Get that bread
Sambong isn’t just herbal tea— a Maginhawa bakery makes chocolate tart with it
In the last issue of Southern Living, we explored the means and methods to turn our lola’s favorite straight-fromthe-backyard herbal infusions into drinkable refreshments. By “drinkable,” we mean taming the bitterness often associated with this dreaded remedy, making it palatable even during the days when we feel fine and don’t require a herbal sedative.
With the help of the Philippines’ first tea master, Renee Sebastian, we were able to produce three tea recipes, including a sweet-tasting green teasambong hybrid.
If you haven’t had sambong tea in your life, well, good for you. My lola used to drink its infusions every afternoon to help cure her urinary tract infection. I remember mistaking it one day for sabaw ng mais, a sweet, hot drink we used to get for free from the neighboring boiled corn vendor when I was younger. It was so bitter and herbal—and it didn’t help that my lola made it with freshly picked leaves.
So it was a relief that the sambong tea hybrid we made did not have the same bitterness, probably because we used dried leaves and added honey and lemon, whereas my lola’s was made purely with sambong and water.
In Quezon City, Hiraya Bakery has hatched another way to make use of this herbal plant, this time in a dessert. Part of its new Christmas menu is a dark chocolate tart with a dalandan custard filling and—get this— sambong- infused vanilla icing.
Nicole “Colette” dela Cruz shares that apart from using in-season local fruits, they are now experimenting with unlikely ingredients for cakes, like the bitter sambong— which she insists reminds her so much of the taste profile of sage and thyme. This only made sense to me after I had my first bite.
It didn’t even occur to me prior to the tasting that sage and sambong actually resemble each other, with felt-like, elongated, textured leaves. Together with the zesty dalandan curd, the sambong- vanilla icing adds an almost savory layer that cuts through the richness of the dark chocolate layers and crust.
The dalandan chocolate tart with sambong cream is priced at P1,700, or you can have it by the slice at Hiraya’s
Maginhawa branch. You might want to hurry up, though, as availability is largely dependent on the duration of dalandan season.
But if the bitter sambong isn’t your jam, and you are not convinced that it works with chocolate, Hiraya serves other desserts that use local fruits as the main ingredient.
There are the hibiscus- and sampinitstriped brownies. Sampinit is a local species of raspberry that grows abundantly in Quezon and Laguna, where Hiraya’s owners are from and where they get the majority of their ingredients. The red fruits taste slightly sour, bringing out the bittersweet flavor