Buy them. Whatever I write after this sentence, these pastillas still deserve to commune with your tongue and taste buds, at least once. Still at Rockwell at their Baker’s Dozen promotion, and with a Polly’s Chocolate Cake already in hand, I needed more sugar like a hole in the head. But a table carrying Iya’s Jumbo Pastillas beckoned, and within seconds, I had acquired a box of Ube pastillas and another box of pastillas de leche for a whopping PHP500 or slightly more than PHP10 per piece! Pastillas de leche posts on this blog are historically amongst the most visited entries, and I think that these simple yet memorable sweets bring Pinoys “home,” regardless of where they are in the world today. I have very fond memories of pastillas de leche as my mother and her family were sugar addicts so we had this whenever we could get our hands on them. I could eat a dozen in one sitting. I have personally tried to make both kinds of pastillas to mediocre results, hence I find purchasing them to be a super attractive option.
With 24 large looking pieces in an overly spacious soft cardboard box, Iya’s pastillas looked promising. Back home, I immediately tasted one of each and was quite impressed. However, let’s not overly gush, shall we. “Jumbo” as a desciptor is a stretch. These were the normal size of pastillas when I was growing up, and the rest of the pastillas world simply went “Mini” and these ones have restored the older size. The ube pastillas was much more generous, it seemed, than the milk or leche pastillas, which was rather flat and less weighty. Also, the packaging was airy and so while it looked much bigger, I suspect there is a little bit of visual hocus pocus, if you know what I mean. Also, although I am not certain, it didn’t taste like these were made with carabao’s milk, maybe good cow’s milk, but I could be wrong on this. Carabao’s milk has a distinctive rich flavor and texture that seemed to be absent from these pastillas. Nevertheless, they were very good. The ube was moist, flavorful, with bits of the tuber apparent when you spread it over your tongue. Despite the generous sugar coating it wasn’t overly or cloyingly sweet. This was well-done, and just appropriately dry on the outside and yet moist inside. It remained good for three days after we purchased it. The pastillas de leche was likewise very good. Not as dense as some I have tried but just the right balance of flavor, texture, moistness, sweetness, etc. We laid these goodies out during a merienda on Saturday and the entire box of pastillas de leche was quickly wiped out.
At PHP250 for a box of 24, the price is a bit steep. But if you want good pastillas and are willing to pay for them, these are a good choice. Personally, I am more inclined towards a pastillas made with carabao’s milk and flavored with a hint of dayap. I have had nice examples of these before, here and here,but sources are extremely erratic. If you want to order some of Iya’s Jumbo Pastillas, call 729-0325. Two days advance notice is required, and pick-up is from J&C Fruits Stall #18, Market!Market! Mall at Fort Bonifacio. Or you might catch them at the basement of Rockwell Mall this weekend…