“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas,” as the song says.
Though late in coming, the cold easterly winds are finally upon us, clicking on switches in our minds and bodies. Suddenly, we seek the hug of comforters and flannel bed sheets while our bellies crave thick, hot soups we have known since childhood.
Some of these Filipino delicacies are now available in instant, boil-and-eat packs, which expats love to use when they are not in the Philippines. For us here in good old ‘Pinas, however, it makes better sense to prepare these breakfast-merienda-dessert delights from scratch. Here’s how.
Champurado – Soak 2 cups malagkit rice (also called sweet rice or sticky rice) in 4 cups of water for 2 hours. Add 4 more cups of water and one pandan leaf and bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to very low. Simmer for 30 minutes to an hour, mixing constantly to avoid lumps and prevent the rice from forming a burnt bottom crust.
In a dry bowl, mix ½ cup sugar and 1/4 cup pure cocoa powder, then slowly stir in 1 cup water. Pour mixture into the pot and mix. Continue simmering until the rice grains puff and the champurado reaches desired thickness. Add more water if necessary. Taste for sweetness and adjust sugar depending on whether one is adding condensed or evaporated milk upon serving.
When eaten at breakfast, champurado is often paired with fried or grilled tuyo (dried salted fish), daing (kippered salted fish), tapa (fried marinated beef) and tocino (fried marinated pork). For merienda, champurado is offered with puto (steamed rice cake) and other kakanin (native sweet cakes).
Arroz Caldo – In hot vegetable oil, sauté 1 tbsp crushed garlic, 1 onion and 2 tbsp sliced ginger until light brown. Add 2 cup malagkit rice (some prefer half malagkit and half ordinary rice) and stir until grains become translucent. At this point, stir in some kasubha (local saffron) and chicken pieces and sauté until meat becomes opaque. The kasubha will add a light, yellow-orange tint. Carefully pour in 8 cups water, stirring to keep grains separate.
Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for at least 30 minutes, or until the grains burst and the soup is thick. Add more water as needed. The longer this cooks, the more water the rice will absorb. Season with coarse black pepper and salt to taste.
Serve with patis, soy sauce, and calamansi in separate bowls.
Goto – Cooked basically the same way as Arroz Caldo, but using pre-boiled, tenderized beef tripe instead of chicken, and adding beef stock to thicken and flavor the soup.
Ginatang Totong – In our province, ginatan is the term for dessert cooked in coconut milk; savory dishes with coconut milk are called ginataan. Of the rice-based ginatan, my childhood favorites are Ginatang Totong (with roasted crushed mongo) and Ginatang Mais (with fresh corn kernels).
To make Ginatang Totong, soak 2 cups malagkit in 4 cups water for 2 hours. Meanwhile, dry-roast 1 cup split mongo by stir-frying in an oil-less wok until light brown and aromatic. Add to the soaked rice with one pandan leaf and 4 cups coconut cream from the second squeezing. Bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring constantly until the rice softens and the mixture is thick.
Season with enough sugar to taste. Serve topped with a spoonful of pure coconut cream.
Ginatang Mais – Soak 2 cups malagkit, then boil with water, one pandan leaf and coconut cream from the second squeezing. Turn the heat to low and keep simmering, stirring often to prevent a bottom crust. Add water if needed. Season with sugar and kernels of fresh corn scraped or cut from the cob.
If desired, strips of ripe langka are added for extra flavor. Serve topped with a spoonful of pure coconut cream.
Ginatang Halo-halo a.k.a. Alpahol – Mix coconut cream from second squeezing with enough water to fill ¼ up a thick pot. Add peeled, cubed half-ripe saba bananas, chunks of peeled yellow sweet potato (camote), one pandan leaf and purple camote or ube (purple yam). Bring to a boil and season with enough sugar to taste.
Make bilo-bilo (malagkit balls) by using ready-made galapong dough from the market, or mixing water with enough malagkit flour to form a dough. Form into balls a bit larger than one’s thumbnails.
Drop these dough balls into the simmering pot of yams and bananas, along with a cup of ripe langka strips. When the balls float, they are done. Taste once more to adjust the sugar and water. Serve topped with pure coconut cream.
Note: For all these recipes, use a thick pot or a rice cooker for better heat control.