Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Lasang Pinoy 24: A Warm Pinoy Dessert for the Cool Hong Kong Winter

I've always enjoyed the entries to Lasang Pinoy, and being able to finally join thrills me no end. Lasang Pinoy 24 is all about coconuts, which is perfect because my mom ate tons of fresh young coconut when she was pregnant with me! They say that's how I got the shape of my head and my pale complexion. Thank goodness she didn't crave for niyog or I would have been born with rough, scratchy, fibrous skin, although a permanent "tan" would be nice-- if you believe in these things, of course.

Hubby is in love with anything that has gata (coconut milk) in it. We eat Bicol express, or ginataang sitaw, kalabasa, talong at hipon (long beans, squash, eggplant and shrimp cooked in coconut milk), laksa (a dish of Malay origin that we discovered in Singapore and greatly enjoy), and any form of curry, whether Indian or Thai, at least twice a month. Yet as much as I enjoy coconut-milk based savoury dishes, I wanted to prepare and write about a dessert. So I thought-- why not make an ultimate comfort food, something sweet and sticky that reminds me of my childhood, full of soft chunks of saba banana, cubed pieces of gabi (taro root), little bits of sago that give off tiny pleasant explosions in the mouth, and my favorite galapong (glutinous rice flour balls).

I was fortunate enough to find langka (jackfruit) at my favorite independent (i.e., NOT a part of a major grocery chain) fruit stand. The bananas will have to be sourced from Worldwide House, a building in Central where a myriad of Filipino stores can be found. These include banks, remittance centers, shipping companies, jewelry, toy, cd shops, convenience stores where one can get his daily ration of pan de sal, and where I get my weekly supply of calamansi. Even kamote leaves can be found in this House away from home! Add to that the local dailies, gossip magazines, tabloids, photocopy and photo developing services, toiletries and canned goods, hopia and other kakanins (native rice cakes and sweet delicacies) and you feel that you're back in Manila.

I digress though, from the topic. Maybe I'll write more about this special "House", whose neighbor Jollibee always smells of fried Chicken Joy, next time.

Gabi, sago and coconut milk I bought from the ubiquitous Wellcome Supermarket. As much as I'd like to squeeze my own "milk" from freshy grated niyog, it's hard to find them in HK when you need them so I resort to using canned ones. I'm not that happy with the quality and find them watery at times, but in a foreign country you try your best... and pray the results aren't too bad.

And I'm happy to announce that the guinataan we made was nice and thick, with the right amount of sweetness to it, the langka flavor shining through, the sago and glutinous balls chewy and delightful to eat. Next time I'll add some ube halaya (purple yam cooked until is it thick and pasty) for color and because it marries well with langka.

We enjoyed this for dessert during a gathering at our home, a dinner with fellow Pinoys. We really are a resourceful and hardy lot. We create memories of home in any way possible - through the food we prepare, the company we surround ourselves with, the music we listen to (we have many CD's of Pinoy artists), the jokes we share. I certainly felt comforted, and remembered my mom and mom-in-law's own delicious versions of this dessert. On a wintry evening in Hong Kong, which hasn't experienced the shivers in many, many years, we all felt the warmth, thanks in part to the versatile coconut.