Friday, December 28, 2007


I got feedback from some of those who were able to watch the Undas episode of the television lifestyle show The Sweetlife, where I cooked the Pangasinan Undas rice delicacy inlubi, about a similar rice concoction that's also associated with the season.

Pinipig, young glutinous rice harvested prematurely, thus retaining its green color but comes out flat due to pounding (a process identical to the one undergone by deremen, without the burning stage) is a seasonal delicacy in the central plains of Luzon. I got feedback specifically from the provinces of Bulacan and Pampanga, where pinipig is harvested and eaten during Undas until the end of the year.

I was intrigued by this pinipig, because the only pinipig I know in my part of the country is the toasted rice kernels, crunchy like pop rice, white-to-beige in color and mixed in halo-halo. In Pampanga I heard that pinipig is eaten by the lolas as kutkutin or tsitsirya/chichirya. It is also made into biko and suman.

In Bulacan it is mixed with kakang gata (coconut cream), in some parts as thickener to the gata and drunk as juice, in some parts eaten with the consistency of champorado or oatmeal/porridge. The choice sweetener is slices of chico, which comes in season also from Undas onwards, and/or langka (jackfruit). Whatever is left over is cooked because it spoils easily.

It is also cooked in Bulacan into puto and pinipig bar.

I had the luck of being gifted with several kilos of sweet-smelling fresh pinipig from Bulacan, and of course I had to try the uncooked ginataang pinipig. Ginataang pinipig is a novelty for me, and I was warned that my stomach may not be agreeable to the raw gata. You have to grow up eating uncooked gata to develop the tolerance for it, I guess. For young Bulakenyos the gata is heated to avoid stomach trouble.

For my first taste of ginataang pinipig I used pure coconut cream - grated coconut machine-pressed without water, so that it comes out thick and lusciously creamy.

This snack is heavenly when drunk/eaten cold. You are hit by the creaminess of the gata, and then you crunch on the soft, fragrant pinipig and the sweet chico and langka to munch on.

Other variations include adding buco strips, and sugar if the chico/langka is not enough for one's sweet tooth.

Very simple and straightforward, just like any Filipino kakanin or rice delicacy. Yet there is complexity of tastes and flavors, representing what's in season.

Lasang Pinoy 22 for December, with the theme Rice to the Challenge is hosted by JMom over at Cooked from the Heart.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cathedral Windows

Maabig tan maliket a Pascua ed sikayon amin!
Maligayang Pasko sa inyong lahat!
A Merry Christmas to all!

I thought it appropriate to celebrate Christmas with this dessert, which recalls the stained glass windows of cathedrals - humongous ones - and even just your small, neighorhood chapels, or even your very own private adoration chapel at home. Thus the name, because it contains cubes of luminous multi-colored, multi-flavored gelatin inside.

For me it points out the very essence, the only true meaning, of Christmas. That it should let us contemplate our spirituality. Along with this is the importance of sharing, of partaking even just a simple a feast together.

But now that I have kids, cathedral windows is also a way of reconnecting to the inner child in me. No gourmet desserts this year, but a simple one that kids will love, that will also please the young at heart. Reminiscences of how simple life's pleasures were back then is the order of the day.

Cathedral Windows

gelatin, in different flavors and colors (at least 4)
8 envelopes clear, unflavored gelatin
1.5 liters evaporated milk, at room temperature
small can condensed milk

  1. Cook/dissolve flavored gelatin separately according to packet instructions, reducing the amount of water by about half a cup. When set, cube and leave in the refrigerator.
  2. Mix condensed milk into evaporated milk. Dissolve 8 envelopes unflavored gelatin in milk. Bring to a boil in a thick-bottomed pan.
  3. Let cool until milk thickens a bit. Pour into desired mold, about 2/3 full.
  4. Drop flavored gelatin cubes into milk-gelatin mixture, and mix the colors and flavors by stirring them around gently.
  5. Refrigerate until set.

Good for 3 molds.

