Picture of the day: Black Biko

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Ampaw Anyone?

Ampaw. Popped rice. Puffed rice. “Popcorn.” All these are names for this rice snack made from rice, a bit of syrup, and the hot power of the sun. Much prized by children -- and adults -- before the advent of junk food and other modern snacks, it still survives today.

Traditionally, families made these by hand, with the rice painstakingly cooked and then dried in bilaos or round trays made of bamboo. Sometimes, leftover rice was used instead of fresh rice in order to stretch the usefulness of the day’s rations. The addition of arnibal or brown sugar cooked down in a bit of water to make a kind of simple syrup or caramel glaze, a few minutes of stirring and working the resulting mass into balls with your hands, and you had a quick and filling treat which, when wrapped with banana leaves, you could take with you to share with your friends on hot summer afternoons of playing taguan or even on your travels to visit relatives in the next barrio over. Some families also made these with white syrup and shaped them into blocks that resemble thick pieces of rough tile. With the advent of machinery and new techniques to make production easier, though, it has become rare to find families that still make these the traditional way. Some companies have even refined their ampaw-making process further by adding food coloring and flavoring to their mixes, resulting in multi-colored balls with sometimes rather alarming shades of violet, green, red, yellow, and blue.

I remember trying to make these rice balls at home with my mom and my kuya when I was a child. I say “trying,” because we never were able to figure out why our rice balls and bricks never came out looking the way the ones sold in the sari-sari stores and palengkes did. Try as we did, we more often than not ended up with hard rice bits drenched in syrup, or, worse yet, hard rice bits with a little sugar added. Not that they tasted bad, but it was a bit of challenge munching through all the hard rice. We eventually gave up trying to make ampaw and settled for buying some for a few centavos a ball. I guess ampaw making wasn’t my mom’s strong suit. ?

Time passed and the ampaw balls of my childhood became nothing more but a distant memory for me, only occassionally remembered when someone came home from a trip to the province with a pack of the rice bricks as pasalubong. I wasn’t even aware that these were still sold in the metro until I ran into an ambulent vendor selling these on the streets of Cubao this morning. He had two big sacks of these with packs of ten balls selling for P10 a pack, quite a mark-up from the few centavos of my childhood. Still, I promptly bought some and took them home to set up for a quick photo session.

Setting up for the shoot proved to be a bit of a challenge, not because the ampaw balls were difficult to work with, but because my family could hardly keep their hands off my set-up long enough for me to take a picture! Even my sixty-plus year old father’s face lit up when he saw the goodies being arranged for the shot. “Uy, ampaw!” he said, and proceeded to steal a ball from my carefully arranged plate-ups before I could protest. My two nephews, eager for some of the ampaw, volunteered to be my “crew” for the shoot, on the condition, of course, that they got “paid” with the ampaw after the shot. I readily agreed, secretly pleased that they were still so eager to have some of this old-fashioned snack despite the abundance of chips and such on the market today.

The shot over, the props put away, and watching three generations sitting around the lunch table happily munching on their ampaw desserts, I couldn’t help but smile. I guess this was a classic case of that old adage, “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Ampaw, anyone?


Ampaw trivia:

The word ampaw has somehow devolved over the years into street lingo for a blowhard or for someone who is full of hot air, the parallelism, I suppose, coming from the ampaw’s deceptively solid appearance.

Ampaw is a close homonym of the Chinese noun Ang Pao, a small red envelope containg a cash gift given by Chinese parents to their family members on Chinese New Year’s Day.



Taguan – hide and seek
Barrio – small village or hamlet
Kuya – older brother
Sari-sari store – small neighborhood store selling a variety of everyday goods
Palengke­ – traditional wet and dry goods market

- Marnie Dolera

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Picture of the day

- Yvette Lee

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It's not just rice...

