Argao’s Famous Tortas…


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!

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest

36 Responses

  1. Hi Everyone, I am only running at 60% or so, but thought I should put a few posts up or risk more emails asking if I was terminal…heehee.

  2. Hi MM, Glad to see you back!!!

    A good number of your readers (including myself) were starting to experience withdrawal symptons.

  3. MM: There you go, now my memory’s been juggled as to where I tasted the torta when I did the southern Cebu roadtrip. And yes, it was in Argao teehee

  4. Hi MM. I went home to Bohol last Christmas and finally had torta. The best ones I tried were from Duero, Bohol. This is the town after Jagna. The ones commercially sold in Mansasa District are fluffier and lighter. The Duero version is dense. I am still trying to get the recipe. I heard the makers in Duero are old ladies. I hope they pass on the recipes to the next generation. Lami jud ang torta uy.

  5. I got a book from library about food in Spain which has recipe about ensaimada, torta, which call for lard instead of butter. It would be nice to try this with traditional recipe.

  6. Glad to know you are back! The upo filling in masa pofrida is something new to me. We now have an innovative version for varied selection aside from the traditional ones we grow up. But sometimes it is hard to outgrow good food I am accustomed to. Like the saying goes “it is hard to teach an old dog new tricks!”

  7. Yahoo you’re back!! I hope you got medical advise. If not pls do. Part of my work deals with medical concerns and I always advise clients to get medical help when these symptoms appear. Health is wealth. Tarry not..
    Although am ecstatic you’re back! Like Isagarch and bettyq I was having withdrawal symptoms. Good side was I went through a lot of your archives and am trying your Acar Timur and acharas before the week ends. I also got some pie crust recipe of yours as I want to try another version from the one I currently use. Welcome back. We missed you!!!

  8. good to “read you back” (translates to: see you back), mr. mm… my father is from cebu, tracing his roots in madridejos, but i remember spending vacations somewhere in the city. i was not really fond of the tortas then, i found it too oily. but i loved (and still do) the titay’s rosquillos and galletas del carmen. i also remember eating an empanada-like delicacy which was a bit makunat and a bit sweet and brownish. i don’t know if that’s sinudlan, but i remember the food and how i enjoyed munching on it hopping along boromeo st. i sed to make bilin to friends to bring some back fgrom cebu but they dont know what i was talking about. would anybody know? talking about food memories, i remember my mama visit’s (how i called my lola, god bless her soul)paklay. i was around 7 or 8 then and i was gorging (literally) this unidentifiable dish bec it was yummy. i only got a taste of it when we spend summer in her boarding house ala carinderia. nobody among her children got to duplicate her recipe… sayang…

  9. Masa podrida with upo? Interesting, I’d never have thought of upo as a sweet filler, but now that I think about it, there is hopia filled with wintermelon puree….

  10. Happy to see that our well loved and anticipated blog is back. Hope you’re feeling well now. Do take care, don’t overdo it.

    About those tortas from Argao, had a taste of them recently, not so exciting really, they did not live up to their commercial saying “magtigkadugay, magtigkalami”!:-(

  11. yehey!welcome back MM! life is really dull and boring without you and your posts…..hope you will fully recover coz’ we miss you……

  12. I am not a big fan of torta but I have fond childhood memories of helping Mama make masa podrida filled with homemade papaya or mango jam.

    MM, thank you for the new posts despite the fact that you are not 100% well yet!

  13. Torta in Argao is baker specific these days. I think you tried the “healthier” version. Tried it myself a few months ago but liked the heart attack version better.
    I say go for the one that’s on the UN banned weapons list (along with mines, cluster bombs, and bad karaoke singers).
    Will try torta from other places when I have the chance.

  14. Hi Maria Clara. Let me email my mom first and ask her for the recipe. She’s quite generous with sharing recipes so I don’t think she will mind.

    On the other hand, if my sister back home is reading this (I know you are)…baka you want to be the one to ask Mama for the recipe and post it here :)

  15. Though I’m glad to see that you are getting better, please do take it easy MM, so that you can regain the 40% back.

  16. Sylvia thank you very much for all your efforts in sharing your Mom’s recipe. Many thanks too to MM.

  17. the masa with upo sounds interesting… and yes, am interested to know the recipe, too (i guess you see that coming :) ). i always try to find ways incorporating veggies in yummy desserts/dishes if that’s the only way i can get the kids to eat vegetables. how extreme can i go to “disguise” the veggies? i made baked macaroni with pechay tagalog shreds.

    thanks to the generous souls who will share their recipes :)

  18. Sylvia:
    I was just in Argao and tried the Podrida after 28 some years
    since I moved to the US. It was wonderful and made me miss my late Mother who makes Torta and Podrida when I was growing up in Oslob. Please share the Podrida recipe of your Mom, I would love to try it here in the US. Thanks a lot…:)

Comments are closed.