A friend of my aunt from Italy was invited to stay with us for Christmas. Before he came here, my aunt prepared a lot of pasta and Italian food for him to consume during his vacation. While we were dining together, the Italian tried Filipino food, but still couldn’t survive without his usual Italian meals. He was astounded by how Filipinos consumed rice. He wondered why we never get tired of eating it. Filipinos eat viand with rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Moreover, rice is still present during dessert and afternoon snacks. White rice is the most commonly consumed during meals, while the sticky or glutinous rice is used for desserts.
I told the Italian why Filipinos loved rice. I explained to him that even though rice doesn’t have a rich flavor, it still has that distinguished taste that enhances food that are mixed with it. I also told him that Filipino dining is not complete without rice. The Italian got more skeptical when I told him that rice still plays a big role during desserts. I was challenged by his disbelief, so I went out and bought him different kinds of rice desserts available in the country.
The most loved rice dessert that I know is “biko”. It is cooked sticky rice with coconut, sugar, and a caramel topping layer. It is always present in family gatherings, fiestas, and other celebrations. It is considered as a simple but special dessert and an all-time favorite. The Italian liked it but commented that it was too sweet for his taste buds.
One of my favorites is “sapin-sapin”. I like the layers and colors and the “ube” flavor that is added to it. The purple layer is flavored with a root crop called “ube”. It is not as sweet as “biko” and has a very pleasing soft texture. It became one of the Italian’s favorite too.
Another loved rice cake is “kutsinta” what is special about it is the fresh coconut shredding topping. The soft rice cake and the crunchy white coconut combination is unforgettable.
“Putong puti” and “ampao” are known as the children’s choice among all rice desserts. “Putong puti” is steamed rice dough topped with cheese. Children like it because of its gentle sweet flavor and softness. Some adults also like to pair it with “dinuguan” which is an exotic Filipino dish made up of pork meat and internal organs.
On the other hand, “ampao” is just simply sweet but crunchy. It is often used by parents as substitute for salty potato chips that are unhealthy. He decided to bring some “ampao” to Italy because it does not get spoiled right away.
After introducing all these rice desserts to the curious Italian, he gradually forgot that he was eating rice. He enjoyed the different flavors and realized that it is truly a special food. He then understood the flavors that rice can bring to Filipino dining. Then during dinner time, I asked him why he never gets tired of eating pasta. And in order for him to answer that question, it is his turn to feed me Italian food.Published in