Bibingka: Origin and Benefits

By: Monique Ganzon

This festive kakanin is traditionally part of our Christmas table served with salabat and sold alongside puto bumbong. Bibingka is a round rice cake made with glutinous rice, sugar and coconut milk. It’s placed on a banana leaf-lined pan and baked in a clay oven with the coals underneath and on top. Bibingka is topped with salted duck eggs, kesong puti, and sugar and brushed with butter.

The name “bibingka” is similar to the Indian dessert bebinca from the state of Goa. The latter is made with flour, coconut milk, sugar, egg yolks, ghee or clarified butter and almonds. Aside from Goa, the bebinca is also common in Macau and East Timor, all of which, like Goa, were Portuguese colonies. Aside from the name, both cakes are cooked with heat on top and bottom. But unlike the Philippine bibingka, the Goa bebinca is a layered dessert wherein each layer must be cooked first before the next one is added (like the way we cook our sapin-sapin).Their bebinca is made with flour instead of glutinous rice. However, like biko, the term bibingka is Chinese in origin. Anthropologist E. Arsenio Manuel, as cited in Sta. Maria’s book, relates the rice cake’s name to its root word “bi,” which in Romanized Mandarin (Pinyin) means “unripe grain.” Bibingka is also used in naming other rice cakes such as bibingkang cassava and bibingkang malagkit.

Bibingka is a type of rice cake from the Philippines traditionally eaten during the Christmas season.

Bibingka is a cake made from rice flour (galapong), coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and baking powder. The batter is poured into a container lined with banana leaves. It is traditionally baked on live coals in a clay oven, though a regular oven may also be used. It may have toppings of native white cheese and sliced salted duck eggs, and is typically served with butter or margarine and sprinkled with grated coconut and sometimes sugar.

Bibingka is enjoyed for breakfast or merienda on any occasion, but it is especially associated with Philippine Christmas, when it is sold outside churches after the Simbang Gabi or Misa de Gallo.

Filipinos are known to be one of the most religious people in the world. Most Filipinos are Catholics. It is estimated that approximately 80% of the population are Roman Catholic. Spanish Catholic religion has a big influence in the culture because they are the ones who introduced the religion to the Filipinos. Filipinos are devoted to their religion. Some are even willing to risk their lives for it. The feast of the Black Nazarene is one of the events that challenge Filipino Faith. There are a lot of Philippine traditions and one of these is the “Simbang Gabi” or the “Night Mass”. It is a series of a nine-day masses practiced by Filipino Roman Catholics to honor the Blessed Virgin Mary and in anticipation of Christmas. It is held from December 16 to December 24. The mass usually starts at 3 o’clock in the morning and ends at 5 o’clock in the morning. At the ninth day, the mass is called “Misa de Gallo” or “Rooster’s Mass”.

After the mass, you will see a lot of vendors selling different local delicacies. One of which is the “Bibingka”. Bibingka is a type of rice cake from the Philippines. It is widely available during the Christmas Season. Most of the Filipinos tend to eat Bibingka and other local delicacies like puto bumbong, suman, barquillos, uraro and many more. After the mass, though Bibingka is one of the best and almost everyone prefers it.

Bibingka is traditionally made with galapong (Milled glutinous rice) it is the main ingredient because rice is cheap and it is widely available. It is also full of carbohydrates. Other ingredients are coconut milk, margarine and sugar. It is usually served in a trimmed banana leaf. Preparing it is time-consuming because it is made using traditional method (no electrical machines). It is cooked using “paso” or terra cotta containers and heated using pre-heated coals.

Bibingka is best served hot. It has a soft spongy texture. Some people also prefer it with Kapeng Barako, a very strong coffee.

Bibingka is a cake made from rice flour (galapong), coconut milk, sugar, eggs, and baking powder. Do you know that Coconut is full of diverse health benefits from protecting against heart diseases to preventing tooth decay.

Experts believe that bibingka contain benefits for the health. It can protect against heart disease by increasing good cholesterol and lowering the ratio of bad and good cholesterol. Helps treat malnutrition because it is easy to digest and absorb. Kills disease-causing bacteria, fungi, yeasts and viruses because of the antimicrobial effects of its fatty acids. Helps diabetics by slowing sugar release into the bloodstream. Prevents strokes and brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Boosts metabolism and increases energy because it is more likely to be burned as fuel than stored as body fat. Prevent tooth decay – coconut oil fights bacteria responsible for tooth decay and could be a healthy, non-chemical additive in toothpaste and mouthwash, Irish research suggests. Scientists found that when the oil was treated with digestive enzymes it became a powerful killer of mouth bugs that can lead to dental caries.

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