Kalamay is another favorite sticky rice-based kakanin (sweet delicacy) in the Philippines. It comes in the form of a very sticky brown paste, although other colors in less viscous versions also exist. It actually has different versions, consistency, packaging and texture depending on location. In Bohol, it is spelled “calamay” and is sealed inside hollowed-out coconut shells. In Tarlac, on the other hand, it is called “nilubyan” and green rice is used. In Baguio, they call their kalamay, “kulangot” (Tagalog word for snot). Kulangot is usually packed in smaller sago shells to further the playful image. In other regions, flavors are added to their kalamay to make it distinct from traditional preparations. In Mindoro, for example, locals add peanut butter to the paste, while others add grated coconut meat. Historians have difficulty pinpointing kalamay’s exact origins because of it’s wide variety of preparations. While the use of coconuts and rice is a clear indicator of traditional Philippine cuisine, similarities in preparation lead some food historians to believe that it an adaptation of the Chinese nian gao, a rice dish commonly served during the Chinese New Year. Though names and recipes for kalamay vary from region to region, the base ingredients are consistently the same: glutinous rice, coconut milk and brown sugar.
I grew up with the simplest version of it – dark brown, sticky and a bit chewy, very fine textured 2 cm thick triangles wrapped in banana leaf…and that’s what I love the most! Though the Kalamay I grew up with had latik (fried coconut milk curd) on it, I prefer serving it with crunchy pinipig (rice flakes) topping. This is what I’m sharing with you here.
It will take more than an hour to cook kalamay. Your arms may get really tired with all the stirring…but it will be worth it in the end!
- 2 cups glutinous rice flour or finely ground glutinous rice
- 2 cups brown sugar
- 4 cups coconut cream or coconut milk (I prefer using coconut cream because of its thicker, more paste-like consistency compared to coconut milk)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ cup roasted pinipig (rice flakes)
- In a large non-stick wok, combine coconut milk, vanilla and sugar. Stir until sugar is dissolved. (Note: Cooking in non-stick pan will make stirring a lot easier when the mixture is already thick.)
- Add glutinous rice flour. Cook in medium low heat. Keep stirring until mixture thickens. You'll know it's thick enough when you can hardly stir it. It will take approximately 45 minutes to 1 hour. Be sure to stir constantly to prevent mixture from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The secret to a thick and sticky kalamay is to cook it in low heat with constant stirring. In 30 minutes, the mixture is already cooked...but for a more sticky and chewy consistency, you can go as long as 1 more hour of stirring. I just did 30 minutes more.
- Take off from heat and transfer to a plate covered with banana leaves. If you don't have banana leaves, you can just slightly grease the plate to avoid the kalamay from sticking. Flatten the top with a piece of banana leaf or a greased spatula.
- Serve plain or sprinkle with latik or sesame seeds on top. I love it with toasted pinipig!
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