If you like sweet coconut treats, you’d probably like this one. It’s kind of like a coconut porridge with sweet tropical fruits, mild root vegetables and in most cases sticky rice dumplings. But before I go too far, yes, I did say root vegetables. Taro root and sweet potatoes to be exact. I guess as a child, I grew up just eating it and since it didn’t taste like any type of vegetable, it didn’t raise my flag that I’m NOT suppose to like it. The other fun part of this dish are the little rice balls, similar to dumplings. In Tagalog it’s referred to as bilo bilo. Made from glutinous rice flour they add a touch of sweetness and contrasting texture to the root vegetables with its tender stickiness. Not to mention that they are fun to eat. My grandmother had shown me the basics of making ginataang bilo bilo, rice dumplings in a sweet coconut stew. Just to be sure I remembered correctly, I googled the recipe for ginataan or ginataang to make sure I wasn’t forgetting any ingredients. I’ve used this basic recipe as an outline and modified it a bit by using light coconut milk and less sugar. I also don’t always add the bananas, but the jackfruit is a must in my book. I also like adding tapioca pearls, the big ones that you see in bubble tea, when I can find them.
So where do I start? It’s a pretty quick recipe once you have all the vegetables peeled and chopped and the Mochiko balls made. I usually start with making the dumplings. Kids can help too. Mochiko is a brand of japanese rice flour or sticky rice flour that can easily be found in most groceries that have an international aisle. I just measure out about a cup of the flour and add 1/3 to 1/2 a cup of water. Just enough to get a “dry” dough. You want it to be dry enough that you can handle, but wet enough that it holds together. When forming the balls, I wash my hands every so often to remove the excess. Otherwise it sticks to your hands making it impossible to form any type of ball. Once those are made, set them aside.
Peel and chop the taro root and sweet potatoes. Much to my surprise, taro root is pretty slippery… and slimy! Every chop up okra? That’s what it reminds me of. So be careful when handling them so that you don’t slip with your knife!
For the longest time, I thought jackfruit was pineapple. They are similar in that they have that brilliant gold color and syrupy sweetness along with a fibrous texture. Paired with coconut, it’s phenomenal. Coconut ice cream with jackfruit and crushed peanuts? Mmmmm…. I’ll have to save that for another post. For this I use canned jackfruit in light syrup, chopping up the fruit and saving the sweet syrup as an ingredient to add in place of some of dry sugar called for in the written recipe.
Once all the ingredients are prepared, mis en place, right? 😉 we can put the whole dish together. Simmer the light coconut milk with the dry sugar until it reaches a slow boil. Add the Mochiko balls slowly. They sink, so when you drop them in, be weary that it doesn’t splash back up at you. Gently stir occassionally to prevent the balls from sticking. Next add the root vegetables, jackfruit and syrup and let it simmer for another 10-15 minutes or until the veggies are tender. Serve warm. Yum! I have to be careful to make this recipe just a few times a year. I seriously could eat the whole batch myself! 🙂