Depending on which part of the Philippines you’re from, torta can mean one of three things. If you’re from the Ilocos, it can mean an ensaymada-like bread. (Ensaymada is what some people would describe as a Filipino brioche.) People from Pampanga regard torta as a dinner roll made with lard, while in Cebu and Bohol, a torta is a large, sweet cake, sometimes anise-flavored. And then for most Manila girls like myself, torta is an omelet filled with ground beef or ground pork and eaten for breakfast with banana ketchup. I’m not sure why there is so much discrepancy.
A few Christmases ago, I chanced upon a lady at a bazaar hawking her specialty ”“ tortas, she called them. They resembled large ensaymadas cradled in parchment paper. Yellow and dense, they had a tight crumb which would proceed to crumble once bitten into or pierced with a fork. They had an old-fashioned taste to them, similar to the flavor acquired through baking in a clay oven. The torta was also very rich and since it was Christmas, it’d pair quite well with a mug of tsokolate.
From what I’ve learned about this torta, it’s native to Cebu, its distinctive ingredient being tuba (too-BAH), a coconut wine/stem sap. The tuba’s primary purpose is to leaven the cake, and add its characteristic flavor. While modern-day advances and lifestyles dictate baking powder or some other faster-acting leavener, the tuba is traditional, even though it takes seven to eight hours for it to do its work.
Other ingredients used in the making of a torta are flour, egg yolks, sugar, and milk. Lard is also a key component, guaranteeing moistness and shelf life, health police be damned. I’ve also heard of tortas that have raisins added to them as well as anise seeds for fragrance and textural contrast. The use of a clay or wood-fired oven is preferred over the conventional oven.
These tortas are available by calling Ana at 0917-9958949. Ana is also famous and rightfully so, for her “San Lo’s Famous Empanadas.” Flaky, floury, and full of good fillings, they’re best eaten hot or re-heated. Eating them cold or otherwise will destroy the experience for you.
4’s P340 / 6’s P510
with Queso de Bola (Edam cheese)
4’s P400 / 6’s P600
Pollo, carne, atun, jamon y queso
12’s regular P360 / 18’s regular P540
6’s large P270 / 12’s large P540