23 Jan2006

I have always pushed artisanal provedores, folks apast1who make stuff the old-fashioned way or folks who really put a whole lot of effort into the foodstuff that they are purveying. I don’t necessary want slick, I prefer food with soul and passion. I have featured yemas and great ensaimadas from Mark Medina’s stall at the Salcedo market before…and last Saturday he handed me a bag of pastillas de leche to try while I was making my rounds. His pastillas were made from carabao’s milk with the caveat that they might seem a bit oily due to the fat in the milk…

I have tasted dozens of pastillas in the past year but I have to say I was charmed by these pastillas. apast12They were extremely fresh and soft, irregularly shaped (not perfect and uniform like some of the others), highly flavorful with notes of dayap and not as sweet as others. They must have been made within the past two days as they only started to firm up a day or so later. The pastillas were also wrapped in wax paper then yellow cellophane, a welcome change from the standard all white perfectly tucked in version that is more commonly seen. At any rate, they are definitely worth trying if you manage to catch the market early…they don’t stock too much, claiming it is far too labor intensive…



  1. Ivan the Streetwalker says:

    Ive often wondered, almost all the pastillas sellers (even little commercial ones) always claim to use carabao’s milk, is there a way of finding the real texture of carabao’s milk in pastillas?

    Ive tried the pastillas from the town of San Miguel de Mayumo in Bulacan and they were nice…with a interesting dayap kick and a beautifully crafted paper-cutting wrapper!

    Jan 23, 2006 | 8:27 am


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  3. rose aka sofia says:

    Hmm. I don’t know if this was the same pastillas I buy. I should pay more attention when I’m in Salcedo.

    Will look for it this Saturday morning.

    Jan 23, 2006 | 2:22 pm

  4. Marketman says:

    Ivan, I think its the flavor that is more of a giveaway, and I do think I can tell the difference but I certainly am not totally sure. The good carabao milk is also like cream and should be creamier and oilier, I think. Commercially sold (say, in the grocery) pastillas often uses cow’s milk as it is cheaper and more readily available…

    Jan 23, 2006 | 5:49 pm

  5. schatzli says:

    I just had pastillas le leche (somebody arrived) before I could take a bite, I already judge it texture that its not a good quality. Far too crumbly.

    I would not mind paying more to this artisan one, its done as you said with love and passion, the old way… it always taste better.

    Happy Weekend MM
    Always a pleasure to start my day reading your posts!

    Jan 23, 2006 | 6:08 pm

  6. kong wi says:

    hi MM…you should try the Kabigting’s halo halo in Arayat…they add pastillas (carabao’s milk) in their mix…i think they also sell something that i call “jaleang gatas”…imagine a jar of gooey pastillas de leche…

    Jan 24, 2006 | 12:23 am

  7. mojitodrinker says:

    hi MM, which one is mark medina’s stall in salcedo village?

    Jan 24, 2006 | 10:49 am

  8. Marketman says:

    Mark’s is the one with a banner that has “ARAYAT” written on the lower half. About 20 meters from the Ineng’s barbecue…

    Jan 24, 2006 | 8:06 pm

  9. miamall says:

    Hi Marketman! Off topic question but, would you know if the Salcedo Village Market carries any products from the famous Piaya and Caramel Tarts from Bacolod? (I think the brand is Sugarlandia.)


    Jan 25, 2006 | 2:22 am

  10. Marketman says:

    miamall, I am not sure if they carry Sugarlandia brand but I do know that the last time we were there (last Saturday), someone was selling freshly made piaya right in front of your eyes which must be eons better than packaged piaya…so you may want to check it out…

    Jan 25, 2006 | 7:02 pm

  11. marc medina says:

    hello marketman,

    many thanks for your reviews of the pastillas, yemas and ensaimada. those are all made in my grandmother’s old house in arayat, pampanga. it’s a small livelihood project we have to raise money for the altar boys in arayat (2 of them are taking the ateneo high school entrance exam), hence the large flag in our salcedo booth that says “knights of the blessed sacrament.” many of them had never been to manila before we started selling in salcedo. so the salcedo market is as much a field trip for them as a livelihood thing.

