I went to my doctor on Monday with complaints of knee pain. He sent me home with anti-inflammatory medication and with advice to lose weight. He said the extra pounds that surreptitiously crept at me this past year are placing undue pressure on my lower extremities and most probably caused my sprained knee.
So, yeah. The yema balls I’ve been popping into my mouth one every minute this last hour and half are definitely not helping my cause. Made purely of sugar, eggs and condensed milk, yeah, these sweet nuggets are just plain sinful. Woe to my expanding girth and overburdened feet. Imagine luscious custard centers and melt-in-your mouth caramel shells, how can I resist?
Yema is a custard candy that Filipinos inherited during the Spanish era.
“Yema” is a Spanish word that means “yolk.” During the Spanish colonial period years, egg whites and egg shells were used to build churches in the Philippines. It was a technique in the olden times to use them as mortar to hold the stone together. And that left an overabundance of egg yolks. Since we Filipinos are accustomed to not letting food fall into waste, Pinoy ingenuity and passion for food came to the fore, giving birth to the recipes that are mainly based on yolks, such as leche flan, yema and more.
There are many recipes of yema. Here’s the simplest yema recipe, the classic one:
- 6 egg yolks
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1/2 kilo white sugar
- In a frying pan or pot, mix the egg yolks, condensed milk, and vanilla until well blended.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat to prevent the mixture from burning.
- Using a metal spatula, stir the milk as if you are scraping the bottom of the pan. Stir constantly.
- This must be done continuously to avoid burning the milk and to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- The mixture is ready when it forms a ball. Let it cool.
- When cool, form the mixture into balls about 2 to 3 cm in diameter.
- Place the yema balls on a wide plate with white sugar then roll; once coated, pick up each ball with a toothpick. Set aside to cool.
- When cool, wrap the balls in cellophane and twist both ends to secure.
For a special kind of yema dessert, you can experiment and add some ingredients like crushed nuts of your choice and chocolates. You can also coat it with caramelized sugar.
Yema has said to have originated from Bulacan province as it is well known for different Filipino sweets, there are also some accounts that states that it was invented during the Spanish era where egg yolks are thrown away after using the egg whites in constructing buildings. During those times egg whites are mixed with cement to give it a marble like finish when it dries up here is an example “Ruins of Talisay” (link 1, link 2). Since the egg yolks are thrown away an ingenious Filipino saved the yolks and mixed it with milk. sugar and peanuts which is what we call yema now. Well imagine how many eggs were used to make that building on the link and how may yema balls can you make out of those.