Then Covid-19 reached pandemic proportions by March 2020, strict lockdowns forced everyone to stay home to stay safe. Used to a busy working schedule and running errands all the time, a lot of “quarantine-ers” got bored staying home and doing nothing after a while so they channeled their energies to something productive — cooking and baking. Stove tops and ovens got busy and churned out not just batches upon batches of freshly baked breads and cakes but unique food trends that defined the pandemic year 2020 as well. Here are some of the top food trends that were born during the lockdowns:
This is probably the first food trend that emerged from the strict lockdowns. The shortage of food, including essentials such as breads, in the first month of the lockdown encouraged many “secret” bakers to come out of their shell and try their hand on baking once again, and ube-cheese pandesal happened to be the recipe that caught their fancy. It is purple-colored, ube-flavored pandesal with cheese and ube halaya filling. Many versions came out from home kitchens, and since many people relied on online food ordering and delivery services, ube-cheese pandesal became a best-selling item. Even commercial bakeries launched their own versions. My favorite happens to be the ube-cheese pandesal of The French Baker, which comes in clamshells of six pieces that sell at P210 per pack.
Sushi went big time during the pandemic when the bite-sized morsels of rolled sushi rice with kani, ebi, tamago, unagi, shake and maguro was transformed into aluminum trays lined with a layer of sushi rice, topped with favorite sushi toppings and maki fillings, piped with Japanese mayonnaise and sprinkled with tobiko and bonito flakes. It is called sushi bake and comes in different variations. It comes with packs of small nori sheets. To eat it, scoop a portion of the sushi bake — from the toppings all the way down to the sushi rice — place it on a piece of nori, curl it up a bit to hold everything in place and bite away! The sushi bake has spawned other concoctions of the same type, such as the taco bake and beef shawarma bake.
Ube de leche
It’s like two native desserts — ube halaya and leche flan — in one. An all-time Filipino dessert favorite, leche flan, has been elevated to a new kind of stardom during the lockdown in ube de leche, which is ube as the bottom layer and leche flan as the top layer. Some chefs, such as Dorothy Ferreria, have found a way to cook both “cakes” together, while others simply assemble them together. There are other variations, such as ube Graham de leche and ube leche flan cake.
Since many people relied on online food ordering and delivery services, ube-cheese pandesal became a best-selling item.
Many of those who tried their hands at baking ube-cheese pandesal eventually graduated to serious baking and turned out wonderful versions of sourdough bread. Some even went to the extent of making their own sourdough starter. Now, this is serious baking! It is challenging to bake sourdough bread because it does not use commercial yeast but wild yeast from an active sourdough culture or starter. It’s a long and slow but healthy fermentation process that brings out complex flavors in the resulting bread, which tastes a bit sour due to the presence of two types of friendly bacteria — lactobacillus and acetobacillus — from the wild yeast. Sourdough bread is usually round, and designs can be etched onto the “skin” of the dough before it is baked. Some bakeries, such as Sourdough Café and Otter Breads, specialize in sourdough bread as well as other cakes, breads and pastries using sourdough starter.
Basque burnt cheesecake
We are so used to blueberry cheesecake, strawberry cheesecake, mango cheesecake and Oreo cheesecake that the sudden popularity of Basque burnt cheesecake almost came as a surprise. Not as picture perfect as the ones mentioned above, the Basque burnt cheesecake has, as its name suggests, a burnt looking top (and sometimes sides, too!), and yet it is incredibly creamy and imparts no trace of burnt bitterness at all, only smoky goodness. This cheesecake originates from the Basque region of Spain, specifically the famous La Viña in San Sebastian that had long queues of people waiting to have a taste of it. Unlike the New York-style cheesecake that Filipinos are more familiar with, this one has no crust, is baked to burnt perfection with parchment paper wrapped around the bottom and sides, has a slightly sunken center, and has a very creamy mouthfeel when eaten. The Basque burnt cheesecake has been in the country for about five years now, but it was during the pandemic that it became extremely popular. Home bakers tried their hands at it, while some bakeries offered their already perfected versions.
Coffee has always been an all-time favorite beverage, be it a hot or cold concoction. Long before milk tea became in fashion, cafés thrived on freshly brewed coffee, cappuccino with exciting latte art in the foam on top, and refreshing frappés. During the pandemic, dalgona coffee rose to fame. It is a cold latte drink, made by basically combining cold milk and a slightly bittersweet coffee, and topped with smooth and fancy coffee foam. We call it dalgona coffee because it is inspired by the South Korean dalgona candy, which is like a toffee sponge similar to the coffee sponge on top of the coffee version. Dalgona coffee is whipped coffee made by beating equal parts of instant coffee, sugar and hot water until it becomes creamy, and then it is spooned over a glass of milk with ice. It became so famous that it inspired bakers to create cake versions of it, including Gel Salonga-Datu’s Dalgona Tiramisu Cake.
Korean cream cheese garlic bread
This bread rose to fame during the pandemic. A popular Korean street food, the 2020 version uses a big round bread that has been cut into wedges on top but kept together at the bottom. It is filled with sweetened cream cheese and garlic butter custard. Chef Sau del Rosario has whipped up his own version, which he calls Buttery and Garlicky Monay with California Cheese Stuffing.
Many other food trends emerged in 2020, but these, basically, were the ones that made the biggest and strongest impression.