A perfect snack for many folks on a brisk morning at the Baguio market is Binatog, a warm concoction of boiled corn, coconut, sugar and milk. Last year I happened to be in Baguio on a record cold morning (8 degrees celsius or roughly 46.5 degrees fahrenheit, the coldest temperature in nearly 10 years!) and noticed a crowd buying cups of binatog from a vendor near the entrance of the Baguio market. I couldn’t be bothered to wait in line at the time and missed out on the warm snack. This time around, the temperatures were less frigid and the vendor had fewer customers so I decided to try some of his binatog. This must be a relatively unique Filipino concoction, a warm variation on the theme of mais con hielo, perhaps.
Binatog has just a few ingredients: boiled corn kernels that are intentionally overcooked so that they are literally bursting out of their skins (also has the result of puffing up the corn), sugar, grated coconut, and evaporated milk. To make, the vendor starts by taking out a clean plastic cup and scooping some boiled corn until about 2/3 of the cup is full, he next adds a little bit of the grated coconut and a touch of sugar, tops the cup up with more corn, sprinkles more sugar on top and adds evaporated milk. If you want to eat it immediately he gives you a spoon and you can munch away. If you plan to take-away, he puts the cup in a thin plastic bag and twists and knot… I describe this process in detail as I bought 5 cups from him and he was very “mechanical” about completing the order.
Apparently on a good day, Joel the binatog vendor (in the photograph here) can sell up to 250 cups! At P10 a cup, that’s P2,500 in daily revenue – not bad huh? Now, to the taste… I am not terribly fond of mais con hielo so I was a bit lukewarm (pun intended) about this snack. But the texture and flavor were interesting enough and I can see the attraction for the legions of fans of binatog. For those of you who are far away and miss this snack, I imagine it is relatively easy to do at home… perhaps the only problem would be finding the freshly grated coconut…