  • I use Knoxx gelatin, and the instruction is 1 cup liquid to 1 envelope. The 1.5 liters evap in this recipe is equivalent to 6 cups (1:1 minus 2 cups).
  • If the gelatin does not set, reboil and reboil.
  • Reduce the amount of water in dissolving the flavored gelatin cubes by up to 1/4 so they won't melt readily when mixed.
  • Never put in the flavored gelatin cubes into the mik mixture while still warm, or they will melt.
  • This is actually a very retro dessert, recalling Tupperware parties. I used my in-laws' Tupperware gelatin mold with various designs on top. They proved very handy in unmolding the cathedral windows.

Related Post
Crema de Fruta

Monday, December 17, 2007

Misa De Gallo Treats: Langka Suman and Intemtem

[The Colors of Christmas]

Christmas can be one very big excuse for decadence, for indulging in your wildest imagination and actually translating it into reality. So cakes, salads, kakanin and all kinds of desserts are the order of the day, and several kinds on the table is not actually frowned upon, for once in my family, during this season.

The bacchanalia is not even limited to Christmas Eve, extending to Christmas Day itself. The season officially starts with the onset of Advent, as practiced in the Roman Catholic Church, right on the first Sunday after the feast of Christ the King.

It usually falls on the first Sunday of December, with the buzz increasing daily until it attains deafening proportion nine days before Christmas - when the Misa de Gallo starts.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts are big buffet spreads, encompassing all courses imaginable, with several kinds of each. Misa de Gallo treats are a different matter, though. For one, eating after each dawn mass is not considered a party. And second, you can only eat so much so early in the morning.

And so Misa de Gallo treats are light, pre-breakfast fare, usually finger food cooked right in front of the church or along the streets leading to or coming from it. Breakfast, perhaps heavy, celebratory ones, is reserved for later, when the sun has warmed the air, maybe after a short nap that brings on renewed energy for sitting down on the table.

Eating right after Misa de Gallo, just outside the church, while walking home, or inside the house while tea or coffe is brewing, is communion after mass. Communion with your companions, who may play a major part in your success in completing all the nine days. Also communion with the local culture, because Misa de Gallo treats usually adhere to tradition.

They may be as nondescript as pandesal peddled on horn-tooting bikes, still hot from the ovens, filled with margarine and sugar, or liver spread, or pastillas, or katiba (coco jam). Or as opulent as ensaymada warmed with butter. Or as rooted to the locale as bibingka, or puto bumbong, or intemtem (commonly known by the Ilocano term tupig). And any suman variant, a product of community effort and the focus of community partaking. These are traditionally downed with either tsokolate or salabat (hot ginger drink), to warm the throats and fight the cold.

Langka Suman

1 kilo malagkit (glutinous rice)
1 cup washed sugar
Kakang gata from 2 coconuts, about 4-5 cups
500 grams ripe langka (jackfruit)
young banana leaves for wrapping
pandan leaves, washed (optional)

  1. Wash the rice and drain excess water. Transfer to a thick saucepan (kaldero), pour in the kakang gata and half the sugar. Mix thoroughly.
  2. Cook until almost dry. Mix in the pandan leaves. Lower heat until gata has been thoroughly absorbed. Add more sugar if desired.
  3. Wipe banana leaves clean, and run over fire. Spoon rice mixture onto spread banana leaves and shape into long rectangles. Insert langka as filling in the middle of rice mixture, then arrange slivers on top as decoration.
  4. Close banana leaves in overlapping fashion, with ends folded onto the suman. Tie both ends with string.
  5. Steam in a pan for 1-2 hours.

Makes about 25 pieces.

