Snacks hold a place of honor in the food hierarchy. They are at once accessible and affordable, offering quick, bite-sized comfort between meals.

There’s scones, biscuits and cakes in England, roti and karipap in Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, bao du or lu zhu huo shao in Beijing, baklava in Istanbul, tamales and choclo con queso in Peru. They’re a host of tasty, delicate, sometimes intriguing snack items which are sure to delight the taste buds.

While the certified foodies would never balk at sampling these items, the Pinay heart will forever return to the sweet and savory delights that make up the Pinay merienda –stirring up poignant memories of the serene rice paddies of the probinsya, the lively streets of Manila or the warmth of family and friends.

Here are some crowd favorites:

  • Empanada – an ode to the Philippines’ Spanish heritage, this puff pastry is filled with the scrumptious goodness of minced pork, potatoes, carrots, green peas and egg. The saltiness of the sauteed filling perfectly balances off with the sweetish bland pastry hugging it.
  • Bibingka – sweet cakes made of galapong or milled glutinous rice, sugar and coconut milk. A popular treat during the Christmas season, the bibingka is traditionally baked in terracotta ovens in clay pots lined with banana leaves. The satisfying scent of margarine incorporated in the cooking process emanates from these cakes once they are broken apart while still fresh from the oven.
  • Hopia – a flaky pastry encasing any one of a range of robust fillings – from pork fat, ube, red bean to monggo. As varied as the fillings that could be used for this delicacy are, it is shaped in different ways, too - round, triangular or cubed.  Hopia was introduced to the Philippines by Fookienese migrants and has evolved into a well-loved snack.
  • Ensaimada – a pillowy soft and buttery bread that traces its origins to Mallorca, Spain, this is a well-known treat in the Philippines, Latin America and Southwestern Europe. The Pinay’s version is an excellent sweet-savory mix because of a generous topping of grated cheese.

All of these merienda fare match beautifully with coffee and hot chocolate. One could choose soda or fruit juice, too, but they just don’t cut it. For the total Pinay merienda experience, foodies are well-advised to keep referring to this guide.