My all-time favorite Filipino dessert dish is Biko – a sticky rice dessert that is sweetened using coconut milk and coconut cream with a hint of orange. As a kid, it was one of those treats that I only ate when my parents took me to gatherings at Filipino parties. For nearly 10 years I have been searching for a recipe that I could make on my own so I could have this treat any time I desired. Finally, I found a suitable recipe that satiated my need.
A few weeks ago I came across a recipe at DeliciousAsianFood.net for sticky rice. It calls for only four ingredients. This dish, while it does take some time since you have to make sure the rice and coconut mixture doesn’t burn while on the stove, is well worth it. It’s also quite similar to a recipe that I learned about five years ago.
While working on a documentary about Filipino food for Emerson (yes, a documentary that is still yet to be completed – although that is a completely different story), I interviewed a Filipino-American family in Milwaukee. Mom, was born in the Philippines, but her husband is from the U.S. and met his wife while working as a missionary. They have three children. Mom’s mother, “Nana,” now also lives in the U.S. The family uses food to tell the children about their rich Filipino heritage since the children have yet to visit their mother’s homeland. I was lucky enough to be welcomed into this gracious family’s home and learn some of their recipes from the Visayas region of the Philippine Islands.
One of the dishes that Nana showed me how to make was Biko. Even though she didn’t speak much English, food is a universal language. It was easy to understand what she was trying to say about the ingredients and what to do. Her recipe for sticky rice was quite similar to this recipe that I just found. When I recently found this online recipe, it reminded me of the time I spent with this family and how much we pass along to future generations through food.
Food is a natural story-telling element. Each family has their own ways of producing recipes and traditions. For instance, in an Italian family, no red sauce is probably the same. Some say you need “x” amount of this ingredient, while others would say that it’s a no-no. Because of those traditions, it gives each family their uniqueness, and it stems deep into that part of our memory that takes us to a place that recalls a simpler time.
One of my favorite things to do is wander around the Asian grocery stores. While Milwaukee doesn’t have the supermarket-esque Super 88 grocery store that I came to adore while living in the Allston neighborhood of Boston during grad school, there are a few smaller Asian grocery stores that still have fresh produce and trans-Pacific items that I can’t find in the traditional big box markets. Here’s a video of the Super 88 and why I fell in love with it:
Whenever I walk into an Asian grocery store I always feel like an outsider. I don’t look overly Asian even though I’m half Filipino. I think more people would peg me as being Mediterranean before Asian. Still, I like the adventure that is always in store at the Asian grocery. I love being able to pick up the thick-skinned prickly fruit that looks like a puffer fish, hearing the different languages from shoppers and filling my basket with treasures to cook in my bamboo steamer.
The aisles of the grocery stores are tightly packed with items that I don’t recognize the writing on but I can gather that some are oyster sauces, some are noodles, some are remnants of livestock that have been frozen or pickled. As I travel up and down each aisle scanning the contents, I’m taken to a completely different time and place. For other people walking the aisles, they’re taken to a familiar place. The items they place in their carts remind them of home – the land they left. I wonder to myself, “What’s his/her story?” and “What brought you here to this country?”
Warning: This may not be good for my faint-hearted, or faint-stomached, readers.
My dad invited me to a picnic with a bunch of his Filipino buddies today. I LOVE going to Filipino gatherings. There’s something so familial about the fellowship and the heritage, not to mention how good the food is.
Being raised by an American mother and a Filipino father, I had the best of both worlds in regards to my food upbringing. My mom loved her braunschweiger and chipped beef on toast. My dad would have us eat pancit (a noodle dish) and adobo (marinated meat, in our house usually chicken or pork). There has always been this fine line that I have walked as a second-generation Filipina. Not quite sure of which world to be a part of.
As time has gone by, the Filipino food is the one thing that has truly resonated for me. It has brought me closer to my heritage. I haven’t had the chance to visit the Philippines so the foods that I try are the closest I have been to the Asian archipelago.