Long before we craved for fancy croughnuts or a cup of African Sunrise tea, our mother made us come in and take a break from patintero to grab a very different kind of merienda. Katsupoy bangs dripping with sweat and skin covered with grime, we happily obliged. Mom would always serve us the familiar, hearty sandwich—made with either pandesal or Pinoy Tasty—filled with whatever palaman she fancied that day.
But now, we’re older and our tastes have matured. Though we still fondly remember the various palaman of our childhood, they’re not as exciting as they used to be. Fortunately, that’s easily fixed. Here are five of our old merienda staples, plus fuss-free ways to take them to the next level.
Before finding its second life perking up otherwise-tasteless nachos during Happy Hour, Cheez Whiz was our all-purpose one-step sandwich filling. Regularly found in lunchboxes packed along with a Zesto, Cheez Whiz sandwiches were our usual snack during recess time. They were also useful in keeping away hunger whenever our sundo took longer than usual to pick us up. It kept us from crying or panicking for the fifteen minutes we needed to finish eating the darn thing.
Make an open-faced Cheez Whiz toast and add a few strips of bacon (because bacon makes everything better).
Years before the Speculoos Cookie Butter fad, we Pinoys had already jumped onto the Nutella bandwagon. Nonetheless, we have always saved shelf space for our beloved peanut butter supply, whether it’s Skippy, Planters, or locally made favorites like Lily’s or Ludy’s. As James A. Garfield said, “Man cannot live by bread alone; he must have peanut butter.”
Make the ultimate Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich with nine different flavor zones.
I pride myself on being one of those kids whose mothers kept them from having too much margarine (or any at all). Mom never grew tired of repeatedly telling my siblings and I to stay away from the stuff and their alleged harmful effects, her spiels mostly revolving around how this butter-look-alike had too much “preservatives,” was “made of plastic,” and was “highly cancerous.”
Margarine = death. Got it, Mom
Ironically though, our fridge was still always stocked with its familiar yellow plastic container. If we were not spreading the margarine on toast (with a dash of dried oregano for that gourmet effect), most summer afternoons would be spent merrily smearing it all over fried bananas before dipping them in sugar. The combination was yummy enough to make me ignore mom’s warning about getting cancer.
On your margarine-slathered toast, add some cinnamon powder and top it with honey. The more complex flavors of the cinnamon and honey work well with the one-note taste of the margarine.
I didn’t know condensed milk was a staple sandwich filling among Filipinos until I was in high school. At a friend’s house, I was baffled when her mom placed a loaf of bread, a jar of condensed milk, and a spoon in front of us for merienda. No Cheez Whiz? No peanut butter? Not even cancerous, made-from-plastic margarine? It was all very confusing. I was familiar with condensed milk, yes, but only when it was in fruit salad or leche flan.
To my surprise, I found that condensed milk + bread was a brilliant combo.
Jack up your Condensada Sandwich and turn it into an Oreo Ref Cake. Layer condensed milk-soaked bread (or just spread the milk lightly on top of bread if you want to be boring. That’s fine, too.) and ground Oreos over each other in a deep dish or pan. Refrigerate, and after a few hours, you now have instant, no-bake cake.
Before food chains like Subway let us customize our sandwiches, we’ve been recycling last night’s dinner or take-home food into hearty protein-packed sandwiches. As much as we enjoy burgers, shawarma, and burritos, many of us love sandwiches with palaman originally intended to be served with rice even more, for sandwich fillings. Favorites include Menudo, Arroz a la Cubana, Adobo, Bopis, and Sisig.
Add some fresh greens, a few slices of tomatoes, cheese, and a sunny side-up in your ulam-filled pandesal. With the right leftovers, you now have a sandwich that can go head to head with almost any gourmet version you could buy elsewhere.
Which among these were your favorites growing up? Got other suggestions on how to elevate these classic Pinoy fillings? Tell us below!