Abi Balingit’s Cookbook Mayumu Is An Ode To The Sweet Side Of Filipino Cuisine

Photo: Courtesy of Abi Balingit

If you’ve marked up your copy of Claire Saffitz’s Dessert Person with so many sugar spills and butter stains that it’s barely readable anymore, allow me to introduce you to Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts RemixedThe Dusky Kitchen blogger Abi Balingit’s brand-new cookbook.

Mayumu is crammed full of recipes for adobo chocolate chip cookies, halo-halo baked Alaska, lychee madeleines with hibiscus tea glaze and dried rose petals, and a host of other sweets inspired by the mix of Filipino and Western-style dishes Balingit grew up eating—and that are sure to make you the most popular person at your office cookie swap or school bake sale. (Or, best of all, you could make Balingit’s recipes for no occasion whatsoever; trust me, they’ll get eaten.)

Vogue recently spoke to Balingit about her very favorite cookbooks, finding a literary agent on Twitter after posting one of her culinary creations, and the joy of seeing people make her recipes at home. Read the full interview below.

Vogue: First off, what sparked the idea for this cookbook? 

Abi Balingit: I basically was just doing my thing on my blog in the summer of 2020, casually posting things I made on Twitter or Instagram in tandem with these treat boxes I was making, where I would donate the proceeds to mutual aid funds. I made these Lao Gan Ma chili crisp cupcakes, and the person who is now my literary agent reached out to me over Twitter and was like, “Hey, are you interested in writing a cookbook?” It was so wild because I was only really a couple months into writing anything for my blog, so there were maybe five posts to my name. [Laughs.] They were just so on board and excited about what I was doing, and I was like, “I think I would be really interested in writing a Filipino American dessert cookbook of some sort.” What I was making, even at the start of the pandemic, was always kind of fusion stuff, Asian American and mostly Filipino, because that’s what I know best.

Did you have favorite cookbooks that you looked at for inspiration? 

One of my most recent inspirations was Filipinx by Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan. That book was just so modern aesthetically and it spoke to me; my mood board contained a lot of that book. There’s Mi Cocina by Rick Martínez, which is so beautiful. So many cookbooks have kind of laid the foundation for the cookbook I was able to make, and it’s so interesting to kind of play around with format. Then there’s Amboy by Alvin Cailan, the founder and head chef of Eggslut. He’s also a Filipino American chef, but there’s a bit more memoir in his cookbook, and I think that’s an element I added in when I was writing.

Do you feel like the pandemic changed your relationship to cooking and food? 

Absolutely, it’s like an 180-type of thing. My forte is really baking, but my relationship with food overall is much richer than it was pre-pandemic. Pre-quarantine, I hadn’t thought as much about what I wanted to make and carry on to future generations; I was content with just going to restaurants and having my parents cook for me. I was kind of going through the motions and eating day-to-day, but writing a cookbook, you gain a lot when you’re teaching a lot of people about different kinds of dishes and different types of treats and desserts. I definitely feel more confident about baking, and how I can carry on my culture and traditions, but it’s kind of on my own terms; I can interpret it my own way.

What’s been your favorite reaction to the book so far? 

I think, honestly, it’s just seeing people make the recipes. It’s fantastic. It just feels so good to see people embrace more bold flavor combinations. I think a lot of people can be skeptical when you’re using savory stuff like soy sauce in a chocolate chip cookie recipe. But I see people who aren’t even Filipino enjoy the kinds of flavors that I’ve presented in the book. It’s so different when you’re doing this on your own, in your your test kitchen or whatever, but having people make these recipes in their homes is so gratifying and makes me feel like the work I’ve done is meaningful.

This might be a hard question, but if you had to make one of the recipes in Mayumu forever, which would you choose? 

The adobo chocolate chip cookies are probably the most popular recipe so far, and I would bake them forever just because they don’t require heavy equipment. It’s a hand-mixed recipe that involves browned butter and a few bowls, but it’s very straightforward; after all, on a desert island, I probably wouldn’t have a stand mixer on me. [Laughs.] Being able to rely on my hands and a whisk and a spatula is very comforting to me, so I love that recipe; I feel like it captures the spirit of the book in terms of having fun and experimenting with aspects of Filipino cuisine outside of “savory only” or “dessert only.” There’s room for all those interesting dynamics to come together.

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