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Bibingka is a Filipino version of rice cake, which is made of basic ingredients consisting of rice flour, sugar, butter and coconut milk. Cooking bibingka involves placing burning coals on top of and under the bibingka mold while placed on a clay pot.
The bibingka is topped with butter or margarine and sprinkled sugar and grated coconut. Young banana leaves heated over a small butter or margarine flame would wrap or line the bottom of the bibingka when sold to customers.
The Bibingka of Cebu
There are many versions of bibingka in Cebu but the most famous is the bibingka of Mandaue City because this type uses manually pounded rice instead of the commercially available rice flour.
The Mandaue bibingka consists of pounded rice, coconut milk, white or brown sugar and either yeast or tuba. The tuba is the country’s local version of the coconut wine and is sometimes used in place of yeast in order to increase the size of the rice cake. Only a few bakers in Mandaue City offer this type of bibingka.
Another type of bibingka in Cebu is the roadside bibingka offered by vendors who are stationed beside the major highways or roads in Cebu especially the thoroughfares leading to the province’s tourist destinations.
The roadside bibingka is smaller than the regular bibingka and cooked using makeshift stoves made of galvanized corrugated iron sheets. This type is cooked through burning coconut husks above the stove and some hot embers of husks under the stove.
Although a popular street food, it is usually in demand during the Christmas season they can be found outside the churches after the traditional night mass or Misa de Gallo held from December 16 to 24. The vendors selling this type of bibingka are seasonal vendors who want to earn extra income during the holiday season. Therefore, they would just use the cheapest ingredients and instead of high-quality ones.
I have eaten the basic bibingka several times during the few times I was able to attend the dawn masses when I was still in college. Besides being freshly cooked, it tasted sweet on top. Although sometimes, the burnt taste in the center of this type of rice cake becomes prominent on my taste buds even if there is a thick spreading of margarine, sprinkled sugar and grated coconut on top of it.
Nevertheless, I still would buy the bibingka sold outside the churches during the Christmas season since for me, there is no alternative to freshly hot bibingka cooked over burning coals and eating it to get myself warm from the cold air of December.