A desperate cook on weekends (who is missing a fully functional kitchen) and an Associate Professor the rest of the week, this blog chronicles my weekend culinary adventures in my hometown and the food I feed my family who scratches their heads when I make something unusual.
This Christmas proved to be a trip back to memory lane and a good one at that. I'm spending Christmas with my cousin and her family at Waukegan, IL and today, we stopped by a to-go place for Filipino food, a life-saver to most Filipinos here during this time of the year. It takes just one call and you can reserve a tray of whatever dish you want to serve for whatever party you may have. For me and my cousin, she bought a few dishes for dinner and also a few traditional snacks very common back home. When I say traditional, I mean made with traditional ingredients like coconut milk, coconut meat, rice or cassava flour to create what is truly a Filipino treat.
First up is kutsinta (brown rice cake). It is kinda gross looking if you do not know what this dessert it. A bit slimy looking as well and with the consistency of jello, this dessert is made with rice flour, lye (yes, sodium hydroxide) and sugar. This is traditionally topped with freshly grated coconut meat. Very, very tasty, I don't even dare make this since I'm really scared of using lye because it has to be in perfect proportion for this dessert to work. They make this back home with nary any measurement and the result is always a treat. This is one of those dying breed of desserts that is now relegated during the season close to All Soul's Day all the way towards Christmas. They are definitely available throughout the year but cafes serving cakes and pastry are favored most times of the year.
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Another traditional dessert treat is the pichi-pichi. A dessert also made with lye, this was a favorite of mine while still in college. Made with grated cassava and steamed in baking molds, this glutinous dessert is also a feast for the mouth. We had a research associate in the lab that lived in a place where they make this fresh everyday and we would request him to buy a big packet for us to eat when we plan stay overnight in the lab. Sadly, it never lasted until the afternoon since we kept eating it. It was just addictive.
For those who are adventurous enough to give this a try, here is a link which describes how these two desserts (kutsinta and pichi-pichi) are made. I'm not really good at making traditional desserts unlike my Mom but even she never tried making these as well. We just never really had the need to make them since they were readily available in most vendors in the market and it was just easier to buy them all ready to be eaten than to take the time to actually make these definitely time-consuming treats.