us that some of her customers in the US have commented that there were too many cupcakes all over the places and her desserts are just like the kind of unique delicacies they needed to taste.

Filipino food in New York City seemed to always take a step back in Asian cuisine. Filipino desserts were practically unknown. What Ellen wanted to do was to raise the profile for Filipino food by creating her own rendition of the bibingka. "Growing up, I remembered enjoying bibingka during Christmas and I knew I wanted to share that experience with the folks here in NY", she said. Having worked in Human Resources for two decades in corporate America (achieving Vice President positions in several firms). Eileen eventually decided to follow her passion for baking and the change would allow her to spend more time with her family in early 2013. A change that she didn't expect would turn out so well that she even has back orders pilling up for the huge demand.

So what's next for Eileen? What brings her back here? Eileen tells us that she hopes to share her success in New York by giving Pinoys a taste of her specialty bibingkas. She is very proud of her Filipino heritage and that she wants every Filipino to know that even though she's on the other side of the world, she is Filipino first before anything else. "I have always said that I want the bibingka to be the next chocolate chip cookie." she smiles.

For many generations, the bibingka has been synonymous with Filipinos, both here and abroad, with celebrating the holidays. And for one Filipina raised in New York City. It was this fond memory that inspired her to do her own spin on a classic.

To know more about Bibingka-esk, please visit www.bibingka-esk.com. And follow Bibingka-esk's social media accounts at www.facebook.com/BibingkaEsk and www.twitter.com/bibingkaesk


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