By pixie_dReam*

We Filipinos are very fond of pasalubong since it is one way of showing our loved ones that even when in another place, we still fondly remember them. This tradition of long ago still continues to thrive in this modern age.

Pasalubong may be in the form of ornaments, plants, or even musical instruments. But oftentimes, pasalubong come in the form of food. These pasalubongs become extra special when they are homemade, and use local ingredients.

All throughout the Philippines is a wide selection of kakanin like bibingka (hot rice cake topped with grated coconut), biko (rice sweets creamed with butter, sugar, and coconut milk), goto (rice porridge with ox tripe), kutsinta (brown rice cake), palitaw (rice patties with sugar, coconut and sesame seeds), pichi-pichi (cassava patties with coconut), puto (steamed rice muffins), puto bumbong (purple-colored sweets), sapin-sapin (three-layered sweets made of coconut milk, rice flour, and purple yam), and suman (sticky rice sticks wrapped in palm or banana leaves).

Indeed, a wide array of choices of Filipino delicacies is available for us food-lovers. Foreigners who visit our country never want to miss eating our indigenous cakes. They will be baffled at the kakanin varieties that have been developed from region to region. For instance we have different kinds of puto: puto bumbong, manapla puto, puto maya, puto lanson, puto gata, kalamay sa puto and a lot more.

Among the many delicacies I have tasted from different places, the one I love the most ever since I was a kid is no other than my very own Mama’s pichi-pichi. My mom prepares this for us especially when we celebrate birthdays and other special occasions. This has grown to be a “must” food when we hold family parties. Even my brothers and cousins love to eat my Mama’s pichi-pichi.

Not much has been written about the origins of pichi-pichi. Some claim that pichi-pichi originated in Quezon, a province in the Philippines known for their Pahiyas Festival celebrated every 15th of May. This yearly celebration is done by the townsfolk in thanksgiving to San Isidro Labrador for their bountiful harvest.

Today, a variety of pichi-pichi is available all over the Philippines. I have seen pichi-pichi of different colors: some are golden brown, others are pandan green, but most are golden yellow. The nice thing about pichi-pichi is that it is available all year round since the ingredients are abundant in our country.

You may think of pichi-pichi as a common delicacy. But this pichi-pichi my Mama cooks is really special. Let me share with you this recipe handed down by her own mother.

Pichi-pichi is a native cake made of cassava (kamoteng-kahoy in Tagalog and balinghoy in Hiligaynon.) An annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions, cassava is a root vegetable available in Asia and Latin America.

To prepare the pichi-pichi, the rough cassava skin is first peeled off with a knife or peeler after which, it is grated and soaked overnight in warm water. Another ingredient in making the special pichi-pichi is the pandan water. The aromatic pandan (pandanus amaryllifolius) is abundant in the Philippines. The leaves are used for its flavoring. In the preparation of the pandan water, its leaves must be boiled in water to extract its flavor. The pandan water is cooled before being added to the cassava and sugar mixture. The final ingredient is grated coconut which is used as garnish for the steamed pichi-pichi. Pichi-pichi tastes good when served warm. To others, pichi-pichi tastes even better when served cool.

The tasty pichi-pichi has already created a name of its own. This Filipino delight has always been and will always be a sought -after kakanin.

This special pichi-pichi of my Mama has already become our family favorite. Someday, when I have a family of my own, I will teach my children this food legacy.

2 cups grated cassava
2 cups sugar
2 cups pandan water
Grated coconut

? Combine cassava, sugar, and pandan water.
? Pour into two 9-inch round pans.
? Steam for 45 minutes or until set. Cool.
? Form into balls then roll in grated coconut.

Tip: By refrigerating it minus the grated coconut, the pichi-pichi can last for several days. Just add the grated coconut only when ready to serve. •