“OMG, that’s so clever, so earnest, so simple, but so darned good.” That is almost always my reaction when we or someone in our office discovers another simple provincial delicacy or recipe that isn’t so common in the city anymore, and which I feel like we should all do something to save it from possible extinction. That’s the way I felt when I discovered buri cakes (the flour made from the central pulp of fallen buri tree trunks) that I have been hunting down a source of the flour for years to no avail, or the way I felt with my day with Manang Lima over 8 years ago when she taught me how to make her budbud kabog, or most recently today when I was shown how to make this simple but enchanting cassava cake. From the moment I was shown the cooking vessel, I knew this was something long-time readers would want to probably read about.
I am just posting the process first, as we aren’t totally happy with our version yet, and I do hope to be able to offer this in stores so that if people try it, buy it, and we continue to make it, maybe it will stay in our current list of local kakanins rather than falling off to the way side… Start with good cassava root, peel and rinse well. Pass it through the grating mechanism of a food processor (you can certainly hand grate if you prefer), then squeeze out the liquid and sift repeatedly through a large then fine gauge sifter. You end up with really fine damp cassava flour.
To the cassava flour add brown sugar (a nice deep dark brown sugar or muscovado that has been sifted) and some freshly grated coconut, not quite at its driest stage and not wet either.
Mix this by hand until you get a crumbly slightly damp consistency. I wanted to add some coconut or cow’s milk at this stage, but was told that was a modern twist and we should do it the traditional way first. :)
Meanwhile make some bukayo, which in these parts is large strings of coconut cooked with brown sugar. They look a bit like slimy worms but they taste wonderful.
Now starts the interesting part. Place a small palayok over a gas burner (or charcoal of course if you like) then place a “bao” or coconut shell with large holes cut into the bottom and seal in the steam so that a sort of pressurized steam pushed up through the ingredients to steam a cake. I think this was a simple dough that was used to encircle the bao and create a seal.
When the water is boiling, add some of the cassava mixture to the bap and cover it with banana leaves and steam for a couple of minutes…
…use a bamboo spatula to scrape the edges…
…add the bukayo to the center…
…cover with more cassava mixture and cover with banana leaves and top with something heavy like a pot lid and let this steam for a few more minutes.
Just when you think that’s really simple, then you have to scrape the sides, and with two bamboo spatulas, you have to turn this OVER! and steam that side so it cooks evenly. Yipes.
When it’s done, top with some latik and or more bukayo and enjoy. It was DELICIOUS, kind of chewy, moist and dry all at the same time. The texture of cassava is unmistakable, the flavor of coconut strong and it’s sweet. I don’t know why this isn’t available as street food in Manila. It wasn’t all that cheap, but it is oh so sustainable, local and right.
We are still testing variations, trying to figure out a less labor intensive way of cooking it (though a lot of the charm is in the cooking vessel) like steaming batches in a normal steamer (doesn’t work as well so far)… so this is a work in progress. But I thought I should record this process so it’s on the net somewhere, lest I forget. I strongly encourage all readers to watch, learn and record special recipes and delicacies from your neck of the woods to help preserve these for future generations, even if, right now, you are shaking your head at finding this cooking vessel at your nearest kitchen store.
P.S. Pls. no ribald comments about that last photo or two, I thought about mastectomies briefly as well. But banish the thought. :)