The ampao is a sweet puffed rice cake that originated in the municipality of Carcar, Cebu. It is one of the famous delicacies in Cebu because of its sweet and crispy taste. It is also an inexpensive snack of Cebuanos and a popular gift for tourists and visitors.
Many locals say that the ampao is the Philippine version of the Rice Krispies made famous in America. The ampao began in Carcar in the early 1900s and became popular in the whole of Cebu by the 1940s. Carcar is located in the southeastern part of Cebu province and is about 40 kilometers south of Cebu City.
The ampao is a white, sweet and crunchy delicacy sprinkled with peanuts. It is rectangular or square shaped and has a thick width that would require you to open your mouth wider than usual so you can get a good taste of the delicious snack. The first step in making the ampao is laying out cooked rice in the sun to dry and make it crispy and crunchy in the process.
Addition of some peanuts to the sun-dried, cooked, and cooled rice completes the crispy look of the ampao. The addition of peanuts brings out the natural ampao flavor. Syrup made with sugar and kalamansi juice is poured into it and mixed thoroughly with the rice-peanut mixture, and then poured into a mold. The mold can take the shapes of squares or rectangles as big as your palm, or in bite-size shapes.
The original ampao is white and wrapped in a clear plastic when sold. However, there is a smaller bite-size square ampao and comes in different colors ranging from pink, green and yellow. The smaller-size ampao has its own distinctive sweet taste compared to the original bigger ampao. Many locals eat ampao together with other native desserts and with cool refreshing beverages.
I have only eaten ampao several times but once you take a bite, you will want to eat more of its sweet and sugary taste. The only disadvantage of eating of ampao is that it may become a habit-forming snack and the sweet and sugary coating of ampao may give you tooth decay in the end.
If you want to savor the sweet and crispy taste of the ampao, it is available in the major supermarkets in Cebu City and in some specialty delicacy shops or bakeshops. You can find ampao sold in bakeshops, in sari-sari stores, in the sidewalks, and in the factory outlets of the ampao manufacturers in Carcar.
The delicacy is also much cheaper in Carcar compared to the prices in Cebu City. While in Carcar, you can also see the various tourist attractions there, so you can maximize your visit to the town.