I’ve always been an avid fan of pastries. Heck when I thought about cooking, all I did was think of how to bake bread and my young self couldn’t distinguish baking and cooking at all so I just let it slide. My first “cooking” dreams were really all about whipping some good batch of bread. My first breakfasts were also not about fantasizing a hot rice meal with tender juicy hotdogs but it was all about eggs and white bread spread with sugar + butter that my maternal grandmother always made for me. That was my childhood in a nutshell: bread.
Okay maybe not the representation of the entirety of my childhood but you get the picture. That white bread became the root/precursor of my love for Spanish bread. I discovered this special type of bread one day when my dad told my 7-year old self “hey let’s walk to that local bakery 3 blocks away from here”. I remember that it was an untiring walk because I knew that we were going to a bakery. I then saw these almost croissant-shaped rolls and it was unlike any other breads that they have. The first time I bit into that bread was akin to falling in love. I knew that I would always hunger or pang for Spanish bread. The combination of soft bread and gritty sugar with melted butter left me astounded. I couldn’t get enough of it! But unfortunately the local bakery suddenly started baking bad batches and I grew up starting to want more.
The next focal point in my search for the perfect golden Spanish bread was during college. My organization somehow managed to always deliver a solid good batch during meetings and talks and I eventually found the source somewhere in Marikina, just right behind the university! I remember dragging my best friends (also avid bread fanatics) and looking for the Mecca of Spanish bread and only to find… THEY HAVE SOLD OUT THEIR SPANISH BREAD! It was a long and arduous trek down the hill and unfortunately I couldn’t travel down this trail every morning so… okay maybe I gave up that quest too easily. I just managed to wait for meetings to get a piece.
Another few years passed and I kind of grew out of my Spanish bread phase. After all, there were a lot of different ensaymadas going around with a similar but more puffier-no-spread version and Cookie butters mushroomed and jumped right in between my pan de sals so I settled for these. But to my surprise, a competitor opened just right BESIDE good ‘ol Pan de Manila. What was this guy doing? He’s practically begging for a punch in the face because you can’t beat Pan de Manila.
Or can he?
Balai Pandesal opened its doors to the citizens of Quezon City along 104 D. Tuazon St. sometime in 2013 but first opened in Mindanao Avenue by a band of pan de sal crusaders: Angelo Yaneza, Dwight Cham and Jonathan Go. This trio of friends decided to search the whole Philippines for that special characteristic of their perfect pan de sal (salt bread I found out when I went to Colombia is also famous in Latin America – side thought) that can be eaten even with no palaman (filling)! They made it happen when my dad was so curious to check out our usual bakery’s competition and… we were absolutely mind blown! They were the biggest and puffiest pan de sals I’ve ever seen and the best ones I’ve tasted hands down. I now admire their gall and confidence in choosing their location. They wanted to spark interest and of course curiosity of the residents in the area and it worked! Now everyone’s got a choice and a favorite.