In Vigan, coffee is sweetened with balicucha

Last month, I discovered an alternative natural coffee sweetener — coco sugar. Last week, I discovered yet another alternative natural coffee sweetener called balicucha and how I discovered it is a funny story.

We were having breakfast at our hotel in Vigan, coffee was served and, on the saucer was what I first thought to be a cookie. You know, like those tiny almond cookies that they serve at Dome Cafe? I searched for the sugar bowl, found none on the table, so I hailed a passing waiter and asked for sugar. A few seconds later, he came back with packets of artificial sweetener. I thought he misunderstood. I wanted natural sugar, brown if they had it, not artificial sweetener.

I was about to call him again when I noticed the little thing on my coffee saucer and realized it wasn’t a cookie. I looked at it closer, noticed how much like tira-tira (native sugar candy) it felt in my hand so I decided to conduct the most logical test — taste it. I took a small bite, it did taste like tira-tira but it was not chewy but porous. Feeling bold, I dropped it into my cup of hot coffee. I stirred the coffee and realized that the sweet thing I dropped in it had melted.

I sipped my coffee, liked how it tasted, Speedy did as I did then we asked a waitress what it was that we had just put into our coffee. Balicucha, she said, and it is only found in Vigan. She didn’t know what it was exactly but she offered the information that it was sold at the hotel and also in shops around the city. After breakfast, we walked to Calle Crisologo for some last minute shopping, found balicucha in a number of stores, bought a large packet and brought it home. balicucha

That is balicucha. Just drop it into the coffee, stir and enjoy. balicucha

Much later, as I tried to find more information about balicucha, I read that there is a dance called balikucha (please note the difference in spelling) and a song entitled Pastilan where balikucha is mentioned. I also discovered that there is a candy called balikucha.

Balikucha– chewy caramel confection in stick form. A dental disaster, sticky and highly elastic when put in the hands of elementary school children. Every mom’s laundry nightmare. Grains of sand in the candy is assurance of quality.

Clearly, there is balicucha and it is not the same sa balikucha. The waitress at the hotel might just be right when she said that balicucha is unique to Vigan.


  1. cha says

    Hi Connie! I beg to disagree with the waitress when she said that balikucha can only be found in Vigan. In Bicol (I grew up in Gubat, Sorsogon), this is available in most sari-sari stores. In fact, I was a great fan of balikucha, until I suffered diabetes. I guess this glutinous candy stick is made from panutsa melted in coconut milk and is usually wrapped in papel de hapon. I also think that the candy’s name is derived from the word “baliko” or twisted, as it can be twisted any way you like it. There are two ways of making balikucha though: one is it super sticky and the other is porous similar to what is available in Vigan.

    • Connie says

      Balikucha the candy is not the same as balicucha in the photo. Balicucha in the photo is NOT sticky nor glutinous at all.

      • cha says

        Right Connie. :)
        Just the same, we also have that balicucha that is not sticky nor glutinous. They are similarly molded like the glutinous ones but seemed to be porous and can easily be crumbled, lalo na kung old-stock na. :)

  2. Natz SM says

    Balicucha use to be a childhood favorite of mine.

    I was pleasantly surprised to see some in a stall at the Quadalupe Wet Market here in Makati a couple of months ago. The stall sells all kinds of nuts, candies, sampaloc, spicy dilis, cracker nuts, butong pakwan and the likes that are usually sold in sari-sari stores. I couldn’t resist buying a one kilo bag of the stuff. How I love how it simply crumbles and “melts” in your mouth. It is also good slightly dipped in the coffee (a very fast dunk because it does dissintegrate fast) just like a cookie and it slightly tastes like coffee crumble- hehehe.

    A guilty pleasure indeed!

  3. Jol says

    I love that you post when you find something unique, I have never heard of Balicucha.. your post makes me miss tira-tira, sometimes when I crave for tira tira I just eat brown sugar, lol!

  4. says

    balicucha is one of my favorite childhood treats, eat it just any ordinary candy, letting it melt inside the mouth … maybe one reason why i dont have my two front teeth when i was younger :-)
    Ms. Connie, did you try eating “pipian”? it’s also available only in Vigan, just in Vigan and no other town of Ilocos .