Ginataang Bilo-Bilo is a warm, sweet Filipino dessert that has coconut milk and glutinous rice balls (bilo-bilo) as its basic ingredients. In Tagalog, Ginataang Bilo-Bilo translates to “done with coconut milk”. Considered a heated version of the halo-halo, it consists of other local fruits such as bananas, jackfruit, taro, corn and sweet potatoes (kamote).
What makes Ginataang Bilo-Bilo unique is that it is considered as a type of dessert soup because, like soup, it has many ingredients that make for good taste and texture. Below is a discussion of the common ingredients used specifically for the Ginataan.
Coconut milk – Unlike other desserts that use condensed and/or evaporated milk, Ginataang Bilo-Bilo uses pure or less saturated coconut milk. There are recipes that use other types of milk to add sweetness or dilute the coconut taste, however, if you want to make authentic ginataan, it is encouraged that you use the best and freshest coconut milk that you can find.
Bilo-bilo – Rice is the staple food in most Asian countries, including the Philippines. Products involving rice have proved common – rice flour, for example, is used to make rice cakes. In this case, flour mixed with water and additional flavorings are formed into balls (bite-sized pieces). This makes for a chewy, almost-nougat texture that goes well with the nutty coconut milk. In the regional recipe that we included below, Binignit, bilo-bilo is replaced with milled rice. Binignit is a Visayan dessert that is similar to Ginataang Bilo-Bilo although it tastes more like pudding.
Assorted fruits and/or crops – The versatility of coconut milk makes the perfect base for neutral-tasting fruits and crops to be part of dessert. Tart and citrus fruit flavors are avoided for ginataan because it will overpower the milk. Popular fruits used in ginataan are bananas (the saba or cardava variant), sweet potatoes and taro. Jackfruit makes for a subtle fragrance but its taste does not take from the coconut milk or the starch.
Tapioca. Commonly known as tapioca pearls or sago, they are made from cassava root. When the tapioca starch is extracted from the cassava are made into balls and are made into pearls. In ginataan, tapioca is made from sugar and placed inside the refrigerator to cool until it is ready to be mixed. For Binignit, landang (palm flour jelly balls) is used in the place of sago because palm flour is available.
Preparing the Tapioca Pearl
Preparation time: 15 minutes
- Boil two cups of water and 1 cup of sugar in a saucepan.
- When the water starts boiling, add the tapioca pearls and keep stirring until the pearls with a spoon to prevent from sticking.
- Strain the tapioca pearls and let it cool. Set it aside until dessert is ready to be assembled.
Optional: Ube halaya – Made from milk and ube, it is similar to pudding or sweet mash. It commonly accompanies dessert drinks and gives a sweet flavor. Because it takes some time to make, most ginataan that are done in a hurry do not include ube halaya. Authentic ginataan, however, adds ube as a last minute ingredient for a sweeter, creamier taste.
How to Make Ginataang Bilo-Bilo
Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Step 1: Place 1 cup of glutinous rice flour into a bowl. Add in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water and mix well until it forms a dough.
Tip: To make this recipe for more people, increase the water by 1/2 cup and the rice flour by a cup.
Step 2: Divide the dough into small pieces and roll them into balls until you run out of dough. Place the rice balls in a plate and set aside in a cool place or refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Step 3: With the remaining 1 cup of water, mix it in a saucepan along with 1 cup of coconut milk and 1/2 cup of sugar. Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of sweet potatoes. Put the cover on to simmer the coconut milk and soften the potatoes.
Step 4: Once steam is coming out, add another 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup of saba bananas, 1/2 cup of jackfruit and 1 cup cooked small tapioca pearls. Add the rice flour balls and let simmer. Mix well until the sauce thickens.
Step 5: When everything is thick and combined, add 2 to 3 tsps of ube halaya and mix until the ube is absorbed by the sauce. Turn off the heat and serve warm. Makes for 8 servings.
How to Make Binignit
Binignit is a regional variety of Ginataang Bilo-Bilo. Originating from the Visayas island, this recipe uses milled glutinous rice instead of rice flour formed into balls. There are also the additional ingredients of brown or Muscovado sugar and landang (palm flour jelly balls). The texture of landang is starchy (as the other ingredients used). Both glutinous rice and pre-made landang are available in local markets and supermarkets.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: 40 minutes
Step 1: Add 2 cups of coconut milk and 6 cups of water in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil for 3 to 5 minutes.
Step 2: Add landang and mix it well with the milk. Let it simmer for 3 minutes.
Step 3: Turn the heat to medium-high and add red taro. Cook for about 3 to 5 minutes.
Step 4: Afterwards, add the sweet potatoes and stir for another 3 to 5 minutes until soft.
Step 5: Add bananas and cook at the same temperature for 2 to 3 minutes.
Step 6: Add cooked tapioca pearls with the remaining 4 cups of coconut milk and the 3 cups of brown or Muscovado sugar. Mix thoroughly and cook on high heat with the cover on for 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm. Makes for 8 servings.
Ginataang Bilo-bilo is a unique Filipino dessert with a distinct taste. While there is no “right way” of making it, creating its authentic flavor is down to cooking it well. The measurements and cooking time are mentioned in the procedure to make sure of this. Depending on where you are when cooking the ginataan, ingredients can be improvised and replaced. The coconut milk, however, is essential. Enjoy this heated dessert while it lasts.