MANILA -- If you’re a foodie who wants to experience a taste of traditional Philippines, a visit to Kamuning Bakery is a must.
The baking institution, which was founded in 1939 by Atty. Leticia Bonifacio Javier and Lt. Marcelo Javier, experienced a revival in 2013 when popular media man Wilson Lee Flores bought the business and restored it to its former glory.
Flores, an avid historian, fell in love with Kamuning Bakery’s colorful history. And why not? Through the years, the bakery's patrons included the late President Cory Aquino, Don Alejandro Roces, his son Chino Roces, artists like Nick Joaquin and Levi Celerio, and celebrities like Susan Roces among others. Its walls are filled with pictures depicting its history, and if you’re lucky enough to find Flores there, ask away, and he’ll gladly answer.
Using its original wood-fired brick oven, the bakery is famous for its pugon-baked goods, especially the pandesal and pan de suelo. Pugon-baking is dying art, and Kamuning Bakery is one of the few remaining authentic pugon bakers in Manila.
There’s just something about pugon-baked pandesal. It’s soft to the touch and you can just smell the yeasty goodness when you open up a roll.
The pan de suelo, meanwhile, is named for its crustier exterior as the bread is baked directly on the oven’s floor, resulting in a bread that can stand soupy and saucy things and fillings.
CAFÉ HAS MORE THAN BREAD
Last years, Flores also re-opened the Kamuning Bakery Café. The quaint cafe is a popular space and like its previous iteration attracts contemporary celebrities and national figures to its small space.
The café sources most of its ingredients locally, and most of the dishes put a focus on the breads. Try the Pan de Suelo Sample platter and heap spoonful upon spoonful of menudo, adobo and corned beef onto your crusty bread.
Or if you’re feeling festive, order the Noche Buena Platter and be transported to Christmas Eve as you enjoy your pan de suelo with white cheese (kesong puti), and sweet fried ham.
As a nod to its place in history, Flores also started the Pandesal Survey -- where clients can order a dish based on their preferred opinion to an issue, or vote for a person. Case in point, during the recent Philippine election, the café served dishes named after the candidates, and a dish ordered was a vote in the survey.
The result survey’s result matched the results of the election with the Pan de Duterte (a spicy burger pandesal) leading for two months, and eventually winning the contest. Duterte fans can order this anytime now as the sandwich is now part of Kamuning Bakery Café’s regular menu.
These months, as the US elections heat up, diners can choose between a Pan De Trump (meatloaf pandesal sandwich), or a Pan De Clinton (corned beef pandesal sandwich). As of current writing, the Pan De Clinton is in the lead.
Pandesal has been a constant in our history as a people, and as Flores puts it, “it is the bread eaten by the masses, middle-class and by all. The humble pandesal represents the people’s simple wish for liberation from hunger.”
At Kamuning Baker, history has never been this tasty.