What do you know about rice? Except for being the staple food of almost the whole world, rice has a lot to offer. Here are some interseting facts about the most popular dish in the world. (^-^ enjoy)

Did you know?
  • In Asia, planting rice is often a back-breaking chore. Every seedling must be poked into the mud by hand—usually by women.
  • Rice provides 25 to 85 percent of the calories in the daily diet of 2.7 billion Asians.
  • If a rice plant is properly cared for, it can live 20 years, producing thousands of grains of rice each year.
  • The three main types of rice are: short grain like Japanese rice, medium grain like brown rice, and long grain like basmati rice.
  • 50% of all the world's rice is eaten within 8 miles of where it is grown.

After a farmer plants rice, it takes about 105 days before he can harvest it! http://www.graindell.com/trivia001.htm

Rice everywhere
  • Rice and its by-products are used for making straw and rope, paper, wine, crackers, beer, cosmetics, packing material, and even toothpaste.
  • Rice is used for a lot more than food! Rice straw is used to make coarse writing paper and is woven into sandals and hats.

Rice as a cleaning material
  • Throw in some uncooked grains into a vase along with soapy water and shake it all about. Vase becomes spotless.

Rice car
  • Toyota means bountiful rice field.

Rice for sports
  • RICE - an acronym for the treatment of sports injuries: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation.
Rest : stop using the injured muscle or joint.
Ice : cool the injured site.
Compression : apply bandage to limit swelling and support the injured site.
Elevation : help reduce swelling.

Rice as a book cover
  • Books can be decorated with "rice marble," a technique created by placing dry grains of rice on the book covers when they're being made.
Rice for clothes
  • Rice starch is sometimes used in the last rinse of a laundry wash, to stiffen tablecloths and napkins once they are ironed.
Rice Emperor
  • According to Shinto belief, the Emperor of Japan is the living embodiment of the god of the ripened rice plant, Ninigo-no-mikoto.
Rice greeting
  • In China a typical greeting, instead of "How are you?" is "Have you had your rice today?". A greeting to which one is expected to always reply, "Yes".
So you see rice is not just a food its practically the representation of life. Hence,we have to be responsible to it especially know that it is being threatened by GE technology. Let's treat this issue seriously before we loss the most essential thing in this world..


- A.C. Dimatatac

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Picture of the day

- Mary Ann Mayo

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Rice in my youth

Rice is very much part of our life, especially to those who grew up in rice growing areas or what used to be rural areas. Where I live in Marikina used to be surrounded by rice fields bordered by a small creek teeming with fishes, frogs, birds and reptiles.

In those days the children in our neighbourhood played games according to the cycles of rice planting and harvesting. In the rainy season we would gather slim bamboo poles to make fishing poles and fish in the clear waters of the creek running through our village or in the canals between the paddy fields. The water was so clear we would see the mud fishes and catfishes swimming along and put our hooks baited with earthworms in their path. There were also times we would gather snails (the native black ones not the golden apple snails introduced later and became rice pests) and have our parents cook them in coconut milk while the children of the farmers would catch frogs (palakang petot) for dinner.

During the harvest season, usually in the summer, we would play in the cleared out fields where fresh rice straws are being gathered after removing the grains. We would use the rice straw as bases for baseball or cushions for the rough and tumble involved in rugby. There were even times that we would help in harvesting rice just for the experience.

The snacks my mom used to serve were also largely affected by the cycle of rice. Depending on the harvest and the abundance of different kinds of rice, my mom used to prepare rice delicacies for me and my childhood friends. Galapong, which is made of ground rice could be made into different delicacies which include carioca (dipped in brown sugar then deep fried), dila-dila (boiled then garnished with coconut, sugar and anise), maja blanca (mixed with coconut milk then cooked and served like flan) and ginataan (cooked in coconut milk with banana, sago, taro and sweet potato). Malagkit or glutinous/sticky rice was cooked as biko (cooked with a dash of coconut milk and brown sugar), champorado (boiled and mixed with cocoa and served with milk and sugar) or suman (wrapped in banana or coconut leaves).

