|I yam what I yam - everything tuber at Columbus's|
Saraga International Market on Morse Road
Any typical Christmas, we would be in California with my relatives enjoying a number of treats, most of them of Filipino origin. With the pandemic short-circuiting travel plans, we spent our first holiday together back here in the Buckeye State, where we figured we might as well use the opportunity to start a few new traditions. Most of the food we had wasn't Filipino in origin, but we made sure to have a few things around (namely, Toblerone Chocolate Bars, which is considered a spendy sweet treat for the average family, and Polvoron Candies, produced here by local baker Uncle Giant) to remind us of California.
Even with that, I thought about what food item I'd be typically find at my family's meal gathering that 1) I couldn't get easily here and 2) whose taste I missed the most. After much deliberation, I thought of Ginataang Halo Halo (something my family nicknamed Bol Bol), a sweet dessert stew of coconut milk and assorted tubers and fruit, glutinous rice balls, and sago pearls.
But unlike the Pandesal I had made last, I did not have a written family recipe to lean on (all the recipe information is embedded in the minds of various relatives.) Thus, I would need to do my research on the Interwebs and take a swing with one of the recipes I found.
(My nod to folks who just want to get the recipe: scroll to the end of the next few paragraphs to the "More" jump and you'll get to the directions directly. However, like the pandesal, there were a few things I encountered that you might want to consider in making your own version of this dish.)
|Glutinous Rice Flour Balls ready to boil, with|
Ube, Langka, and Pandan extracts to add some color
In some ways, Filipino cuisine can be likened to one of those bowl places that are commonplace, where you start with a base and customize the way you want. The big difference in this case is the customizing is based on what's available in the region - even Adobo (considered by many to the national dish), which has soy sauce, vinegar, bay leaves and peppercorns at its base, can be modified with a number of proteins (pork, chicken, squid, etc.), additional spices (Yellow Adobo involves the very tasty addition of turmeric, for example) or enhancements such as coconut milk.
As it turns out, Ginataang Halo Halo (also known as Ginataang Bilo Bilo and Binignit, among other names) is equally customizable, with a number of tubers (sweet potato or camote, taro, purple yam are common), bananas (typically saba bananas in the Philippines, but various other plantains will work too), jackfruit, and sago pearls as common ingredients. For this first attempt ever, I stayed local and traveled to Saraga International Market to up some purple yams, sweet potatoes, taro, and two different kinds of plantains. My spouse had helped me out earlier by picking up the other needed ingredients (coconut milk, langka, and sago pearls.)
|Was going to go with the typical Horn Plantains, but I threw|
in some Hawaiian Plantains to mix things up
As I learned on this first-time ever attempt, preparing and cooking this dessert is done in several distinct stages. The tubers and the fruit (save for the langka) were a simple matter of peeling and dicing into medium-sized cubes. The dough making and then rolling the glutinous rice balls is also relatively simple, but might be the most lengthy process. Preparing the sago pearls is also very simple, but as you'll find out, this segment offers up a good time to get in a short break before the grand finale.
After much debate, I decided on the Foxy Folksy version of Ginataang Bilo Bilo, but as you will see, I ended up deviating a bit based on the ingredients I bought.