    anyway, about the carabao’s milk. good carabao’s milk has to come from a carabao that’s been lactating for no less than 5 months. you can tell it’s good milk if there’s a layer of cream trapped in the neck of the milk bottle. nueva ecija is the traditional source of carabao’s milk, but recently bulacan has been a more consistent source. we don’t use any of the pasteurized varieties, since that thins our the milk, which makes for poor pastillas or tiboc-tiboc (the tagalogs call that mahablanca). if you want to use carabao’s milk for your coffee, just boil it very very slowly over low heat until it starts to simmer.

    our cook in arayat sometimes serves me breakfast of carabao’s milk with freshly steamed rice and tuyo. my grandfather used to eat it with bagoong. to have carabao’s milk as a meal (poor man’s meal, they say in arayat), you boil it quickly so the fat rises to the surfaces. after it cools, you can skim the fat from the top, and you place that over your rice.

    the booth in salcedo belongs to the altar boys, who also sell what one reader called “jaleang gatas,” which is essentially pastillas that is removed from the heat before it hardens. both the pastillas and the halayang gatas require very fatty milk. it cannot be just stirred over low heat, but beaten with a wooden spatula very very violently. if the milk sticks to the bottom of the pan for more than a few seconds, you get a very rough pastillas or halaya (“magalas,” we say in kapampangan). that’s why making pastillas is very labor intensive. it’s hell on the arms. not to mention your legs because you’re standing all the time.

    you have to use a wooden spatula for your pastillas or halayang gatas. you also have to use a “tacho” or heavy copper-brass pan. if you use aluminum, you get a brownish halaya. and if you use an aluminum spatula with the “tacho” you get a light green hue on your pastillas, even before you add the dayap rind.

    the pastillas are spread evenly over banana leaves when being formed into small pieces. that preserves the moisture and the oil. if you dry them out further, you get a powdery pastillas, which many people like. you can add extenders on your pastillas, although we don’t (my mom won’t touch anything but pure carabao’s milk…and if you’ve met my mom, you wouldn’t risk cheating). some people use egg yolks, like many of the commercial halayas you buy (hence the light brown hue). or you can use coffee mate, which makes for light powdery pastillas. it’s harder to cheat with powdered milk, because the taste is more obvious.

    the altar boys also sell the arayat halo-halo, which the kabigtings claim to have the original. they’re not. it’s actually my great-grand-aunt’s recipe, for whom mrs. kabigting use to work for (our house is on the opposite side of the kabigting’s shop). but never mind which one is the original. it doesn’t matter since it’s EXTREMELY easy to make in your home. the secret is the sweet beans, which is boiled and stirred to a paste. add a little sweet cream of corn (del monte is good), and of course the halayang gatas.

    the altar boys used to buy their halayang gatas from the same source as the kabigting’s, in barrio san nicolas in arayat. but since the halaya they were giving us was becoming browner and browner (from using more and more egg yolks), i decided to have our cook in the old house in arayat make it from scratch. also, THEIR milk supplier (who sells to everyone in arayat), has become inconsistent with the milk. since then, we’ve been ordering our milk in bulacan. the halayang gatas freezes well, but better eaten fresh. word of warning: once you freeze pastillas or halaya that’s pure, it doesn’t come out as smooth when defrosted. even if you stick the halaya in the microwave (the way a friend of mine eats it).

    Feb 5, 2006 | 8:43 pm

  12. Marketman says:

    Mark, thanks for that explanation, history, clarification. Now that I know the funds go to the Altar boys…I will have to buy even more ensaimadas, etc…Good on you for encouraging preservation of such artisanal recipes!

    Feb 5, 2006 | 10:24 pm

  13. David M. Garcia says:

    Just visited your website and I was extremely impressed. It made me nostalgic for the Philippines which I haven’t visited in 26 years living here in south Orange County, California. Unless you make it yourself and have the time, we’re stuck to those unrecognizble shameless
    products of Goldilocks. HOWEVER I would certainly accept the passable ones of Red Ribbon. But it isn’t worth the drive.

