Lasang Pinoy 4…Soul Food- favorite traditional Filipino food that instantly enhances mood…“soothing, comfort food that brings back warm memories of family dinners”.

I am back here in Athens again and back to my own kitchen. I didn’t want to start blogging soon until this new site is ready. But I just couldn’t miss another
Lasang Pinoy, especially I have learned so much from this group. To think I have left the country at the age of 14, for me Lasang Pinoy is my way of re -connecting and a learning process of authentic Filipino cuisine.

As soon as Karen of The Pilgrims Pots and Pans reminded me, I went straight to Lafang’s List to read
more about Filipino Soul Food

I emailed my sister in London immediately…” ideas for soul food…and be quick” within few minutes she replied , “Malunggay, fried fish malunggay or tinola manok with malunggay.”
This reminds me Market Manila post on Cebu’s tinowa

I went to the Filipino store but the freight will arrive later today, malunggay and mangoes from Cebu. Also I realized even I could wait, there is no way I will be able to cook, tinola manok due to the avian flu. I could fry fish but the filter/ exhaust in the kitchen is not working. I couldn’t wait anymore.

I sat down thinking of happy days and the picture that came to my mind is…. When my mothers’ students from Sienna School of Naga, from all over town converge to our house. Some of them were out of towners would bring saba banana for frying, some fruits like mango and then my mother would make biko. Salo salo, (Gathering) especially towards the yearly Science Fair when they finalized their projects.

Biko is one of my favourite food, something I gladly eat but wouldn’t bother to cook.Just watching the process of making latik (hey we never bought canned coconut milk) and my mother labouring over this dessert made me just say, Forget it!

Here in Athens my closest Ilocana friend will gladly cook this for me. I love hers because its not soggy and not too sweet. Whenever I come back after months being away I would ring her up and say, Saturday afternoon, mag biko tayo. I just watch she does all the cooking and prep. She said dark muscovado sugar is the best. Then she once told me off for being so slow, “it will burn you must be quick.”

YesterdayI stopped by my friends from Davao who live next to the Asian store I go to. They guessed from my shopping that I was going to make biko. He suggested a light brown sugar and she suggested to keep some of the latik so I can pour over the mould and bake the biko later on.

I know there are different versions but I wanted to make it the way my mother did it. We didn’t own an oven way back then. And the best biko she did was when we had relatives arriving from Samar or Leyte bearing the purple rice.

Since I don’t really have a proper recipe for, the shop owner told me…

1 kilo of malagkit (glutinous rice)
2 cans of coconut milk
Half of the sugar (250g)

Well then my friend from Davao said 2 cans of milk is not a lot for a kilo of rice.

So I decided to modify this to suit my taste and to think this is my first time of ever making this biko.
I used only half kilo and I can always control the quantity of the coconut milk.

Here’s how I experimented on mine:

1) Half cook the rice in the rice cooker.. Basically I used half of the water in proportion to the rice.

But I did worry in between cooking ( I don’t want a soggy biko. )So there I go, I googled biko recipe, bingo Cecile’s English Patis site

“As soon as the rice cooker switches from ‘Cook’ to ‘Keep Warm’ unplug it to prevent the malagkit from further cooking. “

I dashed to the kitchen and unplugged mine immediately.Just barely.

2) Boil the coconut, I was contemplating between a heavy bottomed pot or my wok so I can stir the rice easily. Common sense dictated me to go for the big heavy bottomed pot. I didn’t want to burn the coconut milk and I wanted to cook it gently perhaps to get more flavour. I used my whisk and added the sugar gently (I prepared 250g but I didn’t use all of it). It was getting too sweet and my latik is just getting velvety.

3) Add the half cooked rice (Cecile you saved me!) and constantly stir so the mixture blends well.

Luckily I only have half a kilo so I don’t need my strong arms for this. I could see the rice is not soggy and the colour is between a light to dark, not bad.

4) You can now transfer the rice mixture into a moulding dish but… my mother used to mould them in a cup, invert it and decorate the top with the tutong (burnt part) and lay these on banana leaves.

I remember very well.. She would warn us not to eat it too soon. I didn’t get her reasoning then. My friend Faty always tells me to keep it for a day as it tastes better.

Now I can sit down and think of the happy days. One day among those many gatherings, one of them propped me up on big branch of a tree and left me there squealing… and then I met the culprit many years later in a wedding in Los Angeles, California, who said “the little girl has grown”.

Further reading on Lasang Pinoy: The fine art of culinary blogging

My mother died in the year 1990 and am sure she was with me today, laughing while I struggle in the kitchen.