November 17, 2007

biko (rice cake)

A favorite snack in the Philippines with many versions throughout Asia, this particular rice cake recipe was shared to me by our neighbor and close friend in Manila before I came to the US. She makes the best rice cake which has been a regular favorite of my family for years. I asked her for the recipe so that I can make it here whenever I get a craving for it. Glutinous or sticky rice variety is a Filipino staple which is often used to make snacks and desserts. There are many recipes that call for it like champorado (a sweet breakfast chocolate rice porridge), guinataang mais (sweet corn kernel porridge with coconut milk), other coconut milk based desserts as well as all kinds of sweet and savory dishes. I just used canned coconut milk which worked fine, but in Manila, we always have freshly grated coconut for the coconut milk extraction. It's quite convenient in Manila markets where they grate the coconuts, using an electric grater, free of charge as part of their customer service. There are actually two kinds of grated coconut from the market, one that's used to extract coconut milk and one that's served as a garnish. The kind that's intended for extracting the coconut milk is grated from mature coconuts and usually grated finer (oftentimes with fine bits of the coconut shell in it as a result of grating too close to the shell) but the kind that's used as a garnish is from young coconuts and a bit more coarsely grated. We also manually grate coconuts right in our home using a coconut grater gadget. The first step is to cook the glutinous rice. If using a rice cooker, measure 2 rice cooker cups of the rice. This will yield about 3 cups cooked rice. Then heat about 2 cups (or 1 can) of coconut milk over low heat, stirring often until simmering. Continue simmering until the coconut milk is reduced to about one and a half cups and slightly thickened. Then stir in about two cups (reduce amount to 1 3/4 for a less sweet rice cake) of brown sugar (I used 1 cup dark brown mixed with 1 cup light brown) and continue stirring until well mixed. Allow this mixture to simmer for a few minutes or until the sugar has blended in. Add the cooked glutinous rice and stir continuously until mixture is thick, separates from the pan and forms a mass. The longer you cook it, the better. Oil from the coconut milk will be noticeable at this point and consistency will be perfect. Spread the rice mixture into a banana leaf lined platter or pan. Smooth the top using a plastic or rubber spatula. For the topping, freshly grated coconut or "latik" (browned bits made from boiling coconut milk) may be used.

folding the rice cake mixture with a rubber spatula
in a non-stick skillet to a desirable thick consistency

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