As the years passed, all of these changed when Marcos Hi-way was constructed. I remember passing through Marcos hi-way and seeing trees, rice fields, carabaos and farmers on the sides of the road. However, houses and commercial establishments were built and the rice fields were slowly overtaken by shopping malls and subdivisions.

Gone are the days when our farmer neighbours knocked on our gate to offer freshly harvested Malagkit, pinipig or fresh carabao’s milk. As the rice fields slowly disappeared, we also started to miss the signs from nature that indicate the changing of the seasons. We started to miss the swarm of dragonflies that signalled the coming of the summer and the flock of birds that signal the start of the planting season. After a few more years, not even a small plot of rice field was left and now Marcos Hi-way is nothing but a bustling commercial district.

These days as I pass by what used to be rice fields, I see children playing on paved roads and concrete sidewalks. So much different from what I grew up with when I was younger and had a direct relationship to my most important food: rice.
- Danny Ocampo

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RICE: The real meal deal

I was sick with the flu when I was 15, and the only thing that I wanted was Champorado (chocolate flavored rice porridge). My Nanay (mother), frantic with me already for being sick, was able to whip up champorado after 10 minutes. I was a little bit amazed that she was able to cook it in such a short time, despite the hazy and fuzzy state of my brain. But I was so hungry that I finished it in 5 minutes flat. It only dawned on me afterwards that she didn’t use the malagkit kind. Madaya! My nanay had used the ordinary rice and not the ‘malagkit’ (sticky rice).

Funny, how in my sick state the only thing I could think of eating was rice.
Ask around and most will tell you how a meal won’t be complete without rice.
A meal is never a meal without rice in the Filipino diet.
Friends, who go abroad, whenever I would quiz them on what they ate, usually tell me meals would consist of bread, soup and fruit, especially when they are in European countries. Some could be as frugal as just cheese, bread and/or fruit.
I would cringe whenever I would hear this. To me tanghalian (lunch) and hapunan (dinner) is never complete without rice. Not a day passes that I would forego eating rice.
There is something about that hot and fragrant spoonful of rice that gives me that sense of comfort and satisfaction.

In the provinces, rice is a very precious commodity. Ok lang na walang ulam, basta may pera na pangbili ng bigas. Remember the saying “Magdildil na lang ng asin pang ulam sa kanin”?
When coffee was not readily available, specially in the far flung areas, coffee was also made from roasting (ibubusa) uncooked rice till it was black.
And when there was left over, the rice was dried and made its way as ‘kaning baboy’ for the family pet. One could not afford to let even a grain of rice go to waste.

Consider the versatility of rice. Rice is not just that essential partner to the ulam (viand), it also comes into the Filipino diet as suman, bibingka, kutsinta, palitaw, sapin-sapin, paella, lugaw, arroz caldo, champorado, biko, puto bong-bong, to name a few.
My lolo used to fry puting suman till the outside was fried to a crisp, slather on butter or margarine then sprinkle loads of sugar on top. It was the ultimate comfort and bonding food during those lazy Saturday afternoons at their house.
Remember how when we craved for rice puffs for breakfast, those left over rice from the previous night was dried and then eaten with milk and sugar? It was the answer to the imported corn flakes. Coffee was also made from roasting (ibubusa) uncooked rice till it was black.

Ever heard of burong kanin (fermented rice and fish)? This is a specialty from Pampanga that gourmands swear taste so good despite the offensive smell. I have tasted the ‘sanitized’ version and it really tastes good.

So after having satisfied your hunger pangs with rice and your sweet tooth with rice delicacies, why not finish off your meal with some Tapuy?
Tapuy is made from…what else?
- Mary Ann Mayo

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Write a blog and tell the world how important rice is to you. Each of us has a story to tell about the one food we've been eating day in, day out, 24/7, 365 days a year, all the years of our lives. That's millions and millions of stories about how important rice is to us. Send us your entry at act@ph.greenpeace.org


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