“In our opinion, food should be sniffed lustily at table, both as a matter of precaution and as a matter of enjoyment, the sniffing of it to be regarded in the same light as the tasting of it.” — E. B. White, American essayist
Lately, I have been craving Filipino desserts. I guess it’s the great memories that you associate with your childhood, munching on bibingkang malagkit (also called nasi in Kapampangan or biko in Manila) or guinataang bilo-bilo for merienda with friends after school. Mom always told me if you eat something sticky during the Chinese New Year, good luck will cling to you. Manang Lourdes, our chief cook, claimed dishes that had items that would float up would also give you a prosperous year. Being an obedient child, I believed them and ate as much as I could in the hope of a fortunate year. Sometimes it worked. I ate guinataan before joining a dog show competition and won, though now it is more of an excuse to eat sweet delicacies while watching the dog events. Whatever the occasion or reason, I hope you will enjoy these recipes and may plenty of good luck be with you this year.
The secret to making good bibingkang malagkit is using pure glutinous rice or sticky rice. Any mixture of regular rice will make the texture unbalanced and the taste uneven, leaving some parts with an undesirable crunch.
The second tip is using pure coconut cream, or the first extraction from the niyog or mature coconut. The first extraction is the juice that comes when you squeeze the meat and let it filter through a muslin cloth. The repetition of the first process with water added is the second extraction and is called coconut milk. Coconut cream gives an extra, melts-in-the-mouth flavor, giving this dessert a rich, creamy taste. Palm sugar or panocha with powdered cocoa gives a nice, brown color.
For the guinataan, the secret is boiling all the tough ingredients well for 30 minutes, ensuring that the gabi and other hard items have softened thoroughly. In the past, everyone would boil the fruits in coconut milk, but with the high demand for coconuts in the world market, coconut milk has become expensive; thus, boiling water will do. Finishing it with three cups coconut cream and two cups sugar in the final part of cooking will give it the savory taste.
Father John Barro’s Bibingkang Malagkit
6 cups malagkit, washed and drained
8 cups water
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups canned/tetrapak coconut milk (second extraction)
1-1/2 cups panocha (tinaklob or palm sugar), grated
2 cups canned/tetrapak coconut cream (first extraction)
1/4 cup Ricoa cocoa
Cook the washed malagkit with eight cups of water in a rice cooker for 20 to 25 minutes.
Line a 15-inch bilao or round serving tray with banana leaves that have been previously softened over a low fire.
Mix the panocha and coconut cream over low fire until it begins to thicken.
Caramelize the sugar in a big wok. When brown, lower the fire and add the coconut milk. When the sugar has dissolved (the mixture will be oily), add the cooked rice. Mix with a long wooden spoon until it leaves the sides of the pan. Pour on to the prepared bilao. Press down with a rubber scraper to even out the mixture. Pour over the topping. Sift the cocoa on top.
Manang Lourdes Cabrera’s Guinatang Halo-Halo
Manang Lourdes always cooks this for the New Year. The floating rice balls, according to her, bring luck.
12 cups boiling water
1/2-kilo ground glutinous rice (galapong)
1/2-kilo camote (yellow sweet potato), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4-kilo pink gabi (called mag-anak in the public market), peeled and cubed
1/4 kilo ube (purple yam) peeled and cubed
5 saba bananas (plantain), peeled and cubed
100 grams langka (jackfruit), ripe, sliced into strips
2 cups cooked sago
3 cups canned/tetrapak coconut cream (kakang gata)
2 cups granulated sugar
Shape the galapong into 1/2-inch balls.
Put the camote, gabi, and ube in boiling water. Cover and cook for 30 minutes. When soft, add the remaining ingredients, except the coconut cream and sugar until all the galapong balls float to the surface. Simmer until cooked.