  • To make use of the santana (coco jam) that we made from the panutsa I bought in Naga, which has been sitting in the pantry for months, I swirled it into the suman and did away with the sugar.
  • Would have loved to include ube as filling, but the family has been fighting over it that I thought it wise to just let them have the haleya as it is.
  • Langka is back in the market so it is the perfect time to use it. Don't use the overripe fruit, though, as it will spoil the suman in no time at all. One way of extending the shelf life is boiling the langka in a little water and some sugar before using as filling.
  • Other fillings aside from langka and ube - ripe mangoes (now in season!), sweetened ripe saba, katiba, chocolate, peanut butter (yum!), cashew butter.
  • I didn't have any use for the 2nd gata so I used it to boil in the wrapped suman instead of water. This made the wrappings greasy and the unwrapping of the suman a messy affair. But the smell is heavenly.

Intemtem, or tupig in Ilocano, is the ultimate Misa de Gallo treat in Pangasinan. It is more popular than our version of the bibingka, which is in mini sizes and made of rice. Of course it is available year-round, after Sunday masses, but there's nothing like the smell of grilled banana leaves mixing in with the cold dawn air after Misa de Gallo. And the experience of unrolling the wrap and biting into the still hot treat redolent with buco strips while walking home in the silent streets, the world still to wake, and the prospect of burrowing back under the covers after eating, is just unforgettable.

Living away from the province is no excuse for me to miss that experience again. So I relived cooking and eating intemtem right in Cavite, using the economical QB Stove charcoal grill (no way was I going to cook intemtem over an electric grill).


1 kg malagkit (glutinous rice)
strips of meat from 2 buco
1 cup sugar
banana leaves for wrapping

  1. Soak rice in water for at least an hour. Drain, and ground-dry. The rice dough should be the consistency of mixture used for bilo-bilo.
  2. Mix buco trips and sugar into the rice dough.
  3. Wipe banana leaves clean, and run over fire. Cut into about 8x8 pieces.
  4. Spread the rice mixture thinly onto the edge of each banana leaf wrap, then roll the leaf onto itself.
  5. Grill, preferably on a thin aluminum steel sheet over live coals, until the intemtem has turned golden brown.

Serve warm. Makes about 30 pieces.

Lasang Pinoy 22 for December, with the theme Rice to the Challenge is hosted by JMom over at Cooked from the Heart.

Friday, December 14, 2007

LP22: Buro

[Buro'n Gourami]

Buro is freshwater fish fermented in salt and ba-aw (ba-ao, bahaw, steamed rice). It is the foulest smelling edible thing in all the whole wide world, but ironically, it is eaten as an appetizer.

Buro is actually a means of preserving seasonal freshwater fish from the times when electricity has not been invented. The prized fish dalag (mudfish), which comes out of hibernation during the rainy season, is salted and fermented with salted cooked rice to preserve the surplus. So are the native tilapia - small, thin and black - and the rare gourami, which burrow in mud during the dry spell.

These are still the preferred fish to be fermented in a buro today, still as a means of preserving, but more as a way of keeping on with tradition. Nowadays it has actually attained the status of a native delicacy. The buro'n tilapia and gourami are the more common, with the buro'n dalag - since the fish is more rare, the flesh more tasty - commanding about Php250/kg.

I know buro is eaten in other places in the country, like burong talangka (salted fermented mud crabs) in Bulacan, burong hipon (small shrimps fermented in rice) in Pampanga, burong mustasa (salted mustard leaves in water) in Cavite, plus we also have burong mangga (salted unripe mangoes in water) in Pangasinan.

In Pangasinan, though, when you speak of buro - without any qualifier - you refer to the fish fermented with rice. The tang and fermented taste of buro is much, much more pronounced than any other buro outside the province. It is as sour as any spoiled food if you have ventured to eat some (I haven't, but I eat buro).

It is actually indescribable, and those who did not grow up with buro being served on the table will be really turned off by the smell alone. When I was a kid I could not tolerate it on the table if it were placed in front of me. But you get used to it, and once your tastebuds have desensitized a little, you will find that because you're eating it, it will propel you to eat a lot more than what you usually do.

I find this to be the greatest irony of all.

The process of fermentation is pretty straight forward - de-scale, de-gut and clean the fish, rub with sea salt, then mix with cooled steamed rice also mixed with salt. Store, preferably in a covered banga (clay pot) although nowadays it is kept in a plastic container. In three days the buro has fermented well enough to be eaten.

