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Ginataang Halo-Halo (Glutinous Rice Balls in Coconut Sauce)

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I admit that I wasn’t the biggest fan of ginataang halo-halo back in childhood.  From my experience, it was sometimes watery, sometimes the ingredients were scant, but most times it was cloying and cavity-inducing. 

What is ginataang bilo-bilo?

Ginataang halo-halo is a common merienda or afternoon snack in the Philippines.  But don’t be confused because it sometimes also goes by the name ginataang bilo-bilo (FYI, the Filipino language is replete with repetitions. 😂).  

Ginataang halo-halo comes in every form and color you can think of.  It’s peddled on the sidewalks by street vendors and sold in numerous carinderias. Making ginataang halo-halo is the next order of business after the carinderia staff have cleared the tables after lunch.

Halo means mix in Filipino and ginataan means any food with gata or coconut milk.  Bilo-bilo refers to the rice flour balls that’s one of the main ingredients of this merienda treat.  The other usual ingredients include sliced saba (plantains), sago (tapioca balls), langka (jackfruit), kamote (sweet potatoes) in a creamy coconut sauce. While these are the usual ingredients, it’s not unheard of to add ube (purple yam) or gabi (taro) to the mix.

Ginataang Bilo-bilo in a pot

It had seemed fitting (to me at least) to post this recipe on the lead up to Lent.  (But alas, work caught up with me and I am posting this recipe after Lent. 🤷‍♂️)  I somehow correlate ginataang halo-halo with lazy afternoons and church-sponsored feeding programs.  The ginataang halo-halo was often tinted violet, and served out of huge pots and ladled into thin, plastic cups.

Ginataang Bilo-bilo with banana toppings and sweet potatoes

This recipe

To recreate this childhood snack, I bought some saba and sago from Lucky Plaza. I couldn’t decide on the size or color of the sago balls to use, but in the end I went with the small white ones. Pro tip: you only need about 100 grams of sago balls. 😉

I was pleasantly surprised that I could buy ube powder here in Singapore. It opens up a ton of possibilities. Did you know that powdered ube is not purple at all but a grayish/purplish powder? Color me surprised (or naive). It smelled like ube though, but I had to add a few drops of ube flavoring for that intense purple color.

Ube Bilo-Bilo (Ube flavored glutinous rice balls)

I forgot to buy some jackfruit but I had an excess of bananas. I sliced these up very thinly, like banana chips, and deep fried them like banana cue (deep fried bananas with brown sugar coating). They added a nice contrast to the soft consistency of the ginataang bilo-bilo and were pretty striking as garnish.

Ginataang Bilo-bilo with banana toppings
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Ginataang Bilo-bilo with banana toppings

Ginataang Halo-Halo (Rice Balls in Coconut Sauce)


  • Author: Paula
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings 1x

Description

This snack is made up of bilo-bilo (glutinous rice balls), sliced saba (plantains), sago (tapioca balls), langka (jackfruit), kamote (sweet potatoes) in a creamy coconut sauce. While these are the most common ingredients, it’s not unheard of to add ube (purple yam) or gabi (taro) to the mix.


Scale

Ingredients

For the Sago:

  • 100 grams sago (tapioca balls), small
  • 4 cups (960 ml) water

For the Bilo-bilo:

  • 142 grams (1 cup) glutinous rice flour
  • 2 tbsps ube powder (optional)
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) water
  • few drops of ube flavoring (optional)

Other Ingredients:

  • 2 cups (480 ml) coconut milk
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 73 grams (1/3 cup) sugar
  • 400 grams sweet potato, diced
  • 4 saba (plantain bananas), sliced to 1-in thickness pieces
  • 6 pieces jackfruit, cut into strips

For Banana Topping (Optional):

  • 2 saba (plantain bananas), sliced thinly
  • 55 grams (1/4 cup) brown sugar
  • oil for frying

Instructions

To make the sago:

  1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. 
  2. Add the sago, and boil for 10-15 minutes until the sago turns transparent. Stir the sago occasionally to prevent them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add more water as needed.
  3. Once the sago balls are transparent, remove from the heat and drain completely. Put aside in a bowl.

To make the bilo-bilo:

  1. In a bowl, combine the rice flour and ube powder. 
  2. Mix the water and a few drops of ube flavoring (if using). 
  3. Add the water to the rice flour and mix until it forms into a soft and flexible ball. You can add more drops to the ball for a stronger color but make sure to knead the dough thoroughly to mix the ube flavoring uniformly.
  4. Divide into 24 balls using a half tablespoon. Set aside and cover with a damp towel.

To make the Ginataang Bilo-bilo:

  1. In a large pot, mix the coconut milk, water, and sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer while stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. 
  2. Add the sweet potato and boil for 5 minutes. Add the saba and boil for another 3 minutes. 
  3. Add the bilo-bilo and jackfruit strips. Cook until the bilo-bilo floats. 
  4. Mix the sago and stir to prevent lumps from forming. Cook for 5 minutes before removing from heat. 
  5. Serve warm or cold.

To make the saba topping:

  1. Heat enough oil to deep fry the saba pieces. 
  2. Fry the saba slices until translucent. 
  3. Add the brown sugar to the oil. Swirl the saba slices in the brown sugar until they are coated.
  4. Remove from the oil and set aside. Cool slightly before using as toppings.

Notes

  • You can add more drops of ube flavoring if you want to have a more purple color to your bilo-bilo. 
  • You can opt not to use ube powder or ube flavoring. 
  • The ginataang bilo-bilo will thicken as it cools. 
  • Category: Filipino
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Filipino

Keywords: ginataang bilo-bilo

For more snacking options:

 

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