Kamoteng-kahoy (cassava) is a root crop. Even if you’re not familiar with the root crop itself, you would probably be familiar with by-products of cassava. Tapioca balls (sago) are made from cassava. Tapioca starch is the best thickener for Chinese-style stir fried dishes. Cassava suffered from some very bad publicity two years ago when school children died in Bohol after eating maruyang balanghoy, a snack of fried cassava although subsequent investigations showed that it was the cooked snack that was the culprit, not the cassava itself.
Bibingka is the local term for cake. The term is more commonly associated with rice since most native cakes are made from rice. In regions where rice cannot be grown and where crops like corn and cassava are substituted, it is not uncommon to find native cakes labeled as bibingka. The cassava bibingka is one example.
The last time I cooked cassava bibingka, I made the mistake of boiling the cassava before grating. The bibingka wasn’t bad, actually, except that it was more like a pudding than a bibingka. I didn’t make the same mistake twice.
Making a cassava bibingka the other day was an impulsive decision. A vegetable hawker was passing by and calling out from the road early morning two days ago. We were out of vegetables so I went out and called out to him. But not only did he have fresh pechay (Chinese cabbage similar to bok choy), talong (eggplants), mustasa (mustard leaves) and kangkong (water/swamp spinach), he also had fresh cassava.
It only took me about three seconds to decide. I knew that grating fresh cassava was no joke but… I would manage. Half an hour later, I was in the kitchen grating the darn things. Four cassavas later, my arm was aching. I asked the househelp to grate another three. hehehe
This recipe is based on Nena Zafra’s cassava bibingka from Nora Daza’s Galing-galing cookbook. Who Nena Zafra is, I don’t have the slightest idea. I do know however that Nora Daza’s cookbook has been plagiarized because I found Nena Zafra’a cassava bibingka recipe in one cooking website and the recipe had been lifted from the book word for word.
When I say that this recipe is based on Nena Zafra’s cassava bibingka, I mean I didn’t follow the exact recipe. The seven cups of grated cassava that the recipe called for was too much for a household of five. So, I’ll just describe to you how I cooked my cassava bibingka.
I started with 4 cups of grated cassava. I mixed that with 1 cup of white sugar, 1/3 cup of evaporated filled milk, 1/3 cup of fresh milk, 1-1/2 cups of thick coconut milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, a pinch of salt and 1/4 cup of melted butter.
No, I didn’t use fresh coconut milk — I used powdered coconut milk which I dissolved in lukewarm water. There are instructions at the back of the pouch of powdered coconut milk as to how to make thick and think coconut milk.
I poured the batter into a square baking dish and baked the bibingka in a preheated 170oC oven for 25 minutes.
While the bibingka baked, I prepared the custard for the topping. I mixed together 3/4 cup of evaporated filled milk, 3/4 cup of fresh milk, 1/2 cup of sweetened condensed milk, 2 (level) tablespoonfuls of flour and 1 cup of thick coconut milk, again using powdered coconut milk. I cooked the mixture over low heat, stirring, until thick. Then, I added two lightly beaten egg yolks and continued cooking over low heat for another minute or so.
When the bibingka was done, I poured the cooked custard on top and used a spatula to spread it evenly. Then, I put it back into the oven, switching to the broil setting (top heat only). I cooked the bibingka for another five minutes or just until the top was lightly browned.
Cool the cassava bibingka for several hours before slicing to allow it to dry a little. The bibingka is sticky while hot and everything will just stick to your knife and you won’t be able to serve it nice little squares.
According to my husband, there was something wrong with my cassava bibingka. He said the custard topping should be as thick as the bibingka itself, and not a mere 1/4 inch. Or, he said, the bibingka should be only an inch thick. Bottom line is that he wants more custard.
At any rate, the cassava bibingka that I cooked the other day was just practice. I’m going to make another one on Sunday. My sister-in-law bought a new car and she’s having it blessed at the Antipolo Cathedral. My mother-in-law called up to ask if we would be home on Sunday. I told her we’d be here and I invited them to lunch. I plan to make a larger cassava bibingka for lunch on Sunday.