You can get authentic homemade French bread near the French School of Manila

Yum Yum Monkey is a boulangerie manned by a former chef from France


When I get to the Yum Yum Monkey lab at 10 in the morning, Yoan Mabit is already halfway into baking the day’s goods. He motions to me to go inside, and I pass by an outdoor fire oven where two trays of baguettes are slowly baking, their crusts turning smoky from being licked by the smoke. I tail him as he rushes to bake the bread—a fast-paced flurry of activity with pots and pans being banged and flung—so I could ask him questions during the brief interludes of peace at the kitchen.

The baguettes’ crust is characteristically smoky from the oven

Yum Yum Monkey is one of the Manila French community’s best kept secrets. A charcuterie and a boulangerie, the one-man band sells good French bread, courtesy of its baker and owner, Mabit. Here, you can find buttery, flaky croissants and sturdy, rich baguettes. You can also find other similarly Western pastries at the bakery: while I was there, I caught him making Belgian speculoos, small shortbread biscuits spiced with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and other warm spices. (In case you were wondering, yes, that is the same speculoos that’s turned into cookie butter.)

Yoan Mabit setting down the speculoos biscuits

“I tried again and again, and I learned by myself,” he said when I asked about how he started baking. Despite being a chef by trade, it took him relocating to the Philippines with his wife to take on the baker’s hat. It happened after a friend of his bemoaned her inability to find good French bread in the local stores, and asked him to bake her some instead. “So I tried. I wasn’t satisfied, but she was.”

The bâtard is the smaller and wider version of a baguette

He is careful to note that his bread isn’t 100 percent authentic: Being in the Philippines, he’s had to adapt to the ingredients available to him. “Organic flour is very hard to find here,” he says as an example. Still, it’s as close as you can get here. There’s the aforementioned croissant and baguette, but there’s also the sourdough bâtard, a smaller and softer variant of baguette that packs in as much flavor.

The homemade strawberry and timut pepper jam works really well with the croissant

If you’re getting the bread, also get a jar of his homemade jam. I slathered on the strawberry and timut pepper jam onto a slice of croissant, and the bread practically sung. The flavor was good, but it was the texture of the jam that sold me. The little fruity and peppery rinds worked really well on the crumbly slice.

These yellow little puffs will bake into the light choux pastries

Aside from the hearty bread and jam, Yum Yum Monkey also serves light pastries. While I was there, I caught him making delicate little choquettes, the light Choux pastry sprinkled with nuggets of pearl sugar. They’re popular with the younger students of the French school, Mabit says. His bread, in general, are fairly popular within the school. Not surprising: considering the quality of the bread, the prices are very generous.

The unfinished choquettes alongside the speculoos, two popular sweet pastries at the bakery

If you’re in the Better Living area and you want a taste of good French bread, it wouldn’t hurt to stop by the bakery at the French School of Manila.


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TAGS: baguette batard choquette french bread homemade bread speculoos yum yum monkey