Sorting out the Sweets and Snacks

July 12, 2017 Elizabeth M. San Nicolas

Since the Spanish Era, Filipinos have been settling on Guam, bringing along their rich culture, language, and customs. Perhaps their greatest contribution is the delectable desserts that have been eagerly added to our local bakeries and tables. We have gathered some of the most popular ones for your enjoyment.



A favorite of many, this is traditionally a popular street food in the Philippines. Thinly sliced bananas and jackfruit are dusted with brown sugar, rolled in a spring-roll wrapper, and then fried. The sugar melts and caramelizes around the wrapper, giving the turon its distinctive sticky coating. In the Philippines, you might see other fillings like sweet potato, mango, cheese, or coconut. The sweet crunch of turon is a perfect ending to a fiesta plate.



These are brioche or dinner rolls smothered in buttery cream and sugar. Sometimes the rolls are topped with cheddar cheese or baked with blueberries. This sweet, pull-apart bread is a great dessert any time of day. Ensaymada is readily available at many bakeries and mom and pop stores on Guam, though each has their own unique flavor and consistency. In the Philippines, ensaymada can be topped with queso de bola, a specialty Edam cheese, and served with hot chocolate and strawberries at Christmas time.



There are many Filipino breads that are now Guam staples, like pandesal, pan de leche, and Spanish rolls just to name a few. These are Filipino versions of the European breads introduced by the Spanish during the colonial era. Pandesal is a breakfast staple in the Philippines, made from flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, and salt. Spanish rolls are similar, but log shaped with a crunchier topping, sometimes with spread of finely chopped apple or other surprise. Large pan de leche are sweet milk rolls, also perfect for breakfast or as dinner bread.



Many people look forward to this traditionally seasonal dessert. Silvanas are chilled or frozen cookies made of buttercream, cashews, and meringue, and then coated in crumbs. They used to be only available during Christmas, but now can be found almost year round at some local bakeries. Silvanas are the cookie version of a popular Filipino cake, the Sans Rival.



Also readily available, this pastry is similar to Chinese moon cakes, has a cloying inside texture, and a flaky, puff pastry shell or a shell with a cookie-dough feel similar to a fig newton. Fillings include mung bean paste, candied pork, purple yam, and azuki bean paste. In the Philippines, you might find a variety of other fillings like cheese, chocolate, custard, mango, pineapple, or buko pandan (a sweet, young coconut flavor) 



Filipino flavors have done ice cream all kinds of favors, and the variety available on Guam is impressive. Ube, mango, avocado, sweet corn, macapuno, buko pandan, jackfruit, honeydew, and even cheese are terrific tropical twists to American offerings. In the Philippines you can buy tiny cones of ice cream from street peddlers for less than a dollar.



Perhaps the crown jewel of Filipino desserts, its literal English translation is “mix-mix,” and the dish is exactly that: a mix of all kinds of tasty ingredients. Shaved ice, evaporated milk, white sugar, sweet beans, coconut, fruits, macapuno, jackfruit, tapioca, leche flan, ube, ice cream are put together in a tall glass. This is how they arrange the ingredients in the Philippines: All the heavy items are placed first in the glass, followed by the sugar, then the ube, before adding the shaved ice all the way to the top. A liberal dose of evaporated milk is added, and then the whole thing is topped by leche flan. Halo-halo is usually served in a tall, clear glass to show off the many colorful layers, and you eat it with a long teaspoon.



There are many other treats like steamed tuba-flavored puto and rich cassava cake that are now Guam staples, thanks to our Filipino cousins. When two food-loving cultures come together, the results are bound to
be delicious. 

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