Rice Dumplings in Coconut Milk (Ginataang Bilo-Bilo)

Yesterday's Festa della Donna (International Women's Day) was more special and sweeter than usual.  My 3-year old daughter has joined the festivity and has embraced the day with so much fervor that Christmas pales in comparison. She and her older brother had been waiting for it in anticipation.  Her brother's interest was piqued because he was making a little card project in school to commemorate the occasion. She, on the other hand, knew that it was a celebration of females and it includes her.

She had been classifying the females and males in the family continuously and reminding me that it will be our day soon.  It was strange to share Women's Day with another female in our little family.  

Yellow mimosa flowers are the symbol of Festa della Donna in Italy and all women receive them.  Even some shops would hand them over to the women on this day.  It is also the day when all restaurants are crowded with female diners as the day needs a good meal to celebrate it among other female friends and family.  However, I have heard more than once that it's too noisy to eat out on this very day because women tend to be more talkative than men.   

Yesterday, like every year, my husband handed me a bunch of yellow mimosas.  But I was surprised to see a second one.  It was for our daughter and it was her first time to receive a bunch of fresh flowers.  I wish I was able to capture her bewildered expression and look of surprise with the camera.  It was one beautiful moment we shared.  Our mimosas are in a vase in the kitchen and everytime she stops and looks at it, she has to look for her father and thank him profusely for the beautiful flowers he gave her.  I wish it was Women's Day everyday to see such happiness in a child.  

I prepared this traditional Philippine sweet snack yesterday and while I was making the little balls, my daughter was in front of me, blabbering about everything and shooting me so many "whys".  It's the age!  It was nice to share that part of cooking with her because I am hoping that one day, she will also pick up what I had been trying to show her.  She and her brother will never know these Philippine dishes at all if I don't expose them to this cuisine in our own house. 

This dish is normally eaten as a snack in the Philippines, rarely as dessert because of its heaviness.  The soft and chewy rice dumplings play the main role in this delicious sweet snack  cooked in coconut milk.  Some fruits like saba bananas (or plantains) and jackfruit (also bottled or canned) are added.

Just remember that when buying the flour, get the glutinous rice flour, not the rice flour. I spent a useless and very dissatisfying morning once trying to understand why my rice dumplings were coming out like stones.  A friend pointed out to me the difference between the two.  In some of the pictures, I used grated panela (unrefined whole cane sugar) and black sesame seeds as garnish.  They are purely optional. 

Have a wonderful weekend!


Rice Dumplings in Coconut Milk (Ginataang Bilo-Bilo)

Serves 4

Rice Dumplings (Bilo-Bilo):
  • 1-1/4 cups glutinous rice flour (not to be confused with plain rice flour)
  • 1/2 cup water

Coconut Milk Stew (Ginataan):
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup  tapioca or sago, soaked an hour before use and drained
  • 2 ripe saba bananas (or plantains), round slices (optional)
  • 1 cup jackfruit (can be optional if there are bananas)
  1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil.  When it boils, mix in the tapioca and cook over low-medium heat for 15 - 20 minutes or until they are cooked through.  You will know this when the tapioca turn completely transparent.  Drain.  Rinse them under cold running water while in a sieve the drain again.  Set aside.
  2. In a large pot over medium heat, bring coconut milk and 1 cup of water to a boil.  When it boils simmer on low - medium fire.
  3. Add the rice dumplings then cook for another 10 - 15 minutes.
  4. Add the tapioca, bananas and jackfruit.  
  5. Add the sugar.
  6. Check the sweetness of the coconut milk and adjust the sugar if needed.  The rice dumplings are cooked when they are soft and chewy. 
  7. Serve warm not hot.