After visiting the church at Boljoon, we turned back towards Cebu City and made our way North, stopping for some of those famous tortas of Argao. We drove around town and stopped at one of town’s well-known vendors, OJ’s Torta, which had recently placed second in the “Lalawigan Torta Contest”. We ordered several tortas, dense cakes make with lots of egg yolks, pork lard, sugar, flour, leavened by tuba and sometimes flavored with anise and with raisins and cheese. These tortas were unfortunately, not particularly thrilling, as they seemed to lack enough of the key ingredients that make them “heart-stoppingly” sinful and yet delicious. In other words, they somehow felt like the economy version of what is normally a dessert oozing with excess. Just a few weeks ago we had had several gorgeous traditionally cooked tortas at the Lechon Eyeball, so I had some recent points of comparison. Also, these were much denser than these lighter versions from Dauis in Bohol.
More interesting for me were these charming masa podrida or flaky cookies that were filled with an upo and sugar mixture. Normally, masa podrida in our childhood would be filled with mango preserves or other jams, but this version with upo and sugar was both novel for me, and obviously rather economical. They were good, and I ate more of these than than the tortas…
What I like about this part of Cebu is that each town is well known for a food product or two, and nearby towns don’t just go and copy the product and sell it like some basic commodity… there is still some pride and identity linked to a location, so that Argao has it’s tortas, Carcar it’s chicharon and takuy, Talisay it’s lechons/inasal and Liloan it’s rosquillos… Personally, I have to admit that my tastebuds are a bit modernized or citified when it comes to torta… while my parents would love the more traditional takes on this dessert, I have grown to love the flavor and ease of a shortcut torta version that uses a whole lot of butter and egg yolks. The recipe for this more buttery version is here. At any rate, if you are ever down in this part of Cebu, be sure to at least try some of these native delicacies!