Celebrating Christmas as a kid in the Philippines was very different than it is here. My earliest memory was of my grandmother standing over baked hams and chickens hours before our midnight feast or ‘media noche’ as celebrated by many Filipinos, tending to them with love and careful attention. My family didn’t have much, so it was not about counting the number of shopping days left, tons of presents under the tree, scanning the Black Friday ads. In short, it wasn’t about stuff.
What it was about was family, food and the ‘exchange gift’ or White Elephant but much kinder because there was no stealing involved. What I remember most about Christmas though is the bibingka, a Filipino rice cake baked in banana leaves and topped with cheese and salted egg. I believe Filipinos started combining the salt/savory thing before it even became en vogue and this is evidenced by our love for the bibingka.
My grandmothers made their own versions of bibingka and I no longer remember which was better but it was always this great combination of salty bites of duck egg and the sweet softness of the rice cake. It was the crowning glory of our media noche, which began with pork barbecue sticks, longanisa and lechon and ended with the bibingka. Lechon by the way is roasted suckling pig and proclaimed by Anthony Bourdain as the best pork product ever. The Filipinos, we love our pork.
But I digress.
For portion control purposes, I decided I would make my bibingka in muffin tins.
Recipe adapted from Panlasang Pinoy
1 cup rice flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup fresh milk
1 piece salted duck egg, sliced
1/2 cup grated cheese
3 pieces raw eggs
Pre-cut banana leaf
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Combine rice flour, baking powder, and salt then mix well. Set aside.
- Cream butter then gradually put-in sugar while whisking.
- Add the eggs then whisk until every ingredient is well incorporated.
- Gradually add the rice flour, salt, and baking powder mixture then continue mixing.
- Pour-in coconut milk and fresh milk then whisk some more for 1 to 2 minutes.
- Use the bottom of a glass as a template to cut banana leaves in circles slightly larger than the size of your muffin tin openings. This allows for a nice overhang and ample size to hold the bibingka batter.
- Line muffin tins with your pre-cut banana leaves.
- Pour batter into lined muffin tins.
- Bake for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven then top with sliced salted egg and grated cheese (do not turn the oven off).
- Put back in the oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes or until the top turns a medium brown.
- Remove from the oven and let cool.
- Brush with butter and sprinkle some sugar on top. You can also top this with grated coconut.
If you’re thinking about omitting the banana leaf liner, don’t. The banana leaves give your bibingka a fragrant and authentic look and smell.
If you’re thinking about omitting the salted egg, by all means do. It’s an acquired taste and also hard to find outside Filipino groceries. I would, however, include the grated cheese to balance out the sweet and savory.