Over the weekend, a reader emailed me with a friendly ayema1challenge: find her favourite but elusive yema with arnibal (sp.?). I don’t typically take on these requests as I would be forever scouring markets for one thing or another but the food Gods were tuned in and just minutes into my Saturday rounds I found these artisanal yema coated in caramelized sugar. How’s that for serendipity? Yema is the Spanish word for “yolk” and probably refers to either the confection’s appearance as a spherical yellowish sweet candy or to the fact that it contains quite a bit of egg yolks. Made with just a few ingredients – condensed milk, egg yolks, dayap (lime) zest for flavoring, yemas are intensely rich and especially so when they are coated in caramelized sugar. As an aside, I believe the original yemas were probably made with a version of dulce de leche which is just seriously boiled down and thus thickened milk. The milk gets sweeter as it gets more concentrated. Condensed milk is probably a more modern shortcut for the recipe.

I won’t get into the making of yema because I have found a ayema2superb recipe and description of this confection at The Pilgrims Pots and Pans website. Please visit it for an excellent write-up and recipe. So back to my reader and her quest for the right yema. I found the yemas in the photos at the Salcedo Saturday Market in Salcedo Village in Makati. It was at a stall that has a banner of the Knights of the Blessed Sacrament from Arayat, Pampanga. The yemas were made from a recipe handed down for generations and were in fact coated in that thin crystalized film of sugar. They were yummy but way too rich for me. If I had fake teeth they would almost certainly have been dislodged. At PHP55 for a bag that contained 15 carefully made and wrapped pieces, they were a buy. Be sure to get there early as they bring a very limited amount of these artisanal sweets and they seem to run out by 9am or so…


29 Responses

  1. And there lies the test of a true blue yema-its ability to stick to your sweet tooth(real or artificial!) and savor its richness. Speaking of sweets, do they still make “tira-tira”? I really miss that candy.Again , thanks for your efforts!

  2. Bonjour from Montreal,

    I just stumbled upon your refreshingly interesting and informative site yesterday and today, 20 April, I finally found the recipe that I have been looking for: Yemas! Merci beaucoup (that means maraming salamat in French!)


  3. Dodi, I have a vague recollection of “tira-tira” but don’t know if they still have them around (other readers please comment if you know…)

    Riza, glad you enjoy the site. Enjoy your yemas in Montreal!

  4. According to Gene Gonzalez, in his Cocina Sulipena, while “modern recipes for yema call for milk… old style yemas never had milk, even those from Spain” (p. 116). He also adds that that the “crusty sugar glaze” on Philippine yemas is a homegrown innovation not to be found in yemas elsewhere (Introduction, unpaginated). Here is his kitchen-tested recipe:

    For the filling:
    36 egg yolks
    12 whole eggs
    1 kilo white sugar

    Combine eggs and sugar in a double boiler. Cook, stirring constantly until mixture is thick. Cool, then roll into balls and sprinkle with sugar.

    For the caramel coating:
    2 cups sugar
    1 cup water
    1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

    In a saucepan, boil sugar, water and cream of tartar to make a syrup. Dip each ball in the syrup and let cool.

  5. Thanks for that info AN. It certainly seems logical that it would be primarily egg yolks. I have Gene’s cookbook and will look this up. I would readily believe that the original had no milk…see, you learn something every single day…

  6. I love yemas. My childhood favorites used to be ones from Hizon’s bakeshop. I also like yema or is it just a custard that is used in making brazo de mercedes. I usually beg for the ends since the yema seems to be overflowing at those bits. Yummy, calories, cholesterol and fat! My fave Cs.

  7. Small ‘sari-sari’ stores in Magdalena, Laguna are still
    selling ‘tira-tira’. I tried it when I was there…yummy!

  8. tira tira is a specialty of one family in araayt, pampanga. you can still order it, but difficult. it’s still made the old fashioned way with daya.

  9. Thank you sooo much!!! I just hope that they are still
    there when I go home this November, so I can taste heaven myself.
    Mabuhay Market Man!

  10. It’s odd because my grandmother used to make yema without any milk. So perhaps our yema today is a leche flan bonbon and not a tocino del cielo one as it had been?

  11. Seems like the old recipes were all egg yolks…it would make sense if it was called yema… check out comments above re: Gene Gonzalez’s recipe.

  12. Hi Marketman! I was reading the today and guess what I saw. Your yema picture (uncredited!) being used in a yema article written by James Anthony R. Ceniza. I’m not sure if you are aware of this but if you check the printed copy of yesterday’s Inquirer, they used Karen’s (Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans) Yema article pictures without any credit to her.

    Shame on Inquirer!

  13. concerned, thanks. I didn’t even see it in the paper yesterday. The photogrpah of the yema in cellophane is indeed exactly like the one used in this post. I will write them a note, though since it appears to be a contest, I think it is Mr. Ceniza that I have issue with. Even if he requested permission, the source of the photograph should have been identified. Many thanks for this vigilance!!

  14. thanks, marketman, for creating and maintaining this website. it has all the things i miss – and love – about manila.

    i recently tried to make leche flan for my (mostly foreign) friends but ended up with something closer to yema. to save face (i already promised them an exquisite filipino dessert for the party), i kept it in my fridge and brought two bottles of veuve cliquots instead. it was a major disappointment to everyone present.

    two days later, i tasted my leche flan/yema and, to my surprise, it turned out to be so tasty. the texture and apperance were all wrong, but the taste was perfect.

    now i can’t wait for my solitary dinners to end so i can have small portions of it.

    thanks again.


  15. liezl, I did the recipe of Gene Gonzalez from his book Cocina Sulipena. Alternatively, please follow my links to Pilgrim’s Pots and Pans as Karen of that site has a clear recipe and photos to guide you…

  16. your yema features are enlightening. my nephew from canada ordered some yema, so i just made them coz i couldnt find them in any groceries. anything bout the tiratira? i think they use the kalamay bisaya for tiratira. anybody who knows? i am waray but thats just what i recall. if i go to my hometown and find someone who knows how to, i’ll update you here.

  17. @melani

    pls read the entire post. MM doesnt have the recipe but there is a link where you can get it.

  18. i’ve read and have took down some recipes am interested of. thanks….more power.

  19. masyado ako passionted kumain ng yema…kaya gusto kong m22nang gumawa kahit cmpleng recipe lng basta masarap at mpagkkakitaan….hope that u send me a recipe how to make an yema..thanks

  20. i’ve learned read and the story of yema was so very interesting I learned how to cook——-Thank’s

  21. sometimes when Iam cooking yema I’m so very happy because I learned how to cook so thank you very very much…………….



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