Cassava Delights
Elena Peña (The Freeman) - May 24, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Cassava is quite a versatile root crop. And the country is fortunate to have it in abundance. Filipinos have a lot of ways making it into delightful food, the simplest being by boiling it in whole pieces. If not that, it can be made into “puto,” cooking it by steaming.

In the past few decades, it has also been made into cassava cake, a delectably novel improvement from the traditional uses for cassava that Filipinos know of. Indeed, with creativity cassava has various other food potentials for humans, instead of just making it into hog feed.

Cassava is a good source of carbohydrates and also rich in fiber. It is very filling in the stomach such that the right amount of either “balanghoy linung-ag” (boiled) or plain “puto balanghoy” (grated and steamed), paired only with either brown sugar or salted fish, would already make a full meal. The best thing of all, given its nutritional value and simplicity of preparation, cassava is very affordable; in the provinces, people may even ask for a few pieces for free from a neighbor if they themselves don’t have the plant in their own backyards.

While “Puto Balanghoy” has been one of country’s favorite native desserts dating back to many decades, if not a century or more, in the past, there has since been devised an enhanced version of it that sustains its popularity to this day. For some time already, the grated cassava roots cooked by steaming in a molder now come mixed with grated coconut and brown sugar.

Another way is to put muscovado sugar at the bottom of the molder before filling with cassava batter, just before cooking. It has a toasted sugar look on top when unmolded. To level it up further, some kitchen artists add a sweet, creamy sauce garnish or toppings.

The simplest way perhaps is by boiling it. The cassava roots are just boiled until fully cooked. Some people pour coconut milk over the cooked pieces just before serving; others dip it in caramelized sugar or whatever they can think of to pair it with.

And cooking “Puto Balanghoy” is simple, too, although nowadays it is often made to be more sophisticated (a.k.a. more delicious). The following recipe from www.mamasguiderecipes.com is an example of “Puto Balanghoy” made a bit more sophisticated than the traditional way of making it:

Puto Balanghoy

Ingredients:

½ cup Brown Sugar

1 pc Coconut, grated

1 kilo Cassava, grated (squeezed and dry)

1 cup Water

1 (300ml) can Condensed Milk

2/3 cup Pinipig, toasted combined

1/3 cup Desiccated Coconut, toasted

1 cup young Coconut Meat (buko), shredded

Procedure:

•In a mixing bowl, combine brown sugar, 1 cup of the grated coconut, and cassava.

•Put about ¾ cup of the cassava mixture in each molder, add some shredded young coconut meat and cover with aluminum foil. Steam for 15 minutes until cooked.

•Unmold to a serving dish and cover with foil, while cooking the rest of the mixture.

For the toppings:

•Heat water (not boil) and add to the remaining grated coconut and extract the coconut milk (make two extractions).

•Combine condensed milk and coconut milk in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring continually, until the sauce becomes smooth and thick.

•Pour mixture on top of the puto. Sprinkle with pinipig-coconut mixture on top.

Serve warm. Freshly cooked puto is also best served with butter.

CASSAVA
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