“In April we start making thousands of kiping,” explained Milada Valde of Lucban, Quezon, Philippines as she poured the bright yellow batter over a large shiny leaf.
Placing the kiping-covered leaf on a steamer, she continued, “May 15 is our Pahiyas Festival. We give thanks to San Isidro de Labador, the patron saint of farmers, for a good harvest by covering our houses completely in fruits, vegetables, and decorations made of kiping.”
She peeled the dried wafer-like kiping off the leaf. “We fashion the kiping into elaborate brightly colored flowers, chandeliers, and other decorative items. If we bake the kiping, we can eat it, too.”
Kipings, crispy wafers made from rice flower, are unique to Lucban. Several centuries ago, returning home to the Philippines from Acapulco, a chef wanted to make tacos, but could not get the necessary ingredients so he experimented and invented kiping.
During the Pahiyas Festival, competition is intense as homeowners compete for prizes for the best and most creative displays. The streets are packed with locals and visitors to view the procession of colorful floats and giant paper-mâché effigies, including San Isidro Labrador’s image to insure bountiful harvests.
Sausage, Fried Noodles, and Local Hooch
While the kipings were drying, Milada demonstrated how generations of her family have been making the town’s other local delicacy, Lucban Longganisa, a garlicky slightly sour sausage similar to chorizo de Bilbao, the famous garlic sausage from Spain. After mixing all the ingredients Valde deftly stuffed the mixture into the casings.
“You can tie them off into any length you want,” she said, neatly closing up several sausages.
Grandmotherly Milada owns Dealo’s Koffee Klatch and she fed us pastries along with the Lucban Longganisa as well as the other local specialty, pansit or fried noodles.
Lucban was the first stop on our daylong culinary tour of Quezon Province and it was a great start. In Tayabas, we stopped at a unique restaurant, Kamayan sa Palaisdaan, with tables in bamboo pavilions with thatched roofs above fishponds. Diners can actually catch their own fish from the ponds, which are then cooked for them. We watched food being grilled and enjoyed listening to the roving band.
We also made a quick stop at Kamay ni Hesus, the impressive hillside shrine honoring the Healing Jesus. The steep landscaped hill tells the way of the cross with the Last Supper tableau near the bottom and the crucifixion at the top.
Our last stop was Graceland, a beautifully landscaped property located in Tayabas. And, yes, the owner is a fan of Elvis. We sampled more traditional foods – salted eggs with tomato and green mangos, chicken tamarind soup, rice wrapped in banana leaves, and grilled pork belly.
The meal and our day ended with a lesson on the proper way to drink the local 90-proof firewater, Lambanog, a wine distilled from coconut palm sap. The ritual starts by the group agreeing on the measure of lambanog and the host pours the amount in one glass and says “Na’an Po” (Here’s my drink). Going in a counterclockwise direction, each drinker must finish the same amount for each round. If a drinker wishes to pass, the proper way to decline the drink is to say, “I’ll save the drink for you.” The host will then drink it. The ritual is a one of friendship and it was a great way to end our trip. – by Sandra Scott, RFT Contributor
Try this recipe for Philippine kiping.
Or make some traditional Philippine sausage, Lucban Longganisa.
Check out these other contributions by Sandra Scott: