10 Cebuano delicacies you should know

Categories Food
Cebu local dessert

I love local food and Cebuano delicacies are one of my favorites. When visiting markets in towns or places within or outside of the Philippines, it’s one of the kind of food that I look for. Like the rest of Southeast Asia with an abundance of rice and coconut, these two ingredients are quite commonly used in local desserts. Rice cakes are staple and come in different forms, colors, shapes, texture and taste. Chinese influenced breads are also popular with localities having their own versions.

My province of Cebu is no different. Although what I show here are typical Cebuano delicacies, it doesn’t mean that it is exclusive to us. There are also versions of these in other towns in the Philippines. Budbud is one. Called different names, for example, suman. Bingka is known as bibingka in Luzon. And so on and so forth. These are the Cebuano delicacies of my childhood. Food that I have fond memories of. Of lazy afternoons when the ambulant vendor passes our house, calling out buyers for his merienda while we rush getting money from my mother’s purse, run outside and call the vendor back. Sweet memories. Of course, there are more than 10 of these types. The others I will write in a future post.

Cebu local dessert
Budbud, manga ug sikwate (rice cake, mango and native hot chocolate)

Budbud, manga ug sikwate

Mornings are beautiful with this triumvirate: budbud, manga ug sikwate. Or have puto maya instead of budbud. Or if mangos are not in season, just the two. I sometimes eat budbud or puto maya dipped in sugar if no hot chocolate is available. Stalls open in pre-dawn till the sun is just starting to rise from the horizon. It’s filling and a good way to carbo-load in preparation for the day’s work. While the sikwate is usually watery, I do prefer the one served in Dumaguete’s public market which is thick. The photo above is a local merienda at Cafe Laguna, a modern Filipino restaurant here in Cebu.

Cebu local dessert
Siakoy, elongated bread made with gata (coconut milk) is a popular afternoon snack

Siakoy

Siiiaaakoooooy mo diha! The vendor shouts as she walked the streets, calling buyers for her hot and sugary twisted treat. Batter with coconut milk, twisted and then fried. It’s then dredged in white sugar and neatly piled in the vendor’s plastic basket and then covered. I remember it wrapped in a sheet of manila paper and handed to a customer. I love the texture and the taste with a few bits of grated coconut.

Cebu delicacies
Puto balanghoy is steamed cassava rice cake and topped with brown sugar

Puto balanghoy

This delectable treat is one of the common Cebuano delicacies that is usually sold by an ambulant vendor or street side. It is made of grated cassava mixed with grated coconut and put into molds and topped with brown sugar. It is then steamed for a few minutes. I found this particular puto balanghoy outside the fence of the Poblacion parish church. Its delicious, filling and cheap.

Cebu local dessert
The bingka dawa of Asturias but I bought this at the terminal in Balamban, a neighboring town

Bingka dawa

Dawa is a kind of birdseed and popular with breeders of lovebirds. In the western town of Asturias, a rice cake called bingka dawa uses this unique ingredient. These are sold in markets and transport terminals or roadside in the town and surrounding municipalities. I got the above bingka dawa from an ambulant vendor in Balamban. I prefer this one than Mandaue’s bingka version which is oily and is made from ground rice flour.

Cebu delicacies
Argao’s famous torta is made with tuba and pork lard

Torta

When one says torta, the southern town of Argao comes to mind. It’s their local dessert and when I am there, I usually drop by Chitang’s for this. It’s made with the addition of pork lard and tuba, red coconut wine. While freshly baked is delicious, I prefer to eat it a day after. Steam it or put in the microwave then apply butter on top. YUM.

Cebu local dessert
Masi being prepared. This is a small white globular treat filled with a peanut and sugar paste

Masi

There’s a running joke about masi: The best tasting ones are made rolled in the armpit. My fond memories of this Cebuano delicacy was way back in elementary when vendors outside of the school were selling these. It was my first experience with this dessert. It was cheap. The glutinous globule filled with a sweet peanut and sugar paste. In Cebu, the town of Liloan is where the best masis come from. While my memory of this delicacy is one placed on a small square cut of banana leaf, now, it’s individually packed in plastic, each and every one! The town of Piat in Cagayan province in Luzon has their own version called pawa.

Cebu local dessert
Bingka, this is the steamed tapol variety

Bingka

While the Tagalogs call it bibingka, Cebuanos prefer bingka, a generic term for this rice cake which is either steamed or cooked with charcoal placed below and above. The former is what I grew up with. When I was a child, we used to get this from an ambulant vendor who passes our house in the afternoon in time for merienda. While hot, I place a slice of butter on top, let it melt before eating. During the All Souls Day vigil at the cemetery, there are stalls selling these by the roaside. Other than this violet color, there’s also white or a combination of the two. There’s another Cebuano term for this: bingkang pinalutaw or puto pinalutaw. Pinalutaw means to float as this is steamed, water is placed underneath it.

Cebu local dessert
Linusak is pounded cooked rice, muscovado sugar and then topped with grated coconut meat

Linusak

I love linusak! It is derived from the Cebuano word lusak, meaning mash. I remember my neighbor decades ago making one. With his wooden mortar and pestle, he pounds the cooked saba bananas, add grated coconut and muscovado sugar. Then molds the resulting mashed mixture into half spheres placed on top of cut banana leaves. In impromptu cockfights happening around the neighborhood, this was one of the merienda staples.

Cebu delicacies
Konsilba, thinly sliced saba bananas dipped in a melted muscovado sugar

Konsilba

The Ilonggos call it pinasugbo but I prefer the Cebuano konsilba as the former is half wrapped in white paper which can be tricky to remove. I remember it as thinly sliced semi ripe bananas tied up together in a bunch with a very thin strip of bamboo. While the Ilonggos put sesame seeds on it, we prefer it plain.

Cebu local dessert
Binignit is a mix of mostly root crops and bananas with sago and landang, a byproduct of buri palm and mostly eaten afternoon of Good Friday

Binignit

When Maundy Thursday comes, markets in Cebu are filled with people for what else: buy ingredients for binignit. That’s why the last semana santa this year became an issue as people were flocking to the mercado without observing social distancing. Root crops like camote (sweet potato), white and tapul (purple variety) gabi (taro), saba bananas, jackfruit, landang, a by product of the buri palm, are cooked together with sugar and coconut milk. Sago pearls is also added but i think this is a more recent addition. I prefer to eat it with a thicker consistency and love the texture of the gabi, especially the purple one. It’s delicious and eaten on the afternoon of Good Friday. Although its a popular lenten treat, a few stalls make it available at other times but it’s a bit difficult to find.

Cebuano delicacies are one of the important local foods that visitors and tourists alike should try. How about you? Have you tried any of these before?

Stan Cabigas helps businesses get qualified leads and more sales via Facebook Ads. He's also a photographer, blogger and writer based in Cebu, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London). His personal Photography work has been exhibited in Asia and Europe including Paris, Seoul and around the ASEAN regional capitals. He is also a peripatetic traveler and has been to all 81 Philippines provinces.

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