Saturday, March 5, 2011

B for Bico

In the Philippines aside from being  present in every meal , rice is often cooked and prepared as a dessert or snack. To make these sweets , sticky rice or malagkit is used. It could be in grains or powdered and grounded forms.  We call it Kakanin  from the word kanin which means rice and kain meaning to eat. Often cooked in coconut milk and sugar, some  are packed in banana or  coconut leaves  rendering rice their own unique flavors.These native delicacies are a sight to behold. Some are packed in such an intricate way. It's a shame I never really learned how . Well, not too many young  people ever bothered learning it, as a matter of fact. I guess being in a  company of ol' aunts and grannies while tackling heaps of banana leaves is not their idea fun anymore.   Let's just hope , this skill  will not be forgotten and lost. On the other hand,  Google is just one click away (^_^). Versions of how these kakanin are made  may vary from region to region. A few could even be seasonal, eaten only at a particular time of the year. In general however, they are abundant all over Philippines.

To be honest, I never cooked  kakanin before. Just like siopao , one can buy it anywhere  and few kakain vendors  even try to sell their products at homes ,pizza-delivery-style minus the scooter. Often carried over the head in a container mostly made from woven baskets, it is delivered to people's doorstep still pipping hot.Vendors tend to stick to one recipe and invest a lot of time and effort in perfecting what ever goods they made. Kakain unlike Pizza are quite cheap and what do you know, way healthier too!

Being away from home has it advantages. When homesickness sets in , it leaves people no choice but to try making things themselves  . Cooking these comfort foods reminds us of home somehow. Luckily, most kakanin are not too difficult to make, although wrapping is tedious and must be taught on hand. Few could be made requiring nothing but a good pan , steady hand and lots of  endurance since one might end up stirring contents of the pan for hours! Here is one Kakain anyone can do.

Baked Biko

Cook 500 g of sticky rice in about 1 L of diluted coconut milk. Keep stirring the mixture as it has more tendency of sticking at the base of the pan compared to other kinds of rice. Well, it will not get its name sticky for nothing.

Add in about 200 g of brown sugar. Cook rice until al dente . Takes about 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Back home, a special kind of brown sugar,Mascovado, which is darker in color and somehow courser in texture compare to regular brown sugar is used in many kakanin such as this. Aside from imparting its own strong flavor, mascovado also give kakanin its typical caramelized gloss.

Once the rice is almost cooked but still has a bite to it, transfer it to a buttered baking dish. Originally, Bicos requires no baking.  It is cooked without ceasing from constant stirring. Since the whole mixture is on the dry side and sticky rice is not the easiest  thing to toss and turn, making Bico is  hard work especially if made in huge quantities. I'm glad I only have to feed FF.

I then made coconut custard by mixing a whole can ( 400 ml)  of condense milk and same amount of coconut cream. Bring these liquids into a boil stirring constantly using a wooden spoon. There seemed to be quite a lot of stirring in this dish, no? Anyway, don't worry if the mixture sticks to the pan . Cook the custard under medium heat until gooey . Pour the mixture over the Bico and spread. Bake at 180° c until custard turns golden and  bubbles start to appear around  the edges of the baking dish. The brownish spots makes it look more appetizing.

When the biko is done, set it aside to cool and  to make it  easier to cut into serving portions. Eating it warm is still the best though  so cold Bico could be warmed  in the microwave. A minute will do.

Now here the best part, before you do the dishes, scrape those crusty caramel custard from the pan! I learned from my grandmother that things that cling to the pan tasted much better than they look . I have a vague reckoning of her always scraping the tutong from pots and pans. It's a tradition I happily handed down to FF. He is now a tutong King! Way to go tiger!

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