When in season, unripe, julienned labong is topped on the buro before it is fermented.

To tame the taste a little, fresh buro is sauteed with lots of peeled, thinly sliced ginger root and tomatoes. This somewhat defeats the idea of buro, because the tomatoes will shorten the buro's shelf life. But the sauteeing adds to the appeal of buro, enriching the flavors.

Buro is not eaten as an appetizer per se, but small amounts - pea-sized - is eaten along with every spoonful of the meal. It pairs excellently with any native viand and vegetable dish - usually fried or grilled fish, pakbet and dishes cooked in bagoong.

They say that not everybody can make buro - and I agree. Despite the small number of ingredients and the simplicity of the process, not all buro made come out the same.

I have smelled, and not eaten, the buro made by a grand-aunt, who had been the subject of so many grand green jokes and snickers from many of her housemates because of the smell of her buro. It had been called not just ma-anglit, but also ma-ampap. I am not going to translate what these two words mean for purposes of, uhm, sensitivity? delicacy? (let's just say I don't want to offend anybody's sensibilities). But if you're not from the province go ask your Pangasinense friends. You will get my drift.

Lasang Pinoy 22 for December, with the theme Rice to the Challenge is hosted by JMom over at Cooked from the Heart.

Rice to the Challenge is a Lasang Pinoy event celebrating rice as used in Philippine cuisine.

Other delicacies featured in this blog that use rice:
Langka Suman and Intemtem
Inlubi with Toge
Halaan Arroz Caldo
Pinoy Paella
Arroz Tres Leches
Baked Buchi
Calasiao Puto

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Tinapay: My Crema de Fruta

This is part of an ongoing series, "Tinapay," about local breads and cookies found in street corner bakeries across the Philippines.
I would like to venture a guess that no Filipino, whether here or abroad, is unaware of crema de fruta. Endless variations exist, though all retain the basic combinations of a crust, a cream mixture, fruits (fresh or in cocktail syrup) melded by gelatin. It is made any season, but it is distinctly a Christmas thing - it is our Pinoy version of all those fruit cakes around the world.

I have written about crema de fruta previously as a coveted gift and my choice Christmas give-away one Christmas. I have noted that that post sustain search engine hits year-round, but that starting about a month ago the increase in hits from around the world has been very significant.

I am including it in the Tinapay series even though it cannot be found in any streetside bakery, but because almost any Filipino household can make its own version. Of course the more popularly known middle class bakeshop chain that most balikbayans remember carries crema de fruta year-round.

But I never buy, because I can make my own crema de fruta, at less than half the cost of a store-bought one. And so I would like to share a recipe for crema de fruta that my family had been using for a long time now. We made it once a year, and only during Christmas - it is almost sacrilege to make it outside of the holiday season. It is very easy to make, involving no cooking, using ingredients available anytime anywhere around the globe. I have tweaked the recipe to suit my tastes, and I believe the recipe below is the best one I have made.

Crema de Fruta

butter cake/loaf
2 packs all-purpose cream
1 small can condensed milk
3 envelopes clear, unflavored gelatin powder
1 medium can fruit cocktail

  1. Dissolve and cook 2 envelopes gelatin according to packet instructions but reducing amount of water by about a third.
  2. Mix cream, half of the condensed milk and the dissolved gelatin thoroughly, and put in refrigerator.
  3. Line the bottom of a deep dish with butter cake slices about an inch thick, taking care to plug in any spaces between slices.
  4. Dissolve and cook remaining envelope of gelatin and let cool. Drain fruit cocktail well.
  5. When the cream mixture has thickened pour onto butter cake crust. Flatten top, and arrange fruit cocktail over cream.
  6. Pour gelatin to submerge fruits. Refrigerate at least 4 hours.
Good for an 8x8x4 dish, for about 6-8 people.
Can last up to two weeks inside the ref, although an 8x8 is good for only one sitting in my family.

The crema de fruta that my mom used to make had graham crackers as base, the thickener for the cream was dissolved cornstarch, and no condensed milk. After many years of making the original I ventured into using cakes as base, to make it more festive. I love the butter cake base - its density holds up slices real well, and it adds decadence to the dessert.

I also like the cream-gelatin mixture because it is so much lighter than the thick, gooey cream made from using cornstarch. The resulting cake is a combination of textures, from gelatin to soft, flanney custard to rich cake base. It is a bit tricky to use, though - the cream-gelatin mixture has to have thickened enough (the reason for the brief sojourn inside the ref) so as not to be absorbed by the cake base.

Although I once made the mistake of pouring hot cream that instantly soaked the crust, and resigned myself to a disaster dessert. But good thing I had already started using butter cake that time, because it held up, and nobody noticed the difference. Imagine if I had used chiffon or sponge!

Other Variations
  • Halve the thickness of the cake, spread half of the cream mixture and half the fruits. Spread another layer of butter cake, the remaining cream mixture and fruits. Finish off with the gelatin.
  • Use chiffon or sponge cake (available in most streetside bakeries), or graham crackers (2-3 layers) or broas (lady fingers, 2-3 layers) as crust, whether for the single layer or for the multiple layered cake.
  • Use yellow colored gelatin in the cream mixture.
  • Use lychee-flavored gelatin for the fruit topping, or flavor the gelatin with the syrup of the fruit cocktail.
  • Use cornstarch as thickener instead of gelatin. Dissolve about half a cup of cornstarch and mix with the cream and condensed milk mixture. Heat over medium fire, stirring constantly until thick as paste. Pour over crust.
  • For less fat content, use milk and flour instead of the cream mixture. Bring to a simmer while stirring constantly until thick.
  • Or in dissolving the gelatin use milk in lieu of water, and use this for the cream mixture.
  • Do away with the condensed milk, especially if using cake as base, which is already sweet enough.
  • Incorporate buco slivers into the cream mixture for a more Pinoy version.
  • Use only one kind of fruit, like canned peaches, fresh mangoes (for this I would recommend a rich chocolate cake as base), fresh strawberries (how about ground Sunflower crackers for this one? The chicken or smoked bacon flavored ones are perfect for fresh strawberries in a multi-layered cake), etc. The possibilities are endless.

Related Posts
Strawberry Float
Cathedral Windows

The Tinapay Series

Thursday, December 06, 2007


This rootcrop, which sprouts only during the last quarter of the year, is the only toge (accent on the last syllable) known in Pangasinan, or at least in my part of the province. We don't have, and consequently we don't eat, the togue (with the accent on the first syllable) known elsewhere in the country, which is mung bean sprouts. We do have monggo sprouts, but they are naked (skinless, therefore white in color) mung beans with just a little hint of a tail that is white opaque just like the beans, not transparent like that of the togue.

Needless to say, I only came to know of togue when I came to live in Metro Manila to study in college. Toge, for me, will always pertain to this rootcrop, which is probably related to the gabi/galyang species. They have the same texture and flesh color and consistency, though toge is a bit more porous. Stickily chewy (makulnet, maligat) when cooked, the taste is more or less the same.

Unlike the gabi and galyang, though, which sprout as bulbs, toge is cylindrical. The skin is brown, more like the skin of cassava, but paper thin and fairly easy to peel.

There are only two ways I know of cooking, and eating, toge. The first, and the most common - the easier one, too - is just plain boiling it, skin on after washing off the soil thoroughly under running water, in a pan of water for 10-15 minutes. When the toge has cooled enough to be handled, half of it is manually peeled and dipped in sugar and eaten as it is, peeling as you eat.

[Inlubi with Toge]

Toge is also mixed in with inlubi, a Pangasinan rice delicacy available only during the post-harvest season. It is actually associated with Pista'y Inatey (Undas, All Saints' Day/All Souls' Day).

