Pichi pichi is a Filipino dessert made basically from just 3 ingredients: cassava, water, and sugar. It is steamed and becomes glutinous. Once it is cooked and cooled it is rolled in grated coconut or grated cheese. The Pichi Pichi I remembered that I enjoyed so much when I was still working in Manila where we ordered and delivered from a small restaurant not so far from our office whenever one of my office mates has his or her birthday. They were glutinous yet firm and clear even when they are flavored or sometimes colored and were really good!
I was missing those Pichi Pichi, so once I got hold of these frozen cassavas (manioc/tapioca) I knew exactly what to do with them. The only question was…how? Before making them myself, I would never believe that making Pichi Pichi is super easy. I think the hardest part was grating the cassava. I tried it manually with a grater at first for my first batch, but the cassava got a bit too soft when I thawed them so I have to use my food processor (to avoid scraping my fingers). The second batch I did, I put the still-a-bit-frozen cassava directly to the food processor to grate and they were perfect. So my advice is, if you are doing it manually, grate the cassava while it is still a bit frozen and hard.
If you are living in Germany or any part of the world where coconut is scarce, then I will let you in on a secret, the grated coconut you see below is not freshly grated coconut (that can be easily bought in the Philippines). It is not even the frozen one that is sold in Asian food stores (which I would not recommend because, from a personal experience, they tasted like old coconut where the milk was already wrung out). Since it is easier to find the desiccated coconut flakes (usually in the baking section) in our local grocery, and I think in most groceries, I had some experiment and tried adding water to see what happens. Sure enough, the dried coconut flakes absorbed the water and became soft and it was almost like having freshly grated coconut and so much better than the frozen one. Just add 70-80 ml of water to 1 cup of coconut flakes then just mix them well together for 1-2 minutes and you will see the difference.
You can find some recipes that include lye water in their ingredients. But since I do not have any, I made my first batch without lye water and they turned out OK, a bit too soft maybe but still totally yummy. For my second batch, I used a substitute for lye water (baking soda solution) and they were firmer. The substitute for lye water I used, was 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water then boiling the mixture for 5 minutes, that’s it! Lastly, you will need molds to steam them in. Filipinos would know about ‘puto’ molds, but I do not have those as well, instead, I used my silicon cup molds that I sometimes use for baking cupcakes.
Pichi Pichi Recipe
- 2 cups grated cassava - no need to squeeze out liquids
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda solution
FOR COATING AND TOPPING
- 1 cup coconut - grated
- 1 cup grated cheese - optional
- In a deep bowl, combine all ingredients together and mix thoroughly.
- Fill individual cup molds about three-quarter full or a bit more but leave some space because it can rise a bit while steaming.
- Arrange the filled molds in a steamer and steam for about 40-60 minutes or until they become translucent.
- Let them cool down completely so it is easier to remove from the molds, or place them in the fridge to shorten the cooling time.
- Roll each Pichi Pichi in grated coconut or grated cheese.
You may also add some flavoring by adding drops of buko-pandan or ube extract. If you opt to have it all natural, boil some pandan leaves in water and substitute that with the water in the recipe.
To make the baking soda solution: 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in 1 cup of water then boil the mixture for 5 minutes