10 Pinoy Merienda Classics
Sometimes, three meals a day just doesn't cut it. Here are some classics that make for the meriendas we know and love.
(SPOT.ph) Whether it's the sit-down type of merienda or the grab-and-go variety, we all know that need to be fueled off official mealtime hours (both in the morning and the afternoon) by a favorite snack that's really more than just a light bite. Some of these are so old school, we hardly come across them anymore. Others are, luckily, still easy to find. All of them are yummy-and are the stuff that favorite merienda menus are made of.
Star Margarine Rice
Star Rice is basically a combination of cooked white rice and a few heaping spoonfuls of Star Margarine, mixed and heated together in a pan, resulting in a yellow-hued fried rice. As kids, we remember it going perfectly with red hotdogs, sweetened ham, and other canned goods, but was actually sometimes eaten on its own as the margarine actually gave the rice enough of a flavorful kick. The point of this recipe? Well, the famous Star Margarine advertising campaign in the '70s claimed that eating Star Margarine would make us taller, and the tagline "Iba na ang matangkad!" made us all think we could easily become statuesque beauty queens and giant basketball players.
Ginataan in Filipino refers to food cooked in coconut milk, or gata. The savory version can include seafood or vegetables, but for merienda, we loved Ginataang Halo-Halo or Bilo-Bilo. Bilo-Bilo or glutinous rice balls, are extra sticky, chewy, and the stars of a sweet, light porridge made with sago balls (tapioca), strips of langka (jackfruit), cubes of kamote (purple yam), saba (cooked banana), and of course, lots of coconut milk. Usually served warm, ginataan, as it is simply referred to for short, is also lip-smackingly delicious when it cools down. We can still eat bowlful after bowlful of this satisfying treat.
Ensaymada, or the Filipino version of the brioche topped with lots of butter, sugar, and premium cheese is a tradition for many Filipino households-especially during the holiday season when it is best paired with a cup of hot chocolate. But for everyday merienda fare, we turned to a humbler version of this pastry. The signature coil-shape of the ensaymada was still present, but the rich buttery dough was more bread-like, and along with loads of sugar came a lathering of margarine, and a sprinkling of cheese. These ensaymadas were bought in the corner bakery, sliced in half-and perhaps if you had a bit more time, they were even heated in their own margarine on a pan like a pancake, turning them crisp, slightly caramelized, and its welcoming whiff whet our appetites till we couldn't wait to devour them.
Cheese Pimiento Sandwiches
Imagine creamy cheese spread made from cheese and/or butter and mayonnaise, with a smattering of red pimiento flakes, spread over bread and made into a sandwich. It was a simple snack, but it was one that showed up every so often as we were growing up in our lunch boxes, at the canteen, or in our lola's houses. As such, we can't help but crave for it every once in a while. The bread was always white-also known as Tastee-and never toasted so that each bite was soft yet firm between our teeth. Bonus points if the crusts were sliced off.
Sky Flakes or Pan de Sal with Condensed Milk
We're not quite sure of how this invention came about-or of how it somehow spread into homes and offices all over the country. All we know is that this unlikely pairing was the perfect balance of salty and sweet with a side of crunch to boot! It also required zero cooking so it came down to (very careful) assembly, where all we had to do was pour copious amounts of condensada onto a Sky Flake and enjoy. Licking of sticky fingers was optional, but was very often done out of pure bliss. Some preferred to pair their condensada with pan de sal, as the more porous bread absorbed the milk. Either way, the results were always yummy.
Our grandparents were lucky enough to enjoy their mami freshly made: steaming bowls of chicken broth right out of a bubbling pot at a market stall mamihan. But modern times make for different circumstances, and the instant noodle versions have replaced true broth and noodles combinations of days past. Many of us grew up on the make-in-5-minute packs that included the instant noodles, a packet of seasoning, and another packet of oils and sauces. This version was still hearty and heartwarming especially on rainy afternoons, and it could easily be jazzed up with a garnish of hard boiled egg slices, or some chopped up fresh veggies.
"Taa-hhho! Taa-hhho!" came the signature call of the taho vendor as he advertised his goods as he walked through the neighborhoods of our youth. We knew responding to the call meant running out with an empty glass and a few coins for payment. From there we would be rewarded with a dark, syrupy treat sweetened with arnibal that was layered with silken tofu (taho) and sago pearls. Taho was usually served hot and it warmed us as it slid down our throats, but some vendors also served it cold. And thankfully, many supermarkets and shopping malls now have taho stalls or even old-school vendors selling this nostalgic snack, making it easier for us to delight in this treat, hot or cold.
Banana Cue, Turon, and Maruya
All three of these classics are born of the same staple: the modest saba banana. Banana-cue, like barbecue, is skewered on a stick, and cooked in brown sugar until a crisp, caramelized crust forms around it. Banana turon takes the saba and envelopes it in lumpia wrapper, sometimes with a few slivers of langka. Brown sugar is then sprinkled, and the entire pillow is deep fried. Maruya, also known as a banana fritter, is battered, deep fried, and sprinkled in white sugar. Sweet, crunchy, and filling, these three are classically Pinoy, and have been hawked on the streets, as well as served at fancy dining tables.
When the mamang sorbetero came ringing his bell in the afternoons, we all couldn't wait to run out for our very own Ice Candy. Flavors included melon (cantaloupe), and chocolate (think frozen, watered-down chocolate milk), but Ice Buko was one of the all-time classic favorites. Ice Buko was a mixture of buko juice and condensed milk, with strips of fresh buko meat, that was frozen either on a popsicle stick or in a long, thin plastic bag. The shape of it never mattered, especially on hot summer afternoons, where the foremost goal was to enjoy every icy, slurpy bite before it melted. And for those who couldn't wait for the mamang sorbetero to come around, the good news was that Ice Buko was easy to make at home, or to buy at the supermarket.
Whether you (secretly) enjoyed mutiple orders of these after school with other street food favorites like squid balls, kwek-kwek (fried quail eggs), or cheese sticks, fish balls were easy afternoon treats eaten at the risk of getting a tummy ache. The appetizing smell of these flat, white, flour-filled snacks deep frying in oil (usually a lot of it) just couldn’t keep us away, despite mom or dad’s strict orders. At some point, you probably discovered that it was all in the magical brown sauce-sometimes sweet, other times spicy-that always managed to seal the deal. They’re available in big packs in the frozen section of supermarkets, so essentially you can also make them at home, and yet the ones off the streets are still incomparable.