Recipe #41: GINATAANG HALO-HALO (ALFAJOR)

Ginataang Halo-Halo is another favorite Filipino merienda or minandal which is usually served as a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack. In my hometown, this delectable dish is popularly known as Alfajor. A warm bowl of this sweet delicacy can be enjoyed at a nearby carenderia, usually being served along side lugaw and other kakanin.

Root crops are the key ingredients of Ginataang Halo-Halo which easily fill your stomach and give you enough energy for a day’s work. Saba bananas and ripe jackfruit add an extra sweetness, and the sago and glutinous rice balls (bilo-bilo) provide a chewy texture.

Just an additional note, I personally find it challenging to prepare Ginataang Halo-Halo because I get allergic reaction while peeling taro roots (gabi). It gives me an itch that lasts for several days. Gabi is naturally toxic when raw, but its toxicity diminishes when cooked. What I do is I wear a plastic bag or hand gloves whenever I prepare the root crop. So, take extra precautionary measures as you might also experience the same discomfort.

Meanwhile, the glutinous rice (malagkit) dough is the same ingredient that we use in making Palitaw. Check out my Palitaw recipe to learn how to make the dough at home. When you shape it into small balls, it is locally known as bilo-bilo, which perhaps came from the Tagalog word bilog which means round in shape.

Just like many of Filipino dishes, Ginataang Halo-Halo can be prepared without one or two of the ingredients especially when they are not available in the place where you live. Check out Filipino stores in your area for canned varieties if you can’t find fresh produce.

Ginataang Halo-Halo

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Recipe #40: MINATAMIS NA SAGING (Kusilbang Saging)

 

On today’s recipe, we have Minatamis na Saging or Kusilbang Saging. If the word kusilba is alien to you, it’s the Tagalog word for preserves, as in fruit preserves, such as jams and marmalades.

Minatamis na Saging is mouth-watering and very easy to prepare. You will need this recipe to make Saging con Yelo. This is also one of the ingredients of our favorite Halo-halo. Personally, I like Minatamis na Saging served as it is.

Pro Tip: Make sure the saba bananas are super ripe, which means that most of the skin has already blackened. This is the best way to use saba bananas because they easily absorb the sweetness of sugar and the final product has a soft, yummy texture.

So, to make this sweet, simple, and short, check out the recipe below for Minatamis na Saging.

Minatamis na Saging / Kusilbang Saging

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Lola’s Kitchen Tips: Top 6 Essential Filipino Seasonings

Filipinos around the world love to cook and eat. But no Filipino kitchen can be complete without these basic seasonings that help us achieve that distinct Filipino flavor we have always loved. Here’s a list of the most common seasonings that can be found in a typical Filipino kitchen.

1. Salt 

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You can’t cook without salt. Well, technically you can, but who wants to eat bland food anyway…unless you’re on a salt-free diet. However, when we talk about Filipino food, or any other cuisine for that matter, salt will always be one of the key ingredients.

There’s more to salt than saltiness. Salt brings out the flavor of the food by combining the various tastes of different ingredients in order to create a flavor that makes every dish distinct from each other. There are many types of salt worldwide, but inside the Filipino kitchen, the two most popular types are rock salt and table salt.

Rock salt is cheap, easy to find, and natural. What I like about rock salt is its unique straight-from-the-sea flavor. Its coarse texture makes a great salt rub on fish and other meat to remove the unpleasant smell and to enhance the flavor. I prefer using rock salt over table salt when cooking because it makes the food tastes so much better.

Rock salt is not only great for savory dishes; it also perfectly complements the sourness and sweetness of food. That’s why I love sprinkling some on my fruits!

Table salt, on the other hand, is great to be placed on what its name suggests – on the table. I rarely use table salt for cooking because it has a stronger salty flavor which I personally find difficult to measure. Also, I find the flavor unnatural because it underwent certain chemical processes, especially if it contains enhancers, such as iodine, as an additional nutritional supplement. But just to give you an idea (in case you run out of rock salt), to substitute one for the other, my estimated ratio is 1 measure of rock salt to ¼ measure of table salt.

2. Pepper

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Pepper is the perpetual partner of salt. Although salt and pepper are not distinctively Filipino, these two seasonings will always be the most popular food enhancers in our kitchen, pepper being the top among the spices. It simply heightens the flavor of your food to a new level.

Like salt, there are various kinds of pepper, although in the country, black pepper is the most commonly used. What I would like to focus on is pepper’s different types of texture and their uses. We have three: whole peppercorns, coarsely ground, and fine ground.

Peppercorns are whole dried seeds of the black pepper plant. In Filipino dishes, peppercorns are typically used in cooking Adobo, Paksiw, and Nilaga.

Coarsely or roughly ground pepper is great for general cooking usage. I use this as a rub when marinating various types of meat. Its rough texture is effective in bringing out the natural flavor of the food.

Fine ground pepper is perfect as a table condiment to conveniently adjust the flavor of the food to your satisfaction.

Pound peppercorns with mortar and pestle or grind it with a pepper mill to produce fresh ground pepper at home. Take control of the fineness  depending on your needs. Better yet, bring home some bottles of McCormick Black or White Pepper for a hassle-free cooking. Now, it’s easier for you to achieve that special Pinoy flavor sans the tedious grinding and pounding.

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