RICE is an integral part of our cuisine. It has always been our staple food, along with millet.
It was much later when Cebuanos learned to eat corn. There are two basic varieties of rice, the glutinous variety and ordinary rice, which
we cook for our everyday meal.
We use the glutinous one for making sweet dishes and for heavy snacks or “painit.” These special sweet rice dishes are popular during Kalag-kalag, which we commemorate on Nov. 1 (All Saints’ Day) and Nov. 2 (All Souls’ Day).
As far back as pre-Spanish times, Cebuanos offered food as gifts
to the spirits of the trees and the land. The practice has continued through centuries, and one still finds it being done in mountain barangays. This, I think, is also the basis for placing food offerings on the altar for our dearly departed.
In cemeteries all over, we see food placed on the tombs during Kalag-kalag. A common food offering is Budbod, glutinous rice with coconut milk wrapped in banana leaf and steamed until cooked.
Another choice is Biko or glutinous rice cooked with latik, a syrup made of coconut milk and kingly or muscovado sugar.
Somehow the practice of offering food to the spirits has evolved into a gift for one’s neighbors. In the towns and outside the city, it is customary for a family to give neighbors a plate of biko or several pieces of budbod. Since every household prepares budbod
and biko, it becomes a veritable exchange of treats.
There used to be a tradition of giving the neighbor a whole native chicken cooked into Tinuwa with only tanglad or lemon grass as its aromatic ingredient. Very few do it nowadays. The chicken gift became suspect as chickens mysteriously disappear on the night before Kalag-kalag
and reappear as gifts of neighbors who do not even raise chickens.
Hence the most popular and least controversial gifts are budbod and biko. They are sweets made from rice, coconut milk and muscovado, ingredients which are abundant in our countryside.
5 cups glutinous rice
3 cups brown sugar
5 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups thick coconut milk
1 thumb-size ginger, smashed
Wash glutinous rice and put in a pot. Add water and boil until cooked. Set aside. In a big wok, combine the remaining ingredients, mix well and boil until thick.
Lower the heat and add the cooked glutinous rice. Mix well and continue cooking while constantly stirring until the mixture thickens and is heavy to handle.
Transfer to a plate or mold into small mounds and arrange in a platter lined with a banana leaf.
6 cups glutinous rice
1/3 cup sugar
6 cups medium thick coconut milk
2 thumb-size ginger, smashed
3 1/2 tsps salt
wilted banana leaves
water to fill the cooking vessel
Wash the glutinous rice twice, cover with water and soak for 1 hour. Drain.
Combine coconut milk, salt, sugar and smashed ginger in a wok. Bring to a boil and add the glutinous rice. Cook the mixture, constantly stirring until almost dry. Let it cool.
Prepare the banana leaves by cutting into 8×10” pieces. On each banana leaf, place 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture. Roll into a tube-like shape. Fold ends of the banana roll and tie by two’s with strips of banana leaf.
Arrange pieces in a deep kettle lined with banana leaves. Pour water just barely covering the surface. Cover and cook for 1 hour.
* Makes 2 dozens budbod