I first tasted binaki when I was a kid on a chance visit with a relative in Gingoog City. I was always fascinated by those corn husk-wrapped snacks being sold by ambulant vendors screaming at the top of their lungs.
I was a picky eater back then, but it tasted good, and it didn’t matter to me what it was made out of when it got into my mouth.
‘Binaki,’ as I Googled it, is a South American version of ‘Tamale.’ A very popular comfort food in that part of the world which is also made out of corn, but more of what they call ‘masa’ (a corn-based, starchy dough), filled with either fruits, meats, cheese, vegetables and chilis, wrapped in corn husks, then steamed or boiled.
In my previous food blogs and Facebook posts, I have mentioned some other ‘kakanin’ and food items and I am sure we still have so much that is left to be explored and enjoyed.
What most of us don’t realize is that we are blessed with so many natural resources. We are also lucky and fortunate to have so much cultural diversity that influenced our local palate and culinary heritage.
There is Spanish, American, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Thai, Korean and many others which have made their mark in some of our better tasting dishes and foods.
Binaki or Steamed Corn Cake also known as Sweet Corn Roll is a popular snack item in Bukidnon because of its main ingredient which is yellow corn. It is composed of ground young corn mixed with butter and milk. Yellow corn makes a perfect ingredient for Binaki because it is abundant in Bukidnon.
Naming the delicacy “binaki” here in the northern part of Mindanao is pretty weird since the term sounds like “baki”, which is the vernacular for frog. This delicacy has nothing to do with frogs. The assumption as to why it is called such is because the corn cake when wrapped with corn husk resembles frog legs.
If improved with the choicest ingredients, it could become or transform into the province’s future pasalubong for tourists. It could go along side by side with products of national prominence such as Camiguin’s Pastel, Bacolod’s Piaya, Iloilo’s Pinasugbo, Davao’s Durian (or Durian Jam and Candy) or Iligan’s Chedeng Peanuts.
The homey and familiar binaki taste is actually a revisit to Bukidnon’s glorious past with organic farming. For the most part, Bukidnon contributes the biggest share in Northern Mindanao’s total corn production.
Since April is celebrated as Filipino Food Month, we have featured two women farmers via a video production, on how they have made a living out from making belly-busting binaki.
My latest travel afforded me to meet the queen of binaki in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon. Marizor Caterial Vinzon is a true epitome of a success story, of coming back stronger, and in showing the power of faith and family.
Her binaki with fillings such as yema (her bestseller), pineapple, cheese, and ube is her family's source of income. When corn is not in season, Marizor still earns six thousand pesos a day aside from hustling a catering business and bilao food packages on the side. Her daughters, who help her make binaki, are now into milk tea venture via Chintzy's.
Despite the pandemic, Marizor's binaki business is thriving and even getting repeat orders from local patrons and abroad such as in the USA and Canada.
Marizor is a graduate of the center's Farm Business School (FBS) as introduced by FBS point person Efren C. Macario and Manolo Fortich Municipal Agriculturist Gemma Cania.
Meanwhile, RMJ Binaki ni Mang Raul in Aglayan, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon is popular for their flavored binaki. Their bestseller is the cheese flavored among other variants such as choco, and strawberry.
Business owner Melena V. Audiencia had been selling binaki for 30 years. The Audencia family have expanded business operations in Gusa, Cagayan de Oro City, and in Quezon, Bukidnon. Their "novelty" binaki are so popular that it got featured in food and lifestyle programs of leading TV stations.
Melena and husband Raul served as Resource Persons (RP) of the center's Training of Trainers (TOT) on Value-Adding, Utilization, and Processing on Corn in 2016 and 2018.
Binaki is 100 percent free of preservatives. I believe it’s the best benefit we can get from this delicacy. It is not just a satisfying snack; it’s also one of the healthiest corn-based delicacy and I highly recommended it to all corn lovers out there.