By very fortunate circumstances, my friend Liana and I happened to be invited to the Pampanga Food Safari, a trip organized by Enderun. Pampanga is known to be the “House of Philippine Gastronomy” which is probably why they decided to hold the trip here. The day started out early and by around 10am, we reached our first destination; the ancestral home of Lillian Borromeo in Mexico, Pampanga.
We were greeted by Chef Sau del Rosario who was by the entrance, handing each of us fresh, chilled pandan tea. This was indeed refreshing.
After a few introductory notes by Chef Sau, he introduced us to Lillian Borromeo, one of his cooking idols. Standing directly in the kitchen of her ancestors, I couldn’t help but notice the cookware and molds which were evidently antiques. The beautifully hand-carved molds were gifts to her grandmother back in the 1730’s.
She was set to teach us how to make San Nicolas cookies, a recipe passed down from Spanish friars and Dominican sisters who needed to make use of spare egg yolks that were often thrown away. I find that San Nicolas cookies are reminiscent of butter cookies but with a bit more flour, and just a hint of citrus zest lying in its after taste. With the same recipe, one can conjure up Dulce Prenda (which is basically yema inside a mold made of this cookie batter) and Angel’s Delight.
In Mrs. Borromeo’s backyard, she has what appears to be a huge stone grinder that makes pure chocolate out of ground cacao beans and peanuts. I think this is probably one of the more traditional means of its production and man, does it look like a lot of hard work. Fortunately for us all, a taste of the famed Tsokolate-e was in order. Armed with carabao milk and her own tub of pure homemade goodness, Mrs. Borromeo worked her magic.
The Tsokolate-e was wonderous and unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before. It was light and creamy at the same time. There’s a smokey kind of flavor that comes with the drinking the chocolate, I don’t know if it’s from the copper pot or the chocolate itself but wow, just wow. I had three cups of this because I am a glutton and it was absolutely awesome. I can only dream of this at the moment since I do not have a tub of her special chocolate or a stone grinder from the days of yore. Boo.
Last but certainly not least was the Tibok-Tibok
which is quite a popular Kapampangan kakanin made with carabao’s milk and latik. Tibok-Tibok is a dish dedicated to lovers and got its name from the milk mimicking heartbeats in the pan. For those who don’t know, Tibok-Tibok means heartbeat. I found Mrs.Borromeo’s Tibok-Tibok to be really milky and good but lacking in the latik department, I wish she put more!
I have the exact recipe for the San Nicolas Cookies if anybody wants them. Just leave your e-mail address in the comments and I’ll be sure to send them to you.
What the cacao and peanut mix looks like before they stick it in the stone grinder.
You can grab a tub of this labor of love for a whopping P500. Sounds kinda steep but if you see how much effort is put into a jar, you wouldn’t mind paying that premium. If I am not mistaken, one tub takes around 2 hours of non-stop grinding to produce.
Panecillos de San Nicolas
A Kampampangan Culinary Heritage
+45 966 0211
+45 875 0678
+63 915 7730788
(This is information I saw on a box of San Nicolas Cookies someone else on the Safari took home. Maybe you can call to see if you can order any of the things I was lucky enough to try.)