This week we decided to do one of the traditions that Nephi grew up with in the Philippines! Every year at his family reunion near Halloween, his Lola would gather all the kids to make bilo bilo, otherwise known in his province as tambo tambong!
I loved hearing all about this tradition, and knew right away that I wanted to start bringing it into our family too. The dish is kind of a warm, sweet, soupy dessert with a coconut milk base, and it is sooooo yummy!!! The best part, in my opinion, are the little balls of dough put into the dessert made of glutinous rice flour and water. So easy, and this is really the fun part for all the kids; to make all the little balls of dough! Take a look at these ingredients!
Like lots of family recipes, the ingredients will vary depending on who makes it, but this is what Nephi's family uses! (Sunflower not included, haha). You will need glutinous rice flour to make little dough balls, canned jackfruit, plantains, sweet potatoes, canned coconut milk, tapioca pearls (whatever size and color you like!), and last but not least, sugar to taste! All of these ingredients can be found at your local Asian market!
First, you mix some of the glutinous rice flour with water, a little at a time, until you have formed the consistency of a soft clay or play dough.
Next is the fun part! Everyone sits at the table to roll little balls of dough for dropping into the coconut milk later! It's so fun for the kids (and adults too, haha). Nephi said when he was little he would always get in trouble for making different shapes and sculptures out of the dough rather than balls, but his Lola would always stick up for him, and tell everyone to let him be creative! I thought that was so sweet. Eddy was cracking us up, because I had all the kids wash their hands before we rolled the balls, and all of a sudden he asked so cutely and innocently, "Why are mine so dirty??" I looked and his had little specks of black dots in them! Haha! My little Pig-Pen! ;) We got rid of those ones and had him wash his hands again!
After those are done, it's pretty much the adults' job now to boil and mix everything together! Start by boiling water for the tapioca pearls. Boil them until they start to look translucent, and then they're done! Drain the water and set aside.
Next, slice your jackfruit into thin, string-like pieces! If you haven't already, make sure you also peel and slice your sweet potato and plantain into small cubes.
Now you need to boil two cans of coconut milk. Stir it every once in a while so it doesn't start to burn in the pot! Once it's boiling, add the sweet potatoes and plantains. They should start cooking first since they take a little longer than the other ingredients.
About five minutes later, add the tapioca pearls and jackfruit. Then you can add sugar to taste! I think we ended up putting about 1/2 cup to a cup of sugar.
Now you need to add one more can of coconut milk, and it's time to start dropping those doughy balls of goodness in! Make sure you drop them in one by one as you're stirring slowly, otherwise they will clump together.
Time for a taste test! Try the coconut milk to make sure it's sweet enough for your liking. Nephi and I basically had the exact same reaction to this part, and it looked a little something like this... ;)
We both loooooved the sweet coconut milk... Our kids, not so much, haha! We'll definitely have to train them, ;) because their reactions looked a little something like this...
Eddy gave it a little more consideration than Leo, but still...
Haha! They were sooo cute! Now just wait for it all to come to a boil once more... maybe take a dance break!? We were listening to Filipino folk music, and Nephi and I decided to practice our tinikling! ;)
I know I look 100x bigger than Nephi... it was the angle, I swear! Haha! This dance is supposed to be done while dodging bamboo sticks, but we had fun pretending... ;) Fun fact: I actually learned this waaaay before I met Nephi because of a school world culture day I had in elementary school! Anyways.... back to our bilo bilo!
Once it has come to a boil again, turn off the stove, and it's ready to eat! It looks like some kind of savory soupy gravy, but it's not! Haha! Now it's time to enjoy with all your loved ones! (Leo even gave it another shot... ;) He didn't like it still... but I was proud of him for trying again!)
If you're Filipino and know exactly what this is, is it also a tradition of yours to make it with your family? Do you like it?? And do you usually eat it at this time of year, or at any time??? I'm curious! If you try this, especially for the first time, let us know what you think in the comments below!
Photos by Carolina Ashworth