Dear sweet moms and parents,
Today I’m sharing a beloved Filipino dessert staple that has captured the hearts and palates of island folk for generations – pichi pichi.
Pichi Pichi is a chewy cassava cake hailing from my nearby province of Quezon. This name is fitting because the cassava used in making this dessert is grated and squeezed tightly to extract excess moisture, resulting in a firm yet chewy texture.
Nanay just sent me a sack of cassava and it’s kakanin time! Making pichi pichi begins with grating freshly harvested cassava. The grated cassava is then combined with sugar and water to form a sticky mixture. Pandan leaves are often added for flavor and fragrance.
The cassava mixture is transferred to steamer baskets and cooked over boiling water until solidified and translucent. Once cool enough to handle, the pichi pichi cakes are rolled in freshly grated coconut for contrasting sweet crunch.
Pichi pichi comes in various vibrant colors and flavors, from traditional white cassava to pandan-infused green and even brightly-hued festive versions. But regardless of hue, the chewy texture and sweet coconut topping create utter delight with every bite.
Planning ahead? You can freeze it before steaming!
- Pour the unsteamed pichi pichi mixture into freezer safe containers, leaving about 1 inch of headspace. You can use reusable plastic containers or freezer bags.
- Freeze the pichi pichi for at least 4 hours or overnight, until completely frozen. This will help prevent freezer burn.
- Once frozen solid, you can remove the containers from the freezer and stack them to save space. Just make sure to label them with the name and date.
- When you’re ready to enjoy the frozen pichi pichi, simply steam one or more containers following the recipe directions. No need to thaw the mixture first.
Other tips for making Pichi pichi
Make sure the cassava is freshly grated. Older grated cassava can cause the pichi pichi to become tough and gluey.
• Combine the cassava and sugar thoroughly before adding the lye water. This helps the lye water distribute evenly.
• Add the lye water slowly while stirring continuously. Too much at once can cause lumps to form.
• Cover the steamer cover with a cotton cloth or “lampin” then secure the cloth on top. This is to avoid the steam water from falling into your Pichi Pichi.
• Use low to medium heat when steaming. High heat can cause the outside to cook faster than the inside.
• Check the pichi pichi periodically while steaming. Sometimes molds with taller sides take a bit longer to cook through.
• The color changing to translucent is a good indicator of doneness, but still test for consistency. The pichi pichi should be firm but still have some give when pressed.
• Allow the pichi pichi to cool completely before unmolding. If unmolding when still warm, the cassava starch can cause it to stick to the molds.
• Roll the pichi pichi in the coconut as soon as possible after unmolding for best texture. The coconut coating works best on still-warm pichi pichi.
• Serve the same day for best flavor, or store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The texture will soften the longer it’s refrigerated.
• Freeze any extra pichi pichi, following the freezing directions I provided. This helps preserve the texture and flavor.
The pichi pichi I enjoyed as a child evokes the smell of pandan, coconuts, and laughter -the simple treasures of island life woven into its sweetness. I hope sharing this beloved Filipino treat transports you, even if just for a moment, to sunnier days.
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