There's a running joke that Filipinos eat desserts first before the main meal. Such is the pull of our 'sweet tooth' that the desserts buffet at a Filipino party is usually on a larger table than the main dishes. Ask any Filipino to name at least three traditional desserts and they can probably give you ten.
If you think history is behind this, you're right. Sugarcane farming was an established industry in 16th century Philippines and boomed during the Spanish colonial era, turning the country into a desserts capital in Asia.
But because you wouldn't want to mess with perfection, recipes have hardly been touched for decades. That has changed in recent years with a growing number of Filipino foodies and chefs who are daring to experiment - taking much-loved desserts to the 21st century along for the ride.
One such foodie is Ducky Igmat, an IT security engineer by day and amateur chef by night. Igmat and his partner, Chi de Jesus, an events director and pageant coach, this month launched JarBar, an online desserts start-up that re-imagines Philippine sweets to suit the modern palate. The duo also runs a podcast and an events styling business under the name, 2fatfairies.
"Through experimentation, Ducky has infused traditional Filipino ingredients in the creation of the desserts. The end point is a smooth, silky sexy dessert that will call on to you to open your fridge at night and indulge," said de Jesus.
The desserts are presented in eco-friendly recyclable jars normally used for jams, hence the name of their business, 'JarBar'.
"Ducky came up with the concept because we're trying to veer away from plastic packaging. It's our contribution to save the environment. People can re-purpose the jars as containers in the kitchen or for small trinkets," said de Jesus. The jars can also be returned to them in exchange for a discount on their next order.
They come in two jar sizes; large, which is the typical size of the dessert if you ordered one in a restaurant and small, for those who want their sweets in smaller portions.
As part of this review, I ordered half a dozen small jars of Coconut Panna Cotta and another half a dozen small jars of Coconut and Corn Pudding (better known in the Philippines as Maja Blanca), in time for New Year's Eve.
The order came to my house (free delivery if you order more than 10 jars in the Sydney metro) and were duly demolished, I mean, eaten, by the household within 24 hours. While they could last in the fridge for a week, they were just so yummy and decadent with their rich toppings that it was hard to stop on the first serving. I regretted not ordering the larger jars!
They also scored high on blending flavours that you wouldn't normally find on a dessert. For example, the Panna Cotta was topped with pandan and ginger candy while the Pudding was all the more indulgent with the toasted coconut and coconut curd on top (see image above).
As a little gift, the order came with a jar of Silvanas, a Swiss meringue laced with cashews and covered in Swiss butter cream (even the way they're described on the menu sounded sexy). Better known to Filipinos as Sans Rival but with a little more sophistication to the presentation and flavour.
In keeping with their theme of appealing to today's foodie, they also come in Gluten-Free, Vegetarian and Vegan varieties.
So much thought went into these gorgeous desserts. They are guaranteed to satisfy your sweet cravings!
JarBar is co-founded by Chi de Jesus, a lifestyle writer for The Australian Filipina. Photos supplied.