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19 June, 2007


Filipinos adopted the Spanish afternoon snack habit of merienda (pronounced mer-YEN-da) as easily as they did siesta. The one on the left is my favorite: a rice cake called suman sa lihiya paired with a slice of mango de manila (aka as ataulfo mango) and a bowl of steaming salabat (ginger tea).

Actually, merienda is like a fourth meal, more akin to the English tea than the American version of a snack. It can be an elaborate spread of savory and sweet dishes with a variety of beverages -- in which case it's called merienda cena, or high tea -- or it can be a simple affair like this one.

Elaborate or simple, all Filipino meriendas have one thing in common: no steamed rice is served as a dish, because in that case it's a full meal and not just a "snack".

The rice cake is a concoction of sweet sticky rice and coconut milk steamed in fresh banana leaves. It's also known as suman yakap, which literally means "rice cake embrace" because it usually comes in pairs tied together like the photo above. I bought this one, which came with a caramel sauce made from coconut milk and brown sugar, from a Filipino store that sells homemade sweets and delicacies.

The tea is simplicity itself: a slice or two of unpeeled raw ginger boiled in water for about fifteen minutes which results in an aromatic brew with a bit of a snap, best imbibed plain or with a little bit of honey.

Having this merienda on the patio on a sunny breezy afternoon always brings me back to the old country. It's like a sweet little taste of home.

Label(s): Food

posted at 9:22 PM by City Muse


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