Inlubi is commonly cooked like bibingka or biko, with the distinguishing black color, because the main ingredient is deremen, which is pinipig that is burnt in its husk. (Recipe can be found here)

But there are several other variants, one of which is the one with toge, which is moister with the consistency of rice pudding, or a very thick ginataan. The ingredients are the same, with the addition of small cubes of toge and more than double the amount of gata.

I like inlubi with toge more than the bibingka/biko variant. It is more texturally appealing, the toge providing chewy crunchiness to the rice pudding and the coconut slivers. And because a large amount of kakang gata is used, it tastes so creamy. As with any rice variety, deremen pairs perfectly with gata. In inlubi with toge, the tastes of deremen and gata are on the same level, unlike the bibingkang inlubi where the deremen flavor is allowed to shine through more. Of course, the taste and aroma of deremen is incomparable, found nowhere else. With gata, it turns into comfort food.

The downside to inlubi with toge, though, is the fact that it cannot be kept long. Partly because of the toge, and partly because of the large quantity of gata involved, inlubi with toge spoils easily. It has to be eaten right away after it has cooled from cooking, the remainder put in the refrigerator at once. Even then, it cannot be guaranteed if it would still be edible the next morning.

Nothing is gained, anyhow, with keeping inlubi with toge. Just like any dish with gata, the taste does not improve with time, and it is best eaten newly cooked. Inlubi with toge is good if allowed to cool after the cooking process, though. So just enough should be prepared so nothing would be left over.

Inlubi and toge together in a sweet dish is the perfect Pangasinan food for the season. The two main ingredients are only available now, one cultivated but not mass produced, the other allowed to grow and sprout in its own sweet time. And it is cooked with gata, which, like most kakanin around the country, distinguishes Pangasinan sweet dishes made with rice.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Lauya is the Pangasinan equivalent of the Tagalog nilagang baka, or perhaps bulalo with vegetables added, although the vegetables involved are a bit different. Owing to the Pangasinense partiality for saltiness in viands and anything eaten during a meal - the land is not called "the place where salt is made" for nothing - sweetness or any hint thereof is relegated to food eaten after a meal - dessert, or in-between meals - merienda.

And so lauya is more akin to bulalo, in that beef - the bones, the tougher cuts like shank/brisket and round, or the parts marbled with collagen like chuck - is boiled for hours until fork-tender, with only onions and whole peppercorns added. The long hours of cooking - even just an hour in a pressure cooker - renders the soup intensely flavorsome that little else is needed. Like bulalo, lauya is served with patis, kalamansi halves and finger chilies on the side for the diner to mix to suit individual tastes.

Lauya, though, like nilaga, can be considered a meal in itself because apart from the invigorating and revitalizing soup and the protein from the meat, vegetables are mixed in when the meat is done for added nutrients. What's added is what can be found in the province or in the nearby environs - native pechay from the backyard plots, and vegetables from Baguio City/Benguet province - potatoes, carrots, long green beans (commonly known as Baguio beans), onion stalks. When native pechay is not in season cabbage from Baguio is a good substitute.

But no boiled saba or halved ears of corn like in nilaga - the sweet hints will not be welcome.

I have heard that lauya is also the term used for exactly the same dish - comprising exactly the same ingredients - in some parts of Mindanao. I don't know who influenced who, but I gather the highlands in Mindanao produce the vegetables that are considered essential to the dish.

The long boiling hours melt the beef fat, the collagen, the bone marrow and what-have-you, thickening the soup a bit. Lauya should be eaten smoking hot, and fast, to prevent the cooling fat from forming on your lips. The soup alone is seriously artery-clogging that it is not a good proposition to cook lauya during the hot months. It is heavy enough, and you run the risk of developing a heart attack, swiftly.

It has been incredibly cool these past few days, though. I'm not sure if this is the temporary result of the convergence of three typhoons so late in the year in the country, but I'd like to believe the weather forecasters saying the cold is brought by hanging amihan coming down from the North. I hope it lasts, ushering in a cold Christmas season so extremely opposite from last year's. For I'm just starting to enjoy my lauya.

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Tinolang Native na Manok
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