REVIEW: A Little of This, a Little of That, and a Lot of Delicious at Lelac’s

Filipino empanadas.
Chicken empanadas from Lelac’s Filipino Bakery. Image: Kyle Young

Lelac’s Filipino Bakery offers baked goods, groceries, steamed buns, and cafeteria-style hot dishes. They are located on Baring Boulevard in the same shopping center as La Fuente. The treasures within the bakery are many, and every food enthusiast should give them a try.

525,600 Baked Goods. 525,600 Tasty Things to Eat.

The customer area in the bakery is quite small, but there are wondrous things to see in every corner. There is a walk-up refrigerator with prepared siopao of chicken and pork varieties inside. There is a shelf full of typical Filipino canned goods, condiments, and make-at-home pancit noodles. There are tables topped with cheesy, sweet, and savory rolls. The front counter includes hot dishes behind a glass window, sweet rice desserts, and bright orange chicken empanadas. Behind the front counter lives a colossal rotisserie with whole pigs rotating their way from tasty to tremendous.

The hot dishes available on the Saturday my fiancé and I went featured dinuguan (chocolate stew), tuna belly with okra and eggplant, ginata-an, beef and tripe in a coconut milk sauce, tilapia with tomatoes in a lemon broth, jackfruit in coconut milk, and pig head with lemon and onions. I didn’t confirm myself, but I believe this quantity of hot dishes is only available on Saturdays.

I was craving a sweet breakfast, so I went for the pan de ube, the ginata-an, and the leche puto. My fiancé wanted a savory breakfast, so she selected the pork siopao and the chicken empanadas. I’m unsure of the cost per item as the packages were not labeled, but our total bill was $18.41. The food we bought was enough to feed about four people.

A Delicious Meal With Two Lovely Ladies

Knowing that we wouldn’t be able to eat everything by ourselves, we invited my maternal grandma, Rosie, to join us in our home for the meal. My fiancé and I both enjoy listening to Rosie describe her life in the Philippines before she came to the United States. Rosie dawned a huge smile when she heard that she’d soon be eating ginata-an. The dish consists of jackfruit, tapioca, sweet potato, purple yam, and banana in a creamy coconut milk sauce.

Rosie schooled us on how to eat everything we purchased. I would have thought the ginata-an was meant to be eaten cold like a boba drink, but Rosie advised that she grew up eating it warm, almost like oatmeal. I thought the dish was texturally interesting, but the partly sweet, partly starchy flavor was not for me. My fiancé loved it, and Rosie liked it, but said it could use more jackfruit.

Pork siopao from Lelac's.
These pork siopao are a handful of fun. Image: Kyle Young

Next, we microwaved two of the extra-large siopao for three minutes with a damp paper towel on top to keep them moist. I would be remiss if I didn’t describe the obvious resemblance of the siopao to breasts. My fiancé, Rosie, and I each had a good laugh at the boob-shaped, steamed buns, each equipped with a nipple. The buns weren’t just a treat to behold; they were also some of the best that I’ve had in town. The buns were part pillowy and part chewy with tender pork inside awash with a sweet and savory sauce tasting predominantly of soy sauce.

Next on the menu were the chicken empanadas. Rosie advised to heat these, too, in the microwave. I believe they were hot and ready to eat after about two minutes. The glaze on the baked pastry was bright orange with a touch of sweetness. The pastry itself was not unlike a pie crust. Inside was chicken, potatoes, onions, and peas. The whole thing tasted like a chicken pot pie without the viscous sauce. The three of us all enjoyed them.

Next was the puto leche, also known as leche puto or leche flan puto. The puto element consists of a mildly sweet, steamed rice cake colored purple with ube, a variety of purple yam. The leche flan element was composed of a thin layer of custard adhered to the cake part. The dish was beautiful, and I absolutely loved the contrast in flavors and textures. It looked like it might be especially sweet, but I found it to be mildly flavored. The puto had a texture a bit like shortcake. Rosie said it always reminded her of cornbread. She had never seen the purple and cream colored variety that we purchased.

We concluded the meal with the pan de ube. Imagine a Hawaiian sweet roll stuffed with a bit of ube paste. I wasn’t sure if I’d like the Filipino staple, because it felt very dense to the touch before I took a bite. Once I did take that bite, though, I fell in love. The chewiness sealed the deal for me. The ube paste on the inside of the roll is difficult to describe. My fiancé said it reminded her of a coconut paste of sorts. To me, the texture of the ube was a little bit like freshly made salt water taffy and cream cheese frosting, but it also had a distinct quality that I lack the words to describe. Rosie said you can eat the rolls with things like bacon and eggs, or on their own with coffee. I chose the latter, and found a new favorite weekend-food and drink pairing.

The baked goods at Lelac’s can go toe-to-toe with any bakery in town. I’d rank their siopao right alongside the phenomenal selections at Honey Bakery. You better believe that I’m going to buy a whole roasted pig from Lelac’s at the soonest opportunity. Want to join me?

Lelac’s Filipino Bakery is located at 720 Baring Blvd. in Sparks. Rough operating hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m (call to verify). They are closed Mondays. Call 775-355-6783 to place orders for lumpia, whole roasted pigs, and more.

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Kyle Young
About Kyle Young 41 Articles
Kyle Young is a local freelance writer. He offers content writing, blog posts, copywriting, and editing services. His current writing foci are food, cooking, and the oddities native to Reno, Sparks, and Tahoe. He graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a bachelor’s degree in English writing. He gained some food chops while working as a dishwasher, line-cook, and food-truck operator. He learned quality control, imports/exports, and logistics at a local spice and seasoning manufacturer. When not hustling as a writer, he plays Scrabble, cooks, wrangles three pups, and attends live music/comedy with his fiancé.