Last month I was craving for a bowl of ginataan. It was rainy, it was cool and a bowl of warm, and creamy sweet ginataan would have been perfect. A few weeks ago though, the temperatures rose and we officially welcomed summer, but I was still craving for this Filipino classic dessert made of gata (coconut milk), sugar, and a variety of fruits and tubers. For such traditional Pinoy dishes beyond adobo, I turn to my mom for help.
As my mom loves to cook and hails from Bicol, a place known for its ample use of coconut milk (not to mention, chilies) in its dishes, it made sense to ask her for help. She made the coconut milk, I rolled the glutinous rice into balls (bilo-bilo), we sliced the saba (plantains), kamote (sweet potato), and gabi (taro). There wasn’t any langka (jackfruit) in the market place and we dispensed with the sago or tapioca pearls. Then we got cooking.
The smell of boiling coconut milk, sugar and all those other ingredients took me back to those summer afternoons in my dad’s hometown in Pampanga, when we would go to my uncle’s house for fiesta, watch the catfish swimming in a shallow container of water before being cooked for lunch, cooks standing over big pots of stews, baskets of tibok-tibok, and my older cousins chatting and making bilo-bilo for the ginataan. You make bilo-bilo by adding water to powdered glutinous rice, mixing them together until they get this soft, sticky texture that you can roll into a ball. My older cousins would do this while the cooks teased if everyone had washed their hands or how the ginataan would be so much tastier with so many little fingers making those small rice balls.
It was always tasty. The coconut milk boils to this thick consistency and sweet smell and my eight-year-old self would only eat the slices of plantains and the mochi-like bilo-bilo and sago. Decades later I’ve learned to love kamote. Gabi, I still only love you in sinigang.
So how to make ginataan: If you’re going to make your own coconut milk, you press the grated meat of one mature coconut (brown husk) with a cup of lukewarm water; set aside this first pressed milk. Then add another cup of lukewarm water to the grated meat, press and you have the thinner second pressed milk. Boil the second pressed milk with 2-3 cups of water. Once it boils, put the slices of taro, let it simmer, followed by the sweet potato. Put the bananas, the bilo-bilo, and the sugar. Pour the first pressed milk and let it cook. Breathe in the smell, fill up a bowl and satisfy a craving. And yes, I still suck at writing recipes. (If you want to follow a more precise ginataan recipe, you can refer here–it includes langka and sago.)