There are treats that delight the palate, evoke nostalgia, and ignite a sense of who we are as a people with our own culinary past. Some treats that fall under this category are the pacencia and puto seko—cookies from days gone by, yet still integral to our food heritage.
To be honest, I haven’t had either in a long time simply because the few instances that I got ahold of one or the other, they were a disappointment. Nothing like I remember them to be—until I sampled those made by KC Ong of Tita KC’s Creations.
To my delight, they were the best-tasting pacencia I’ve ever had! Super crunchy, they crackled before crumbling and melting in my mouth. I couldn’t stop eating.
After that wonderful experience with Tita KC’s pacencia, I opened a pack of original puto seko. Oh my! Upon my first bite, the cookie burst into a powdery, coconut-milky, sweet and delicate treat.
Tita KC’s products are topnotch. You can enjoy them with a cup of excellent coffee or tea of any origin, and her cookies will surely go very well with it.
Her crusade for better native biscuits began in 2001, when an aunt gave her a pack of puto seko. “It almost choked me to death,” she recalled. So she developed her own. She now exports her products, and her puto seko also comes in pandan and ube flavors, and, my favorite, durian seko (if you love durian, this is a must!). Yet another excellent product that’s proudly Philippine-made. (For orders, call tel. 7243276.)
Another brand that elicits similar emotions from me is sioktong. My sister Manang Cristy fondly remembers her late yaya, Aling Tinding, who was always garbed in a saya and who, at 5 p.m., was a tad happier after her shot of sioktong paired with a stick of Bataan Matamis.
I saw a bottle recently and it got me really curious. I had to know how the product came to be.
I spoke to Destileria Limtuaco’s president, Olivia Limpe-Aw, and she gladly shared its origin.
“Destileria Limtuaco was established in the Philippines by a Chinese immigrant, Lim Tua Co, from Amoy, China,” she said. “In 1850, at age 36, he sailed to the Philippines with the blessings of the Chinese emperor. Lim Tua Co was a Mandarin trained in martial arts, but being a merchant himself, he had in his possession a secret formula for a medicinal wine that had been with his family for a long time.
“Within two years after his arrival in the Philippines, he put up a distillery at 135 Gandara St., Binondo (the Chinese quarter of the city beside the Pasig River), and produced a Vino de Chino (Chinese wine) under the brand name ‘Siok Hok Tong,’ which means, ‘good luck will come to the family.’
“It is a bittersweet brew derived from a formula of 36 beneficial Chinese herbs that promote the balance of yin and yang in the body, which is the key to good health. Herbs are categorized according to the nature of their therapeutic value. ‘Cold’ to reduce heat; ‘hot’ to heat up and invigorate the system; ‘supplementary’ as additional tonic to strengthen the corresponding organ in the body.’
“The drink was known to build up stamina, like today’s energy drinks. The label showed a muscular man showing off his biceps, which people nicknamed as doble braso during Spanish times. The herb formula was promoted as giving one vigor and vitality. It contained herbs that were said to help expel wind and clear away heat and toxic materials, promote circulation and vital energy, strengthen abdominal health and the yang in the body to prevent impotence, and unclog coronary arteries, among others.
“The women also loved it, taking it during their menstrual period to ease abdominal pain, and after childbirth. The formulation also contained herbs that are blood tonics, which are very important drugs for menstrual disorders and postnatal abdominal pain.
“Siok Hok Tong was a big seller and became popularly known as sioktong, which eventually became the generic term for Chinese medicinal wines,” said Olivia.
Destileria Limtuaco & Co. Inc. has produced sioktong using this ancient family recipe for six generations now, but under the brands Vino de Chino and Vino Kung Fu. (For orders, call Oliver So at 0922-8564036 and 0918-9794241.)
Pork floss bun, ‘taho’
Soft, rich, buttery, silky and smooth—this is how I describe the pork floss buns made by Jenny Chan of Taibun Bakery Shop.
Her shop specializes in the Taiwanese method of baking breads with no preservatives. She describes her breads as “alive,” and I agree—every bite gives you a different sensation. The soft, buttery buns with the delicate pork floss offer a dynamite combination of taste: sinful yet delightful.
Other bestsellers are her ham and cheese toast and duet ube toast. Though I haven’t tried them, I plan to, soon. (For orders, call 0917-5628889, or visit Little Store on Gilmore and Abad Santos Streets, San Juan.)
On the other hand, I first tasted Peter Chiu’s taho many years ago and fell in love with the almond variant. He makes them in other flavors, too, such as ube, cappuccino, pandan, chocolate and strawberry.
Peter’s company, Mang Pedro Food Products, came up with flavored taho after seeing their vendors add pandan, lemongrass and even star anise to the syrup to give the product an edge. Thus, the flavored taho.
Peter has upgraded the company’s facilities. It now uses boilers and pressure cookers with an integrated piping system to guarantee the taho’s consistency and eliminate problems created by constant stirring and handling.
He now makes taho per 200-ml single-serve cups and 1-liter containers. Minimum order is five pieces of 200 ml per flavor or 1-liter container of any flavor.
Save his number, you’ll get hooked for sure!
Order a day in advance: Call 0922-8781766 or 0917-4781766.
My new class schedule is out. Call tel. 4008496, 9289296, 9273008, 0917-5543700 or 0908-2372346 for a copy.