Hi, my name is Maggan. Welcome to Maggan’s kitchen!
Meryenda is a Filipino word loaned from Spanish (sp. merienda). Retaining the Spanish meaning, it refers to any food eaten between meals. The English equivalent is snack.
The word English word snack has also been filipinized: isnak. However, meryenda and isnak are not quite the same. Meryenda offers traditional between-meal fares, and therefore more filling, while isnak are lighter, usually over-the-counter foods like chips, cheese curls, chocolates, nuts etc.
So what foods are meryenda? Let me recall what I was fed during my growing (vertical) years.
Champorado. Chocolate rice porridge served with milk and sugar.
Munggo. Mung bean porridge served with milk and sugar.
Ginataan. Thick soup of coconut milk, diced bananas, diced sweet potatoes, diced purple yam, julienne jack fruit, rice balls (made from ground glutinous rice), and tapioca balls.
Dinuguuan. Blood soup with diced pork meat and green chilis. Served with steamed rice cakes. Any left over can be served for the real meal—lunch or dinner—and served with plain rice.
Turon. Deep fried and crispy half a slice of banana rolled in a spring-roll wrapper.
Special turon. Same as turon but with jack-fruit added to the filling.
Banana-cue. Also known as banana-Q (the -cue part comes from the word barbecue). Whole banana coated with brown sugar and then deep fried. Served on sticks like barbecue.
Kamote-cue. Also kamote-Q. Thick slices of sweet potatoes cooked and served in the same way as the banana-cue.
Lumpia. Not to be confused with lumpiang shanghai (with pork meat filling) Internationally known as spring roll. Sauteed mixed vegetables (garlic, onion, carrots, mung bean sprouts, hard tofu, cabbage) wrapped in a spring roll wrapper and then deep fried. May be eaten plain or dipped in coconut vinegar which may be plain or seasoned with garlic, piri-piri, and/or onion.
Suman. Classic all-time favourite. Glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and seasoned with salt and sugar (in some regions, a little fresh ginger is added). The cooked rice is then wrapped in clean fresh banana leaves (in some regions, coconut leaves are used) then steamed. May be served plain or with coconut jam or brown sugar.
Biko. Another classic and all-time favourite. Same as suman but instead of wrapping in banana leaves and steaming, the rice is spread on a bilao or coconut tray lined with, again, banana leaves. Unfortunately these days, plastic films are used to line the tray.
Bibingka. This is the fancier version of biko. An even fancier version uses ground glutinous rice. As we never made this at home (always bought a tray or half a tray), I have no idea how it is made. I do know that it is served (or sold and bought) with an even layer of coconut jam on top.
Taho. Street food at its best. I love this. I don’t know of anyone who makes this at home, unless he owns a factory. This is very soft and silky tofu (but not soy milk) served in a glass or mug with a teaspoon or two of arnibal (liquid or liquefied raw sugar) and garnished with clear tapioca balls. Drink up! Cheers!
Sapin-sapin. Sapin means layer. Three- to four-layer rice cake made of glutinous rice flour. Very sticky cake (it can choke to you to death). Each layer has a different colour (red, deep purple, yellow, and white).
Pansit. Wok noodles with sauteed vegetables. There are three basic varieties: bihon (rice starch), canton (egg noodles) and sotanghon (mung bean noodles). It is usual to combine canton with any of the two kinds of noodles.
Mami. Noodle soup usually made with fresh egg noodles. Seasoned chicken broth with chicken meat. Served with chopped chives or spring onions, toasted garlic, hard-boiled egg. Dimsum can be used instead of chicken. A drop or two of fish sauce with Philippine lemon is sometimes added to heighten the taste.
Kutsinta. Steamed rice cake made of rice flour and brown sugar. Steamed in small cup-cake moulds. Served with freshly grated coconut.
Halo-halo. A summer favourite. Halo means mix. Halo-halo is a mix of sweetened bananas, sweet potatoes, adzuki beans, navy beans, pinipig (glutinous rice harvested before they ripe and then pounded into flakes), gelatin (made from agar agar which is sourced from a seaweeds). The glass is then filled with crushed ice and then topped with a spoon of ube (purple yam jam) and leche flan. Milk is poured into the glass upon serving. A long spoon, like the one used for special coffee drinks, is required in order to mix the fruits and ice well.
Mais con hielo. Corn with ice. Similar to halo-halo but with less adornments. Just corn kernels from the can, ice, milk and sugar.
Lugaw. Also known as congee. Like rice soup or porridge minus the sweetness.
Arroz caldo. Like the above but with cooked with sauteed garlic, ginger, and chicken. Served with chopped chives or spring onion and topped with toasted garlic.
You may be wondering if meryenda leaves some space for dinner. Foreigners are amazed how Filipinos manage to eat so much and often and still have time to do other things, like work. Eating again? Where do ou stuff all the food? I do remember a former colleague whose office drawer (one of them) virtually became a cupboard and eventually a mini-7-11 store. (Her other drawer was a mini-H&M that accepted installment payments.)
About being able to eat dinner after an afternoon meryenda, it is possible since the foods enumerated above are fast-burning carbohydrates. They burn easily. The person also easily feels hungry.
About managing eating often and multi-tasking, I think it’s a myth. A fist impression. Filipinos gain unwanted weight around the belly. But the important thing is they know how to mix pleasure with business. Sometimes heavier on the pleasure, sometimes taking business matters too lightly. Blame it on the high carbohydrate and sugar rush in the blood.