Wednesday, 6 April 2005

Biko Macapuno

Traditional biko in the Philippines consists of malagkit (glutinous) rice, coconut milk, sugar, and usually mashed cooked ube (purple yam). Whenever cooking the biko is suggested you could always hear the collective sighs of cooks nearby. For it is quite hard to do with the constant mixing and stirring involved to prevent the bottom from scorching until the malagkit is thoroughly cooked. It was a major undertaking each time biko is cooked. However, I heard that my aunt - Ate Letty - pre-cooks the malagkit to cut down the cooking time drastically and to have a more even consistency of the malagkit. Great idea, I thought and promptly forgot about it for years until I started making this.

In our gatherings among friends in North London, we would always watch out for Gemma G's biko. It is almost always sold out at the end of the party and people would include it in their take home bags everytime. I love the treacly-molasses like taste with just enough sweetness blended in. Gemma was gracious enough to give me the recipe though my first attempts were utter disasters. This is one of those things with very few ingredients but is quite tricky to make. If you're like me and your timing is off you either have a mushy, soft, overcooked biko or a hard, gritty one. Both not nice to have. The grains has to be whole and firm but cooked through something like an al dente pasta or a properly made Italian risotto or Spanish Paella. That is the goal of the whole exercise. So it is important that the malagkit is cooked or rather half-cooked, if not it will become mushy once you are done mixing it up with the sauce. Like most dishes I have in this blog, the ingredients here are borne out of what is available in the UK supermarkets. Therefore mashed ube is out and muscovado sugar is in. I must stress that you should use the latter to achieve that scrumptious taste. If not available, use grated panucha or if absolutely desperate use dark brown sugar. Good luck!

Biko Macapuno

6 rice cooker cups malagkit (glutinous rice)
5 rice cooker cups water
3 x 400 g  cans coconut milk
500 g  muscovado sugar
1 x 340 g  [12oz] bottle of sweetened macapuno (mutant coconut)
  1. Half-cook 6 cups of malagkit in a rice cooker using only 5 cups of water. As soon as the rice cooker switches from 'Cook' to 'Keep Warm' unplug it to prevent the malagkit from further cooking.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/375F/Gas Mark 5.
  3. In a wok or big frying pan, boil the coconut milk. Add the muscovado sugar, stir to dissolve and bring to boil. Add in the sweetened macapuno (including the syrup). Bring to boil again and lower heat. Simmer until thick - about 5-10 minutes.
  4. Add all the half-cooked malagkit to the wok and stir to mix well.
  5. Cook on medium-low heat while stirring from time to time until the malagkit is fully cooked (but not mushy and too soft) and the sauce has thickened and covers/clings to the malagkit grains well - about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Transfer to a baking dish; pat level. Put in the oven for about 5 minutes or just enough to dry out the top a little. Cut into squares and serve warm or cold.

[Optional] Although in my opinion this does not need any more garnishings, you may add the traditional topping for biko - the latik.

*To make latik: Boil a can or two of coconut milk in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add a pinch of salt and (optional) a tablespoon of sugar. Lower heat and simmer until the coconut renders fat and sediment sticks to the bottom of the pan. Once the oil renders and separates from the sediment, stir it frequently to keep it from burning. When the sediment becomes dark brown, remove from heat, drain the oil and scrape off the sediment. This sediment is now your "latik". Put about a 1/2 tsp mound of the latik on top of each of the biko squares. The coconut oil can be used for other dishes or as a natural body and hair moisturiser - but that's a whole different topic.

Variation: Add slices of sweetened langka (jackfruit) to the sauce together with the macapuno. This will make the biko more aromatic.

Note: A rice cooker cup is equivalent to about 2/3 cups.


Aloha_Doll said...

My great-uncle used to make biko for family get-togethers and it was always SOOOoooo good. He's no longer around and I could never quite get his recipe just right. My biko never firmed up--it was always a runny mess. When I read your recipe, the technique of cooking the rice to only "al dente" was an "A-HA!" moment for me! I just made a batch using your technique and the addition of some fresh ginger juice like my uncle used to make and it came out PERFECT! That tip made all the difference in the world! My family will be SO impressed when I show up at the next get-together with a batch of biko just like how uncle used to make. BIG mahalo for sharing!

celia kusinera said...

Hello Aloha Doll, glad you found the tip useful. I must say I haven't tasted biko with ginger juice. That's quite unusual taste for me, I mean in a biko. Happy cooking!


Aloha_Doll said...

Hi, Cecile!
Next time you don't have any macapuno, try a batch with ginger. I used a fairly fat piece about 3" long and put it through my juicer and got about 2 T of juice which gave the biko a very light, aromatic ginger flavor.
Alternatively you could grate the ginger, soak in a little water, and then squeeze out the juice using cheesecloth the way my uncle used to.
To enhance the flavor of the biko overall, I also added a little salt--about 1/4 tsp.
So delicious or "ono" as we say here in Hawaii! ;oD
Thanks again!