By Genevieve Caberte*

Eating is absolutely my passion. Well, I’m pretty much aware that I’m getting bigger, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. When I was at my highest pitch of craving for food, the word diet abruptly left my dictionary. I love to hear the growls and the knocks in my stomach. Whenever I can see food, my mouth will start to water and I begin to imagine how it will slowly catch the wants of my taste buds.

For 17 years of living in Negros Occidental, a place where sweetness never runs out given that it contributes to the country’s sugar industry is a great blessing. I love eating sweets and knowing that Negros Occidental is best known for panyam-is (dessert) with intense sweetness, no surprise I have so many great reasons why I love my hometown so much. Eating such delicacy not just satisfies my appetite; it also makes me feel the sweetness of my fellow Negrense. My ultimate favorite is kalamay hati.

Kalmay hati is a native kakanin or rice cake. It is made from ground sticky rice, sugar, mascubado, coconut milk and sesame seeds. It is brownish in color; it is very sticky that you will almost spend your whole time chewing it.

Kalamay hati is quite similar to the Calamay of Leyte and Bohol. Calamay, according to my friend Melanie who lives in Leyte, is less sticky than the kalamay hati. I guess that’s the very reason why our kalamay hati stands out. The unique characteristic of the kalamay hati in Negros, that is being very sticky, will make you enjoy eating it as you spend a long time chewing it, savoring its sweetness, as it sticks to your teeth.

When we were kids, my siblings fondly referred to the kalamay hati as snot because it has similar consistency. You know…kids. But come to think of it, kalamay hati is actually very delicious.

Oddly, my family enjoys kalamay hati as our breakfast almost every day. I used to accompany mama and papa to the nearby Burgos market every 4 in the morning to buy our food and native coffee. Although it was an everyday routine, it’s an exciting day for me.

Upon reaching the market, I would rush to Tatay Liroy, our favorite market vendor and get a pack of kalamay hati he always reserved for me. Tatay Liroy would always enjoy looking at me licking the kalamay hati as they stuck around my fingers. I would slowly enjoy it as if I’m counting the time my mouth opens and closes. Kalamay hati is actually sold with a cute plastic spoon but my family will enjoy eating it using our fingers, licking it because it is a lot easier and enjoyable too.
Oh, well it’s good to reminisce all those moments when we laughed at each others faces whenever the kalamay hati stuck on our faces down to our shirts.

Although our new home is far from Burgos market, and the routine of buying it every morning had changed, we always find chances that we can have it at least once a week because yes, until now we still crave for it.

During the holiday season of 2007, I spent my vacation in Tobao, Rizal, San Enrique Negros Occidental. San Enrique is 30 km away from Bacolod City. I was so surprised that this ordinary trip would make me fall in love even more with kalamay hati. In this place I met Nong Ontoy, my auntie’s friend who happens to be the supplier of the famous Bong-Bongs pasalubong center in Negros Occidental.

Nong ontoy loves to cook kalamay hati and I love to eat kalamay hati: a terribly perfect combination. I didn’t miss the chance of having a conversation with him as well as watching him cook the kalamay hati. Well. For the last 17 years, I just enjoyed eating this delicacy but I haven’t had the chance of actually seeing how it is cooked. I was so excited, imagining making it myself. I thought at first it was just very easy to prepare. After seeing the whole cooking session of Nong Ontoy, I realized that all the hard work put into the making of this delicacy was another reason for its sweetness. (I will tell you later why.)

Well I know that many of us wonder why such delicacy is named kalamay hati.. According to Nong Ontoy as told by some elders in Sn Enrique, the name originated from the way the kalamay hati was originally packaged.

Kalamay hati is traditionally put inside a whole paya (a pair of smoothened coconut shell) that are sealed shut by a characteristic band of red tape to emphasize that the paya is cut in half .The kalamay (sugar) refers to what is inside the paya plus hati, meaning half because literally when you open the paya the kalamay will separate.

In Banago, Negros Ocidental the vendors still sells kalamay hati in this traditional packaging. One vendor said that the essence of kalamay hati is in its traditional packaging. They sell the kalamay hati in this kind of packaging for Php 30.

On the other hand, Nong Ontoy does a different packaging. He uses plastic cups and containers instead of the paya. He said that this kind of packaging is easier and the customers of Bong-Bong’s are comfortable buying it in cups or bigger containers than carrying the whole paya.

I listed the ingredients as well as the procedures on how to cook kalamay hati during the cooking session of Nong Ontoy. I hope that you will enjoy cooking my favorite delicacy (perhaps to become your favorite too)

KALAMAY HATI

INGREDIENTS
2 kilos of pilit (sticky or glutinous rice used in rice cakes)
6 kilos of brown sugar
1 kilo of mascobado
½ kilo of sesame seeds for toppings (optional)

(This recipe can fill 40-42 pcs. of 250 ml plastic containers*)

PROCEDURE

• First. You need to wash the pilit. Make sure you wash it thoroughly. Put the pilit in a bowl and add some water (use the proportions you have with an equivalent amount of rice; for this recipe, you can use 1 ½ to 2 cups of water)

• The next step is to galling or to grind the pilit.

• The ground pilit is now ready to be mixed with the coconut milk (stir this mixture consistently for 45 mins.)
• After 45 mins., add the combined mascobado and brown sugar. Stir this mixture continuously for 45 minutes.

• The kalamay hati is now ready to serve. You can sprinkle the sesame seeds as toppings

I know it’s never that easy to cook such delicacy. You will most likely end up with muscle aches in your shoulder because you need to stir it for 60 full minutes! As the kalamay hati gradually becomes stickier and stickier, the harder it is to stir it. Nong Ontoy had actually developed muscles because of this .Though its hard to cook kalamay hati, the enticing aroma plus the delicious taste will made you forget your aching muscles. Sorry if I make you crave for it, but I can’t help to share this. As I tasted Nong Ontoy’s specialty, served hot, sticky and sweet…I could almost die, that I almost kissed him for such very delicious kalamay hati. “Amu gid na basta negros..aton gid ang pinakanamit nga kalamay hati,” (Of course, this is Negros..We have the most delicious kalamay hati.), he proudly told me.

Kalamay hati often reminds me of all the old good memories of my childhood. I will never get tied of craving for it and I still love sharing it with my family.

Kalamay hati had always been one of the reasons why we, the Negrense live with the spirit of sweetness.

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All about me*

* Genevieve G. Caberte. 17. Barangay Handumanan, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental. Broadcasting Communications student at UPV. 092071093720.
* Hobbies: eating, reading, engaging in spiritual activities
* Motto: Hakuna Matata
* Affiliations: Jehovah’s witnesses
* Dream: to be an evangelizer

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