Cookie Day 2019: 11 Different Kinds of Cookies from the PhilippinesDecember 4, 2019
We celebrate Cookie Day today, and it’s hard not to immediately divert our attention to modern Western iterations. But let’s not forget our very own cookies. No, we don’t mean Marie. We’re talking about the cookies (or biskuwit? crackers? The line’s really blurry here, but we can work around it.) that we all grew up eating: broas, lengua de gato, araro, etc. We have several of them, and they often vary in name and make depending on the region.
Filipino cookies can be traced back to the Spanish period, almost at the same time we learned how to bake. That’s why they generally resemble Spanish delicacies. But through the years, we’ve developed and refined our own versions, using local ingredients and methods, and making them to fit our own tastes. Here’s our guide to Philippine cookies.
Note: There’s more where that came from. Watch out for part two of our Philippine Cookies Guide—coming soon.
Araro (or uraro) are starchy, dry cookies made out of arrowroot flour through a labor-intensive process. It’s commonly found in the Southern Luzon region; and it’s even considered a local specialty in the town of Liliw in Laguna, where it’s referred to as galletas de Liliw. Araro often comes in the shape of a flower (it’s known as sampaguita in Pampanga), and is packed in Japanese crepe paper. It’s slightly sweet and powdery (not just because it’s dusted with flour), but melts into a more creamy texture in your mouth.
Apas are another Southern Tagalog specialty, particularly in Lucena. They’re thin, oblong, wafer-like biscuits topped with sugar. The base is your typical biscuit, boasting hints of milkiness and sweetness. But the cookie is pasty enough to need the sprinkling of sugar.
Broas are traditionally made using only three ingredients: eggs, flour, and sugar. It’s our local version of ladyfingers. (So it also works well in desserts such as tiramisu or trifle.) Similarly, it has a crispy exterior and a sponge-y inside. Broas are widely available now, with most commercial variants made with more flavoring agents (e.g. vanilla) and mixed using industrial mixers. But there are some bakeries that continue to produce them in an old-school manner. This process involves incorporating everything by hand, then baking it in a charcoal-fired oven.
Jacobinas are thick, crunchy, cubed biscuits, comparable to egg cracklets (aka galletas de patatas). If you look closely, it has several layers (like napoleones) which you can sometimes peel apart. Jacobinas are trademarked to Noceda Bakery, where it was first produced by its founder Paterno Noceda. It is said that the biscuit was named after a beautiful woman Noceda once met. The bakery continues to make jacobinas to this day, and they use the same recipe and process that was originally used in 1947.
Lengua de Gato
Lengua de gato are long, milky biscuits that resemble cats’ tongues (hence, the name). They’re baked to a crisp, but are piped thinly to melt in your mouth. Lengua de gatos are sweet and very buttery. These are popular holiday gifts, and are best enjoyed with a cup of coffee.
Some may argue that meringue is more candy than cookie. But it’s crumbly texture lands it a spot on this list. Although not native to us, Filipinos have re-imagined the European dessert as our own. Our local version is referred to as “meh-reng-geh,” and can come in various flavors and sizes.
Otap (also spelled as utap) are flaky, oval-shaped cookies believed to have originated from Cebu. They have puff pastry-like texture, and are topped with granules of sugar. They’re similar to French palmiers, but are made with shortening and/or coconut oil. Otap are also thinner and more tightly layered, making them crispy.
Paborita falls in the same league as jacobina in texture, and plain galletas in taste. These bite-sized, disc-shaped biscuits are popular in the Southern Tagalog area. Although some locals might reserve the cookies for wakes (“burol“), paboritas are also popular as pasalubong. It’s very easy to snack on, and has just the right tinge of sweetness to keep you popping these bad boys in your mouth.
Pacencia are drop cookies made using beaten egg whites, giving it a resemblance to meringue. They’re typically hemisphere-shaped with a flat bottom; and is recognized as a close relative to Nissin’s eggnog cookies (which are said to be a modern iteration). Its name is derived from the Spanish word for “patience,” a virtue many bakers say you need while making it. These are traditionally eaten during the Christmas season, and have become a popular holiday gift.
Puto seko (also spelled puto seco) refers to white, thick-cut, spherical cookies. They’re crunchy to the bite, but dissolve into a dry, powdery, chalky texture when eaten. It’s made using glutinous flour, just like the kakanin it’s named after: puto. (In fact, puto seko literally means “dry puto.”) There’s a variation called puto masa (from Laguna and Batangas) which uses corn flour instead of rice flour, and come in different colors.
Rosquillos are sweet, egg-y circular cookies with flower-like edges and a hole in the center. Despite sharing a name, these local cookies are not the same as the Spanish donut. That said, they were named after the Spanish word “rosca,” which means “ringlet,” by President Sergio Osmeña (according to rumors).
Margarita “Titay” T. Frasco invented rosquillos in 1907, using ingredients from her own kitchen. She used to just give it away to her customers with a bottle of soda. Eventually, people started seeking it; and news of it reached the local government. Later, it became an official Cebu delicacy. The town of Liloan, where Frasco first made it, even celebrates a festival dedicated to it annually.