    Have you tried using half and half instead of carabao’s milk
    for say pastillas de leche?

    Feb 6, 2006 | 4:04 am

  14. Marketman says:

    David, 26 years is a LONG time! The food, restaurants, etc. have all evolved in a big way since then… In answer to your question, no I have never tried half and half for the pastillas de leche…it’s worth experimenting I suppose but you can’t buy half and half in the Philippines…

    Feb 6, 2006 | 7:57 am

  15. julius says:

    if you like pastillas, then you should try dulce gatas- dulce de leche made from carabao’s milk. It’s pure decadence. It’s a specialty in Silay, Negros, and I’m not sure if this is available in Manila too. But if you go to Bacolod, be sure to get one.

    More on dulce-gatas.

    Feb 8, 2006 | 1:53 am

  16. Terry says:

    Anybody here who have recipe od dulce gatas the one from Negros Occidental specifically Silay….. its extremely the best.

    May 29, 2006 | 11:06 pm

  17. em says:

    hmm, pastillas, kauubos ko lang ng isang tray galing Pinas. Sabi ng kuya ko masarap din daw yung nabibili sa Carabao Institute sa loob ng UP Los Baños malapit sa DTRI.

    BABALA: ‘wag pababayaan naka-expose sa hangin ang soft pastillas, kundi titigas! mine turned rock-hard in a few hours, then again it may be just the AZ heat.

    Jun 29, 2006 | 4:17 am

  18. issa says:

    i drool everytime i read your blog mr.mm! also the very interesting comments. the anticipation is half the fun of eating good food :)

    you guys help make this world a better place :D

    can someone pls confirm that uplb thing? thanks!

    Aug 5, 2006 | 1:02 am

  19. Marketman says:

    I have not had the UPLB pastillas, but there are lots of other ones that are quite good and available in Manila… DVF is one that is a decent commercial brand…

    Aug 5, 2006 | 6:13 am

  20. shoegerl30 says:

    Rosing’s makes the best pastillas! Also try Susie’s tibuk-tibuk.. They are both made with Carabao’s Milk.. These stores can be found at the heart of Angeles City. :)

    Nov 17, 2006 | 2:00 pm

  21. celia says:

    I’ve tried DVF Dairy Farm’s pastillas de leche and I like it the best. Do you know that you can buy directly from the source — it is cheaper!!! Once I needed a dozen to bring as pasalubong to the States, and I did save a lot. Hint . . . check the box for the telephone no.

    Jun 17, 2007 | 10:40 pm

  22. carmina camua says:

    bulacan’s pastillas de leches are great! they have this ‘melts in your mouth sensation’ while savoring them, plus the wonderfully hand crafted lacey wrappers add to their appeal!

    Jul 16, 2007 | 11:39 am

  23. Claire Viray says:

    Please share me the Pastillas De Leche recipe so I can try making it. I am looking forward hearing from you. Thanks a lot.

    Claire Viray
    Los Angeles, California

    Aug 25, 2007 | 3:51 am

  24. Marketman says:

    Claire, I have tried making it to poor results; essentially it is carabao’s milk, sugar and a whole lot of stirring until sufficiently thick and dried out but not burnt. And you can put dayap rind for flavoring. I don’t have a detailed recipe however, as I find it is easier to buy this delicacy than to make it at home. Type “pastillas” into my search function and scroll down all of the items that appear and keep scrolling to see other posts on the matter.

    Aug 25, 2007 | 7:57 am

  25. D says:

    Is the stall of Mark Medina (arayat) still in Salcedo?

    Mar 7, 2008 | 3:14 pm

  26. grechen says:

    hi,im looking for a recipe of mazapan de pili, any help? I think its a version of pastillas but you have to bake it? Its been a decade since the last time i tasted it. I was able to buy raw but shelled pili from market market. Thanks in advance!

    Oct 17, 2008 | 9:28 am


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