Countless people leave their homelands in search of another life.
They fly or sail or walk miles and miles but never actually leave their homes behind. For, once they land in their new land, their traditions often reveal themselves so clearly these travelers must attend to them. One way many immigrants do this is through food.
When Aurora sat on that military plane for her first ever flight, she was newly married and moving to the US. The rest was unknown. At some point, someone served her cereal and milk. Having never eaten such a meal, she opened the box, ate the cereal and then drank the milk. Her husband didn’t even correct her; though he’d surely had cereal at some point since he’d been recruited into the US Navy. This was her welcome into the culinary differences between the US and the Philippines.
That was over forty years ago, and today Aurora thrives off the various food options and farmers market offerings in her neighborhood just outside San Francisco. Like many folks back home, she has a true affinity for food. However, she also understands the importance of healthy eating, which she began in earnest about ten years ago. Along with her new relationship with kale and organic everything, Aurora toyed with traditional Filipino recipes until she created healthier version of chicken adobo, sinigang, ginataan bilo bilo , etc.
Back home, her family would buy ginataan from the market. Every ingredient was fresh, and the coconut only hours before had been hanging on a tree. Once in the States, Aurora did find ginataan in the market, but it was full of sugar. Once she decided she “wanted to be healthy,” she had to figure out how to make the dessert on her own, which she’d never done back home.
This is where the fun began. Instead of using sweet white rice flour, Aurora used brown. But it didn’t work, so she went back to white. She knew canned jackfruit was full of sugar and chemicals, so she opted for the vacuum packed frozen option. She tried a few different coconut creams but discovered the best is D’Best: no chemicals and incredible cream. Then came perfecting the bilo-bilo balls. It’s always taken forever to cut off and roll out each little ball. Until the day her youngest daughter, Arlyn, stood by her side and took over. Arlyn grabbed the paste, rolled it into a 1” thick log and cut 1” sections, rolling them into balls. Evidently ingenuity runs in the family.
These days, ginataan bilo bilo with fresh ingredients, less sugar and only D’Best coconut cream has become a family tradition. Aurora makes it for almost every family party, and sometimes you’ll even find all her daughters hovered over the counter rolling out bilo-bilo—laughing, talking and even squabbling a bit—inflections almost identical and sometimes in unison. All those years ago, Aurora left her home and made a new one outside San Francisco, where she’s thrives off “the livelihood, the weather and how people think.”
In her life and her cooking, she’s found her recipe: “no measuring, no counting.” And she has this recommendation for you: “Try it your way; put everything together and see what happens.” We think this is a great recipe for ginataan bilo-bilo and for life.
Aurora's Ginataan Bilo-bilo Recipe
This is a casual recipe with no exact measurements
**This is a double recipe and serves 10-12
6+ quart pot
3/4 box of sweet rice flour (brown rice flour won’t work!)
4 purple yam
18” fresh yucca root
2 plantain bananas
1 lb jackfruit (fresh if you can get it otherwise frozen—not canned!)
2 handfuls of raw sugar
2 cans of coconut cream (D’Best is the best option, no chemicals!)
Optional: fresh young coconut, shredded
Optional: fresh crushed anise seed (powdered)
Mix rice flour with water until you have a slightly dry paste (similar to pie pastry)
Roll paste into a log 1/2-1” thick
Cut a small section off and roll into a 1” ball
Boil bilo-bilo for 10-15 mins until it floats
Boil purple yam 20 mins with skin on to maintain purple color. Stick a toothpick through skin and flesh to ensure it’s done.
Add plantain bananas with skin on to pot with yam. Boil 15 mins
Cut yucca into 6” pieces and score skin with knife. Then, peel skin off. Flip cutting board over to avoid getting wax on yucca. Cut each piece into quarters and cut out thin core. Cut yucca into 1” cubes.
Boil yucca for about 15 mins. Poke with fork to ensure it’s done.
Save yucca water
Skin plantain bananas and yam and cut into 1” cubes
Cut thawed jackfruit into 1” cubes and add to leftover yucca water, boil to bring out flavor
Turn off stove
Add to jackfruit: plantain bananas, yam, shredded young coconut
Add two handfuls of raw sugar
Add two cans of coconut cream, stir well (be sure the stove is off)
Add bilo bilo
Stir it all together
Cover and let it sit for at least 30 mins (the longer you leave it, the more flavorful it becomes)
You can freeze it as well; just take out the bilo-bilo after it defrosts and heat in microwave to get it soft again.