Bibingka is not only a rice cake that crosses regional lines in the Philippines it also has an iconic status in traditional Philippine cooking. Traditional Philippine baking employs very spartan kitchen implements, and the baking process is a tedious one involving hours of preparing the glutinous rice and coconut milk mixture and, equally challenging, preparing the earthenware pots that served as ‘oven.’
With the pasty mixture poured into pots that are lined with banana leaves, the earthenware pots are placed inside improvised stone ovens, and charcoal fire is placed on top and below to slowly (and carefully) heat the stone oven. If this description is hard to follow, the baking itself is an equally tough challenge. Of course with modern ovens, this tedious process became impractical, but discriminating bibingka diehards swear that cakes baked the traditional way are more tastier.
Proof of bibingka’s iconic status is that the word bibingka itself has entered Filipino venacular as in “Parang na-bibingka sa init,” which means to experience hellish heat or fire. Imagine experiencing fire on top and fire below! Or the comment “Ang girlfriend niya ay mukhang bibingka.‘” Translation: ‘His girlfriend looks like a bibingka” Not necessarily a compliment as it means that the girl has a plumpy figure or is moon-face (bibingka is round and soft).
The cake is best eaten fresh when it is still warm, soft with a subtle nutty taste. Variants of the bibingka are bibingka cassava (local yum), with optional toppings of grated coconut. As with other rice cakes, a perfect accompaniment for bibingka is hot chocolate. With this delicious duo, one could never invent a more delightful treat!
Mabuhay ang bibingka!