Anatomy of a Recipe: Ginataang Halo Halo

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.

The 614ortyPlatter: Make Your Way at the Holiday Buffet

The Columbus Commons decked out in Christmas lights

First off, I wish you and yours a safe and holiday season.  I think we, like most of you, are grateful that this year is on the way out.  Likewise, we hope like many of you that 2021 proves to be a hundred times better than this last year was for most.

Like Thanksgiving, the dinners centered around the December holidays (Christmas, Hannukah, etc.) will be different for many. Obviously, the (lack of) gathering of family and friends will prove to be the main difference, but for many, traditional meals might not be in the cards this year.

For us, the Filipino spread that my parents and siblings put out won't be an option, but we are making sure that some of the most beloved stuff (Polvoron Candies and Toblerone candy bars, for example) will be available for consumption.  But like Thanksgiving, we'll bring some new things into the mix that we may adopt for the holiday season in future years.

With that in mind, this week's playlist is also holiday-themed, with songs reflecting traditional foods from various celebrations, with an added twist or two in there to keep things festive (or, should I say, Festivus.)

Ten Is The Loneliest Number

The "Top 10 Instagram Accounts to Follow" proved to be
a little more complex than I figured initially

Recently, there was a "Top 10 Accounts You Should Follow" being shared among Instagram blogger accounts, mainly in their Stories feed.  I found I started this task numerous times (especially since some had shared my account on their personal lists) but I ended up stopping.

Mainly, I found myself stopping because, well, ten was just too few, too lonely enough a number to cover all the accounts I knew deserved attention.

This blogging bit has proven to be a longer-term hobby than I ever would've figured.  Since this started up in 2014, a lot of folks have appeared and disappeared from my various feeds - restaurants, bloggers, influencers, and just ordinary folks looking to seek out folks who knew a few things.  I've never been one who's actively sought out followers, so it's been a bit of a small miracle that gotten beyond the 2,000 follower level (and for all my followers, I thank you for tagging along with me - I do really appreciate it.)

There are similar bloggers out there who do this for fun, and there are those who make it at least part of their living.  There's no right or wrong way as long as it jibes with you.

So thus, after (I hope) a complete inventory of who I follow, here are the social feeds and blogs I really find helpful for navigating around Columbus and its food and drink scene.

The 614ortyPlatter: Time to Goetta On The Road

Cincinnati's Goettafest attracts thousands during a typical year

The combo of COVID and the winter months, when people tend to want to hunker up inside anyway, has many worried, if nothing else from the mental drag of feeling cooped up for what has been several months now for those who have been heeding the advice of experts the most. 

It's that aspect that inspired this week's playlist - admittedly, the focus for us in the next few months continues to be local in focus, but we can at least dream about traveling again. For us, one of the main treasures of travel to far off places resides in the cuisines and specialties of a particular city or region. 

Of course, Ohio has its own unique regional creations, from Buckeye candies to Cincinnati Chili to Ohio Valley Pizza.  Did any make our musical playlist this week?  Well, the photo might be a big clue to the answer, but you'll find we went well beyond the borders of this state to complete this week's musical culinary platter.

The 614ortyPlatter - Supporting The Locals


Take home food and cocktails, like this Fried Chicken and Fixings
from Ambrose & Eve, have been sources of joy for us this year

Like many others, we have been disappointed that our travels have been severely curtailed by the COVID pandemic. One small silver lining in that, however, is that the normal money we would've laid out during this time traveling for both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is money we can focus toward our favorite local businesses and eateries.  

Indeed, we have bought our share of local goods for both our own use and gifts for friends.  Of course, before the holiday season, we have done more than our share of takeout meals, with generous tipping and no use of any discounts or coupons - restrictions related to the pandemic have been incredibly tough on food establishments, bars and breweries, as well as the workers who have made that industry their living.  We also have arranged for pickup ourselves - the fees that many delivery services take from restaurants border on exorbitant at times.

A recently released report by the National Restaurant Association shows that over 110,000 restaurants and drinking establishments have closed their doors due to the pandemic, and that number is certain to increase with the winter months on the horizon.  I think many folks who have the financial means to help out already are doing their darndest to shop local as much as possible, so the question is ultimately will it be enough?  Sadly, I think it won't be for quite a few businesses we've come to grow and love, but we will continue to do our best to support when we can and as much as possible.

With that in mind, I wanted this week's playlist to be a tribute of sorts to the eateries who made this crappy year for most a lot more tolerable, and definitely a lot more tasty, and hope we get to see when things turn for the better.

The 614ortyPlatter: A Good Stiff Drink or Two

Granville's Three Tigers Brewing, one of the rare times we dined in this year

2020 has been one of those years where many have needed a good stiff drink or two to get through.  If the worst cast scenarios come to fruition in the during the holiday season (I'm personally hoping that isn't the case, but I have my serious doubts), a few more might be needed for some.

For adult-beverage imbibers in Ohio, this year has brought on a small improvement on your access to such in the laws allowing home shipment of beer by breweries and take-home cocktails by food establishments. Of course, missing from the equation is the large gathering aspect, but the opportunity to risk my own, or even more importantly, others' lives for the "privilege" of drinking a bucket full of cheap lagers is one that's easily declined by my household.

Of course, over-indulgence is not a good thing as well, and I imagine there is a little bit of that going on as well, especially with the isolation that this pandemic has brought on.  Thankfully, while this week's playlist may be about alcoholic beverages of all sorts, listening to them will only get you drunk with rhythmic vibes at most.