No, there’s no typographical error. This is really a “scaly,” not “scary,” story, because we are going to talk about empanada de kaliskis, a type of savory pie with a flaky crust that cracks after biting into it. Its flaky crust, which is formed arduously, resembles fish scales after frying, thus its name empanada de kaliskis.
It used to be known as empanada de Malolos, since it originates from Malolos, Bulacan, and traces its roots back to 1820. During that time, which was the Spanish era, two sisters — Augustin Domingo and Justina Domingo — learned how to make the flaky empanada from the wives of Spaniards. They took the “lessons” to heart, working patiently with the multiple folds and swirls needed to achieve a lovely crust until it became second nature to them, and eventually it became a means of livelihood for them. The heirloom recipe passes from generation to generation and is still available in Malolos today. Other Bulakeños have also dipped their hands into making the famous empanada. Unfortunately, due to the tedious process of making the layered crust, only a few pursued it as a business venture and its availability became alarmingly limited.
Thanks to the incredible talent and creativity of Filipino chefs, though, the heirloom recipe has remained available. One of them happens to be chef Pixie Rodrigo Sevilla, whose empanada de kaliskis under her Forget Me Not Specialty Cakes now commands a strong following.
Chef Pixie is a Bulakeña herself. Her mom hails from the town of Bulakan in Bulacan. She did not grow up there, but every All’s Saints Day since her childhood, the Rodrigos would gather in Bulakan. It was during one of those trips to Bulakan during her teenage years that she got her first taste of empanada de kaliskis. She was with some kin in the cemetery when an old lady approached them, selling homemade empanada in a plastic basket.
“I remember buying three pieces for myself — one to eat there and two to take home,” she reminisces. “I liked it because it was very crispy, although one was super oily because it was dripping in my hand. It was similar to okoy and lumpiang Shanghai but it was chicken. Being young then, I wasn’t really fond of empanadas, but that one I liked.”
Although she liked what she ate, the then teenaged Pixie did not think much about it. She never even thought that making empanada de kaliskis would become a source of livelihood for her someday. She eventually became a pastry chef and put up her own bakeshop, selling cakes, frozen desserts, breads, pastries and other baked products. Going savory was not in her plans at all.
“But you know what they say: If something is meant for you, it will happen. The universe will conspire to make it happen,” chef Pixie says.
During this pandemic — and at the height of the lockdowns — in 2020, chef Pixie was asked by her cousin Anette, to make some empanada de kaliskis for her mom because she was craving for it.
Since Metro Manila was on lockdown, they could not make a trip to Bulacan to buy some. Chef Pixie obliged and made a big batch of chicken empanadas. From that batch, she gave a few pieces to some friends, and then they started ordering. Orders kept coming in that chef Pixie had to seriously consider adding it to her regular menu. At first, she had second thoughts about it because the flaky, layered crust was difficult to make. It took a lot of time and effort to form the crust. But the demand was there, during the pandemic, which was a time when not many business opportunities came in at all.
She decided to take the task upon herself and she had to psyche herself up because she knew it was hard work. She also had to ask and prepare Miel, her daughter, because she was going to help her. Before going full blast, chef Pixie did her homework. She researched about the different techniques in making the kaliskis crust and sought the guidance of some pastry chefs who knew how to do it. Then she practiced, tested some ideas that popped up in her mind, and kept practicing until she perfected it. That’s when she came up with her line of empanadas, starting with chicken empanada (done the traditional way), pork empanada (with a pork filling similar to that of siopao, as suggested by good friend Chat Fores), beef empanada (like Chili) and tuna ala king empanada (as suggested by clients who were watching their weight). Each piece is handmade.
At first, her empanada de kaliskis was only available on Saturdays, as it took three days to form crusts that would be good enough for a batch, which would be fried right before pick-up or delivery.
But then the demand grew, especially during the Christmas season, so she had to open another day, thus making her empanada available every Wednesday and Saturday now.
These days, orders range from 60 to 280 pieces every week, with the empanadas being sold per box of six or 12 at P425 to P475 (per box of six, depending on the variant) and at P800 to P900 (per box of 12).
For Lent, she offers a fifth variant, vegan empanada, which is made of lentils, potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, green peas, curry and other herbs and spices. Inspired by chef Pixie’s dad, Cary Sevilla, who loves curry, the vegan empanada goes for P460 (box of 6) and P900 (box of 12).
Orders may be coursed through @forgetmenotspecialtycakes on Facebook and Instagram or through mobile number 0917-5226010.
“With God’s grace, it has been a year and business is still continuing to grow,” says chef Pixie, now certified empanada de kaliskis queen.
And this is her scaly story.