Musing about maybes over ube.
Last month, we noted that we are making it our mission to try to seek out lesser known dessert spots in NYC. From a store specializing in milky tres leches cake, to two focusing on tofu pudding, today we are showcasing a little coffee and tea shop with a few Filipino treats on offer. Beyond the “Little Manila” neighbourhood in Woodside, Queens, one is somewhat hard-pressed to find Filipino desserts in Manhattan. But, with thanks to a Filipino friend of ours, we came across Kabisera in the Lower East Side.
We visited Kabisera for its desserts, and there were three on offer on the day of our visit. The first was the “Cassava Cake,” a golden-toned brick composed of cassava, coconut milk and condensed milk. The second dessert was the “Ube Hopia,” a small flaky pastry filled with an ube paste. And the third was “Puto Bumbong”, a flat square of exceedingly sweet, sticky glutinous rice showered with toasted coconut and palm sugar. They all merit return visits, but especially the Ube Hopia biscuit.
It’s curious how one sometimes, and completely unexpectedly, comes across things that remind you of home. It will soon almost be two years that we haven’t been able to return home to Melbourne, and as each month passes, we are becoming more homesick for, among other things, the Malaysian food that our parents make. Kabisera’s desserts reminded us so much of desserts that we are familiar with from our Malaysian heritage. For example, Kabisera’s Cassava Cake seemed to be a larger version of kuih bengka, the ube-based Putu Bumbong was a switch from a pandan-infused version in Malaysia, and visits to our grandmother’s hometown always entailed returning home with bags of honey cookies (heong pia), baked in a style similar to Kabisera’s Ube Hopia.
With the advent of specialist dessert stores such as Moon Man (Indonesian desserts), Kuih Cafe (Malaysian desserts), the elusive Covid dessert pop-up star Banh by Lauren (Vietnamese desserts), and now Kabisera, we can’t help but think that a new dessert trend is quietly germinating in NYC — one that highlights the diversity of flavours and textures that make South-East Asian desserts so unique, and which today, is still surprisingly and sadly, under-represented in NYC.
Dessert adventure checklist
- ☑ Dessert destination: Kabisera, 151 Allen Street, Lower East Side, Manhattan.
- ☑ Budget: $.
- ☑ Sweet irresistibles: South-East Asia (Filipino) desserts.
- ☑ Must-eat: The Ube Hopia.
- ☑ The short and sweet story: Musing about maybes over ube.