Foods for the soul
A TASTE OF LIFE - Heny Sison (The Philippine Star) - April 9, 2020 - 12:00am

On this Holy Thursday, two Bible passages resonate with me.  The first is John: 6:35: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

The second is Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

For someone like me, who works around a tight schedule, manages time and works on meeting deadlines, the global pandemic has humbled me into learning that there are situations I cannot control.

My school is closed, our restaurants are closed, our family is not complete at the moment — with the eldest daughter working in New York — and we rely heavily on going online to be connected with the people we love.

In this time of uncertainty, I am just blessed that we are all safe. I humbly face this new challenge to go through each day, thankful for everything we have, and value what matters most, which is family. I am hopeful and prayerful that this soon will pass. I have realized at the end of the day it is our faith that will see us through these trying times.

The situation has given me the gift of free time to be reflective and more mindful. I have more time to test recipes I put on hold and spend more time cooking for my family at home.

Come Easter Sunday, I will prepare two simple recipes that I would like to share: our family recipes of ukoy and ginataang bilo-bilo in honor of cherished times I spent with my mother, whom I vividly remember prepared these comfort foods for me every time I longed for them. The recipes are easy to follow and the ingredients are all available in the market.



100 grams kamote (sweet potato), julienned (1/8” x 1/8” x 2 1/2”)

100 grams kalabasa (squash),  julienned (1/8” x 1/8”x 2 1/2”)

100 grams carrots, julienned (1/8”x 1/8” x 2 1/2”)

100 grams Baguio beans , sliced diagonal thinly

200 grams small shrimps, unpeeled

75 grams cornstarch

1/2 cup water, or enough to dissolve the cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon sugar

salt and pepper to taste

cooking oil for frying


Put the cut vegetables and shrimps in a large bowl. Set aside.

Dissolve cornstarch in water.  Add into the vegetable mixture. Season with salt and pepper.

Heat oil to 350-390 °F.

Scoop the mixture into a round perforated ladle. Drop in hot oil. Deep-fry until golden in color.

Drain on wire rack then transfer to another wire rack.

Serve while hot. It can be served with a mixture of vinegar, salt, ground pepper, and chopped siling labuyo (cayenne pepper).

Ginataang Bilo-Bilo


120 grams glutinous rice flour

130 grams water

150 grams ube (purple yam), peeled, cut into cubes

3 cans (400 ml) coconut milk

1/4 teaspoon rock salt

260 grams water

100 grams sugar

3 pieces pandan leaves, tie in a knot

150 grams cubed gabi (taro, 1/2-inch cubes)

150 grams cubed orange kamote (1/2-inch cubes)

230 grams banana, sliced diagonally 1/2-inch thick

75 grams ripe langka (jackfruit)

150 grams cooked sago, big


To make the bilo-bilo balls: Put glutinous rice flour in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add 130 grams water. Mix well until a smooth paste is formed. You may add additional water if the mixture is still dry because some glutinous rice flour will require more water. Roll into 1/2-inch balls (makes about 50 pieces).

Put the cubed ube in a medium saucepan. Put enough water to cover the ube by two inches. Boil until fork-tender. Set aside. (I cook the ube separately to prevent the sauce from turning violet when it’s added to the mixture).

Combine coconut milk, salt, water, sugar, pandan leaves, gabi, and kamote into the pot.  Bring to a boil.

Simmer and stir every now and then to prevent scorching.

Cook gabi and kamote until fork-tender.

Add bilo-bilo balls and banana. Continue cooking until cooked through.

Add the cooked ube, sago and langka.

Continue cooking at a simmer until coconut milk is creamy but not thick.

May the coming Easter be meaningful for us. In these trying times, may the best of us shine through as we stand strong in faith and love.

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