Food for Thought: Leche flan

Dive into the cultural, political, and personal significance of food

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Person in thinking pose with a thought bubble overhead featuring an image of leche flan
A Filipino family favourite. Illustration: Alyssa Marie Umbal / The Peak

By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

During high school, I wanted to learn more about my culture. Once a month, my teacher supervised a Filipino potluck for students. Since this tradition helped me stay connected with my cultural roots, I helped organize it after a senior student graduated. One Filipino dessert that I brought was leche flan.

Leche flan is “a custard dessert made with condensed milk and egg yolks.” This dessert originates from the Roman Empire, Spain, and the US. In the Roman Empire, their cakes, called flado, contained fish or meat. Then, the Spanish adopted the Roman recipe and replaced the fish and meat with caramelized sugar.

Since the Philippines was an American and Spanish colony, the Filipino leche flan recipe has influences from both countries. When the Americans colonized the Philippines, Filipinos started incorporating more canned goods into their diet. In addition to the Spanish adding caramelized sugar, the recipe also features evaporated milk (leche evaporada) and condensed milk (leche condensada).

While leche flan is one of my favourite desserts, it is rarely served at my family gatherings. I usually find it at Christmas dinner parties. Since this dessert is popular among party guests, I race to the dessert table before it’s all gone.

How to bake one leche flan, according to One Down on YouTube:

  1. Caramelize 3 tablespoons of sugar over low heat.
  2. Mix 4 egg yolks, 1/2 a can of evaporated milk, 1/2 a can of condensed milk, and 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla extract.
  3. Using a sifter, strain the egg yolk mixture three times.
  4. Pour the caramelized sugar into a ramekin.
  5. Pour egg yolk mixture on top of caramelized sugar.
  6. Cover ramekin with tin foil and place in a baking pan.
  7. Add boiling water to the baking pan until it reaches 1 inch up from the base of the ramekin.
  8. Bake for 1 hour at 375°F or 190°C.
  9. Refrigerate the leche flan for at least 3 hours.
  10. Turn the bowl upside down and serve.

You can also find leche flan at Grandt Kitchen Filipino Cuisine near SFU Surrey.