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A binatog elote recipe to revive our Indigenous street food culture

A binatog elote recipe to revive our Indigenous street food culture

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  • Inspired by Mexico City’s vibrant street food scene, food heritage advocate Lao Castillo hopes to rekindle interest in uniquely Filipino snacks among local vendors

Chef Lao Castillo offers us vegetarian sayote-filled panara with a sukang Iloko dip for breakfast. Panara, an empanada-like filled pastry crust, is customarily stuffed with papaya in Pampanga, upo in Iloilo, and toge in Negros. But instead of lumpia or wonton wrapper, his version uses a galapong crust not unlike the radioactive orange empanada of Ilocos, whose shell is made of rice flour. The fermented galapong he used consists of multi-colored rice varieties, giving the chewy and crisp cover a purple tinge.

This is just a glimpse of how chef Lao’s mind works. A food heritage advocate, he makes use of oft-forgotten or simply sidelined local ingredients to make Filipino culinary treats. His small business/food project Bukas na Hapag sells bottled delicacies such as sweet-savory poached tamarillos with kalingag (Philippine cinnamon) leaves and bark, and a version of the Visayan dessert binignit with layers of langka jam, nilupak na kamote, ube halaya, ginataang bilo-bilo, and landang (native tapioca pearls) topped with maja blanca and banana chips.

Chef Lao Castillo

When he’s not busy toying around with local ingredients and tinkering with Indigenous recipes, you can find him at food heritage and food security workshops. His vegetarian panara recipe came from a fermentation workshop he facilitated the weekend before.

For this episode of Comfort Kitchen, chef Lao makes a corn snack that takes inspiration from the Mexican elote fused with the Filipino merienda staple of corn and grated coconut, binatog.

He says he got the inspiration from a Mexico trip, where he saw its thriving street food culture. “Ang hinahain nila sa maraming publiko ay mga heritage food unlike dito sa atin puro pinirito. Na-phase out na ’yong mga dating mga heritage food na kinakain natin tulad ng kakanin, kasama na ang binatog,” he says.

[READ: A view of Mexico City beyond the beauty of Barragán buildings]

Castillo’s corn recipe also makes use of most, if not all parts of each ingredient, including corn and coconut. The corn’s husk is kept intact as a handle, while the resulting pulp from extracting coconut cream and coconut milk is toasted and used as a seasoned sprinkling in the final product in lieu of cheese. Ah yes, his binatog elote is vegan. It switches butter and mayo with sweet and salty coconut butter.

Binatog elote 


  • Corn, husk intact
  • Coconut cream and resulting grated coconut meat
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Kalingag (Philippine cinnamon) powder
  • Chili powder
  • Onion powder
  • Salt


  1. Boil the corn with the husk intact in a pot of water seasoned with salt and muscovado sugar until tender. About 5 to 10 minutes depending on how fresh it is. Drain and set aside. Keep the broth and use it for soups
  2. To make the coconut butter mayo replacement, cook the cream over medium heat in a pan just until it thickens and gives off a sweet aroma. Season with salt. Constantly stir to make sure it doesn’t curdle. Around 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. This can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator.
  3. For the seasoned sprinkles, toast the grated coconut in a pan until it is completely dry or until it has changed in color from white to slight brown. Season with salt then let cool in a bowl.
  4. Assemble the elote by brushing the corn with the coconut butter and then rolling it in grated coconut. Season with spices and serve.

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