Sunday, October 2, 2016

making Ginataan out of nothing at all

If you like tubers and yams-you will make this dessert-snack dish.

In the Philippines, it's called 'Ginataan' (ghee-na-ta-an) and it's a noun at the same time a verb from the root word 'gata' (gah-tah) meaning "coconut milk". 'Ginataan' translated to English means "with coconut milk".

In my own dialect, the first letter A in the word would be U hence Bikolanos (from the region of Bicol) call this "Ginutaan" (ghee-nooh...)

Since it's autumn/fall here in the US-fall produce is in season especially sweet potatoes and yams, I thought I'd make Ginataan (in the photo below, it's that bright orange cubes).

Last month I saw this video of how to make Ginataan (Big deal-like I don't know how to make it!). In it the cook threw in a blob of Ube (ooh-beh) jam (cooked and mashed PURPLE YAMS with sugar) before removing the pot from the heat.

Ube or Purple sweet potatoes (or yams-depending from what part of the US you are) has just been recently grown here in the states. For some reason, it only likes a certain temperature and soil and for another reason-only 25% of Americans knows about purple yams and the 75% knows only the garnet (orange) yams. Oh look! there's also a "white sweet potato" too! I'm not even going into detail about it because I've wasted time and effort into making this produce available where I live to no avail and anyway-you are probably near an Asian wet market or organic grocery store-where they're ONLY sold, both I have no privilege of.

Well I found them in Hawaii (online). For 37bux, 12 lbs/free shipping-I went for it. It's been a decade since I last sunk my mouth on an ube. The old man married me because of these purple tubers; he loves these purple farts!

Purple sweet potatoes TEXTURE are like Idaho variety potatoes (dense & starchy), the mouthfeel is  creamy specially when mixed with butter or milk. The actual taste is subtly sweet and has a very faint peanut-y (almond or macadamia? Ok nutty!) taste to it.

Back to the video, the cook also added fresh, ripe jackfruit in the Ginataan.

When ripe, Jackfruit is so cloyingly sweet you would know that person just ate it since he/she will be emanating with jackfruit aroma! For someone who grew up with this fruit, (and to those who do not have any idea what it is) the taste and smell can be  described as "ripe mango-pineapple-ripe guava-banana" rolled into one. Get it now? 😉

I do not know when the use of jackfruit (Wikipedia said it's a "breadfruit family in line with figs and mulberry".) started to be added on Ginataan. IF this dish was created during the Spanish colonial times-methinks Jackfruit was a substitute flavoring/aromatics for "vanilla bean or extract" (since the Spaniards and high-profile Filipinos can only afford Vanilla in those times). More so I think it is a substitute sugar/sweetener by ordinary Filipinos-for the same reason that those goddamn Spaniards has all the perks when it comes to ingredients esp. sugar.

If Ginataan was created during the Precolonial times, then my best guess would be that all the ingredients in making Ginataan was just in season and semi-naked 'Pinoys' (Plural slang for a Filipino person.) at that time just want some reason to make use of all those 'kamote', (sweet potatoes), 'kasaba' (cassava, manioc, yucca), 'saba' (plantain) and 'langka' (jackfruit) to throw everything in a pot just so they can have something filling and delicious to eat. Of course-I'm making these all up. But what if it were true??? 😲 And Jackfruit really works!  

To make this story longer, I don't have jackfruit. Not even dried OR canned#$%^&* Not in this town. And for some reason still unfounded, Ginataan must have some sago balls (from a palm tree) or large tapioca pearls (cassava) in it. Devious amounts of it! Guess what? I don't have that either.

Since I was already committed into doing this project (I have all the tubers on hand.), I just went ahead and bought the large tapioca pearls and dried jackfruit online. But it was a big mistake since I have to wait for a week and my cooking spirit guides (or guide?) told me that I can make Ginataan w/o the tapioca pearls or even the jackfruit. They told me to use ripe guavas instead. But even this is a tropical ingredient. Where to find it? Canned in syrup. Luckily, a local grocery store famous for its bear claws (pastry), dirt cheap produce and sells predominantly Hispanic ingredients were selling canned ripe guava in syrup and so i bought 1.

Honestly-I never like 'bilo-bilo' by itself. So I thought of incorporating the ube in the 'bilo-bilo' thereby making a no-steam, purple yam mochi balls instead.

The recipe below is not the same as to how my Ma makes Ginataan. Hers does not have 'hinulog-hulogan' (translated to fall-fall or drop-drop) or in Tagalog, 'bilo-bilo'. It's rice flour formed into balls with a little water. Hers has "taro" in it-another tuber native to tropical countries. It gets glutinous when cooked. Imagine using another fork to disembowel a piece of taro from the other fork! My ma's Ginataan does not have sago bubbles or tapioca pearls. She says "those are luxury ingredients!" and believe it or not-no purple yam either. But nothing compares to her Ginataan because she really puts effort and love into it. It still turns out to taste like any other Ginataan! (I got so emotional up to this point-I ended up going to bed early.)

It has been a decade since I had Ginataan, purple yams and guavas!

Note: this recipe is just a guide. If you do not have purple yams, substitute with the sweet potato you have in your area. No glutinous/sweet rice flour? No need to add bilo-bilo either, just like how my Ma makes hers: just tubers and plantain. But if you want to make the 'ube bilo-bilo' (ube mochi) but don't have the ube, then use any available sweet potato. Substitute, substitute, substitute! The main thought of the recipe is the texture and flavor.

Makes 6 servings
1 recipe of ube bilo-bilo (after making into balls, refrigerate)

3 cans (14 oz) coconut milk
14 oz of water measuring from the coconut milk empty can
1 ½ cup sugar
1 large cassava (manioc, yucca), peeled and sliced in chunks
2 medium garnet yams, peeled and sliced in chunks
1 large or 2 medium Okinawan white yams, peeled and sliced in chunks
2 ripe plantains, chunks
1 cup cooked large tapioca (per package directions)
1 cup pineapple chunks, drained
3 Ripe guavas (from a canned guava in syrup), slice halfway and remove seeds; do not include syrup.
1 tsp. vanilla extract


1. Read the recipe and prepare ingredients. 

2. Using a large pot (at least 1.5-2 gallons), pour contents of 1 canned coconut milk in it along with the sugar and water. Stir and let it boil on high heat. When it starts to boil and bubble, lower the heat to medium high and keep stirring, 5 minutes.

3. Carefully add the cassava chunks and let it cook for 10 minutes. Stir. Add the 2 kinds of sweet potato. Stir. Cook for 10 minutes. 

4. Add in the plantain, tapioca pearls, pineapple chunks and guava. Stir. Cook for 10 minutes. 

5. Drop the ube bilo-bilo and vanilla extract. Stir. This will thicken the Ginataan and make it pink. Continue stirring but slowly-making sure you do not macerate the tubers but especially the already cooked and soft guava. You're not making a pudding. 6-8 minutes

6. Remove from heat. Enjoy hot or cooled down to warm.