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Coconut cake w/ 'prized mutant coconuts' (bibingka w/ macapuno) featured in The New York Times

By NICK GARCIA Published Oct 05, 2022 6:03 pm

"Nagsiawit ang mga anghel sa langit." Bibingka, a fixture during the country's Christmas "season" and especially during the traditional Simbang Gabi, just took center stage in The New York Times.

In the essay "The Crew Can Have a Little Coconut Cake," published Sept. 28, Filipino American writer Ligaya Mishan recalled attending a book party, during which the host served bibingka, a "cake traditionally made with rice flour and coconut milk and baked to supreme fluffiness over banana leaves in a terra-cotta oven."

Rice flour is known locally as "galapong," coconut milk "gata," banana leaves "dahon ng saging," terra-cotta oven "palayok."

Though "already familiar with the glory" of bibingka, what piqued Mishan's interest at the time was the snack's size, noting that she'd "never seen it so dainty, built to fit in the palm of the hand and be devoured in three bites."

She said each little cake "came with a frill of banana leaf and a whiff of its clean, green-tea scent."

It's also topped with "half-melted opalescent strands" of macapuno, which Mishan called as "the jellylike flesh of prized mutant coconuts."

Lunti, a Los Baños-based agriculture company, described macapuno as "a mutant coconut with abnormal development in the endosperm" in 2018. A 2015 tweet with a photo of preserved macapuno balls in a jar from a local food company also listed "gelatinous mutant coconut" as an ingredient. 

Known as kopyor coconut in Indonesia, it's a "natural mutant" according to a 2009 scientific journal.

When the Times shared the 800-word essay on its social media pages, some users who are presumably Filipinos showed their appreciation for the Pinoy dish.

"Our Bibingka is famous. It even made the NY Times," one user said in a Facebook caption.

"Simbang Gabi and memories of the dark sky, chilly air, candle smoke-tinged wind and sweet bibingka," another user commented on Twitter.

Some Facebook users, meanwhile, also took notice of the "prized mutant coconut" description.

"Prized Mutant Coconuts sounds like a great name for a punk band," one user said.

"This is the weirdest and most wonderful description of anything, du jour," another user said.

Bibingka is usually sold in the streets, especially near churches. It's usually topped with butter, itlog maalat slices, and niyog.