Ginataang Bilo-bilo

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By Ed Dychauco, RN

Pots and Pans

Friday, January 31, 2014

IN ONE of my travels to the Northern part of Manila some time ago, I was introduced to this simple coconut concoction of round glutinous rice flour balls, tapioca and some root crops.

It was an “eye-opener” for me because it tastes like the ‘ginataan’ or ‘tabirak,’ except for the additional delicate, sticky round balls which was so soft and blends very well with the coconut cream.

Nobody can tell me where or how this started, but I really don’t mind as long as I am enjoying this for snacks or after lunch or dinner treat.


As I have said before, anything with coconut is good for me.

Bilo-bilo is so simple to make but really adds “life” and character to the ‘ginataan.’

Using commercially prepared glutinous rice flour and with the addition of enough water, this combination becomes a bit sticky yet moldable into small balls.

Once they are done, they can be kept covered for some time in the refrigerator for future use.

Although most recipes would call for the ‘bilo-bilo’ to be added into the coconut mixture to cook, it can also be cooked separately in boiling water. The choice is yours.

Just like ‘ginataan,’ we have basically the same ingredients for this: sweet potato (‘camote’), tapioca, jackfruit (‘langka’), purple yam (‘ube’), coconut milk (‘gata’), sugar and banana (‘saging’).

But since there is a lot of gabi (‘taro’) in Camiguin, plus the fact that it also gives a distinct aroma, we would also include this in our home-made ‘ginataan.’

With the diluted coconut milk (the second extract), ingredients like the pearl tapioca, ‘bilo-bilo,’ potato, purple yam and taro are cooked first till with the sugar till they are almost done before the bananas and jackfruit are added.

Then the thick coconut milk (first extract) is added to the mixture to be heated again before serving, although I love my ‘ginataang bilo-bilo’ chilled, especially after a meal!

Now for the variations: Since ‘bilo-bilo’ is just plainly made of water and glutinous flour, we can add a little sugar on it for a sweeter taste. Brown sugar can also add color and some aroma.

Adding pandan flavor and a little color can give you “green” colored balls as well as adding ube flavoring/color for that purple balls.

That should do the trick of making the ‘bilo-bilo’ more attractive and better tasting.

With the addition of the purple yam, it can turn the color of the liquid purplish, which makes it definitely more eye-catching and appealing.

But for those who like it “greenish,” by all means, add some food color and flavor to the mixture.

Candied strawberries or cherries (no longer Pinoy!) is worth the addition.

Fresh sweet mangoes or dried mangoes would add some tanginess. What about shredded fresh buko?

Assorted colorful ‘kaong’ and ‘nata de coco’ can also undeniably be added for a more pronounced Pinoy dessert.

Topping it with a scoop of ube ice cream would bring this to a higher level!

And since the Chinese New Year is just a few days away, why not celebrate it with this round, sticky, colorful and delicious dessert in lieu of the usual ‘tikoy’?

I am sure this is the next best thing for those who can’t get hold of the traditional ‘tikoy’ for the Chinese New Year!

Since it is said that ‘tikoy’ is sweet and sticky, which represents attachment & bonding plus sweetness, I bet this can represent the usual fare, for a change.

I would probably color my mixture green, to represent “money” or red, to represent “happiness and luck,” with added colored ‘nata’ and ‘kaong’ of my color choice for that extra luck!

Another food item that should be present in our tables during this auspicious day is the presence of baked products like cakes, baked or steamed.

Remember the round chiffon cake with a hole in the middle?

And for the more affordable items, any muffin, cupcake or even brownie will do, as long as it is puffed and baked in a round container.

But whatever we have on our table, and whatever we do for “good luck” we should always remember first to give thanks to the One above for all the blessings.

And thereby, also be a blessing to others!

Kung Hei Fat Choi – Kiong Hee Huat Chai!

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 31, 2014.


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