Like many people, Abi Balingit turned to baking as a mode of escapism during the pandemic. In the summer of 2020, Balingit created The Dusky Kitchen, a baking blog that chronicles the recipes she created to share her nostalgia for the Filipino foods she grew up eating.
As she updated the blog with her baking adventures, Balingit found a sense of community. Inspired by the work of Bakers Against Racism, Abi created Filipino fusion desserts and sold them to friends and neighbors, donating the funds to mutual aid organizations. “In the beginning, my boyfriend would drive me all over Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens to drop off these pasalubong treat boxes.” The boxes echoed the traditional Filipino gift that travelers bring back from their destination to their loved ones. “I also posted the recipes online for people who couldn’t try my desserts in person,” explains Balingit.
Continuing to share photos of her desserts online, Balingit’s online community grew—“It was actually posting the photos of my desserts on Twitter that led to my literary agent Emmy finding me and asking if I’d like to write a cookbook,” she explains. “Throughout 2022, I was developing recipes, writing, and editing Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed [Harvest, February 28, 2023]. All 75 of the recipes in the book are inspired by my love for Filipino flavors and desserts, but also, they blend in American favorites.”
In Mayuma, Balingit uses ube halaya—a Philippine dessert made from boiled and mashed purple yam—as a filling for cheesecake bars and in a melon pan/pandesal hybrid recipe. Balingit explains, “One of the goals I have with writing Mayumu is the hope that more books about the Filipino diaspora experience get a spotlight.”
Balingit’s pantry reflects her affection for Filipino flavors. When stocking your own pantry, Balingit recommends keeping an inventory of what ingredients you have on hand then organizing your pantry so that all of your ingredients are visible.
Abi Balingit’s 5 Essentials:
There’s something really special about the sweetness of banana ketchup that makes me prefer it to the typical tomato variety. Jufran Banana Ketchup is a Filipino condiment staple, and I love it as a dip for a breakfast dish called tortang talong (eggplant omelet). I often gravitate towards using the spicy version for my Filipino spaghetti sauce.
If I’m having a slice of pepperoni pizza, I need a drizzle of Mike’s Hot Honey to top it off. I think it’s the perfect balance of sweet and spicy. It’s so good on a Popeyes biscuit too.
While you can make this recipe from scratch, it’s nice to have jars of this Filipino purple yam jam on hand. My favorite brand is Tropics. I use it to make my favorite ube crinkles, as a filling for pandesal, and as an ingredient in halo-halo.
This jar of kaya, or coconut jam, is flavored with pandan leaves and has the most beautiful light green color. I find myself sneaking spoonfuls throughout the day. Ideally, I’d have milk bread to toast up and slather with salted butter and this kaya jam.
My friends at Bowl Cut Table introduced me to this Japanese crunchy garlic topping and it’s changed my life! I love eating it on everything, but it especially tastes good in congee. The only complaint I have is that the jars aren’t big enough! I keep running through them so quickly. I got my last jar from Southeast NYC in Essex Market.