Monday, August 15, 2011

Hizon’s Ensaymada

Hizon's Cakes and Pastries has been a long standing institution in the heart of Manila. Located in 1197 J. Bocobo street corner Arquiza street, Ermita, Hizon’s Cakes and Pastries restaurant has been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner since 1946. I, however, have never eaten in the restaurant yet. What I always remember ‘Hizon’s’ (as we call it) for, is their ensaymada. Growing up, Hizon’s ensaymada was the only ensaymada I had ever known. They’re huge, almost double a child’s fist, oozing with butter and topped with real grated quezo de bola cheese. Quezo de Bola is a Filipino term derived from the Spanish words literally meaning ball of cheese. It’s more commonly known to the world as Edam cheese, which is a Dutch cheese that is spherical in shape sometimes slightly flattened at the top and bottom and is coated with red wax. The ones in the Philippines are really round. There are companies that locally produce this type of cheese, but the only semblance of it being queso de bola is the shape and that it’s covered in red wax. I still prefer the brands Marca Pato and Marca Piña, both imported from Holland. Its festive appearance makes it a common attraction during the holiday season as part of the Christmas feast. Queso de bola tastes rather mild and slightly nutty. It has a tendency to get saltier and drier with age and doesn't easily spoil. Its taste and texture closely resembles Gouda cheese.

Ensaymada is another one of the many types of foods derived from our Spanish heritage. Ensaymada is similar to ensaimada, which is a pastry that is a specialty in the Balearic Islands, commonly known as Mallorca (Majorca). Although the ensaymadas’ fame is recognized to be a notable Spanish legacy, it is said to have come from the Arabic occupation of the Ibizan Peninsula in the year 740 to 1235 AD and the explorations of the Arab land by the Spanish and Portuguese who later on introduced it to the world.

Ensaymada is a type of sweet bread with butter based origins. The original ensaymada, such as what the Hizon’s ensaymada still looks like, is one big snail-like coil, smeared with rich butter, dusted with white sugar and topped with grated cheese (for Hizon’s it is queso de bola). The buttery rolls taste heavenly, soft, sweet, milky, light, fluffy and rich all at the same time. It’s great with coffee or tea anytime of the day.

The sharpness and saltiness of the queso de bola provides a perfect balance to the richness of the butter. Hizon’s over time has never sacrificed the quality of their ensaymada and it makes the trip to Ermita always worth it. But as of late, I’ve seen a few Hizon’s stalls at a few of the bigger malls within Metro Manila. This has made it easier for us busy city folks to put our craving stomachs to rest.

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