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.
What is Pichi-Pichi?
Pichi-pichi is a kind of Filipino kakanin or delicacy made from cassava (manioc, yuca). This treat hailed from the province of Quezon. It has a sticky, gelatinous yet firm texture that is made by steaming grated cassava. Once it is cooked, the opaque white color of the cassava becomes somewhat translucent.
What is Pichi-pichi made of?
Normally eaten as a snack or dessert, Pichi-pichi is really easy to make and needs only 4 main ingredients:
- Grated cassava
- lye water
It can be enjoyed as it is but normally it is coated with grated coconut or topped with grated cheese, or both. Other flavorings are also added like coconut water, pandan (screwpine) or ube.
Tips in using frozen cassava
In the Philippines, it is easy to get fresh cassava and they are available almost all year round. That is not the case in other non-tropical areas. While I was in Germany, the only way I can get cassava is from the Asian food stores and they usually sell them frozen.
- You can either buy the already grated cassava and just thaw it. I do not squeeze out the liquids and use it as it is.
- If you have whole frozen cassava, thaw it a bit if it is too hard or covered in ice. Do not let it thaw completely or it will become more difficult to grate.
- If you have a food processor with a grater attachment, I suggest using that. Or one of those nice manual rotary food graters. But an old cheese grater would also do, only takes some time and elbow grease.
If you are going to use fresh cassava instead, I included steps on preparing fresh cassava in my Cassava Cake post.
Alternative to Fresh Grated Coconut
Like cassava, coconut is not something that is easily available in other countries. I will let you in on a secret, I seldom use freshly grated coconut for my desserts. And I stir clear of the frozen ones as, based on personal experience, they tasted like old coconut where the milk was already wrung out.
Out of necessity, while in Germany, I discovered the best alternative to the freshly grated coconut. Since it is easier to find in the local groceries and supermarkets, I did some experiments and tried to rehydrate desiccated coconut. It works perfectly.
All I did was add some water and sure enough, the dried coconut flakes absorbed the liquids. It 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 are ready to roll.
Substitute to Lye Water
You can find some recipes that include lye water in their ingredients.
But since I do not have any at the time I made this post, I made my first batch without lye water. They turned out OK, a bit too soft for my liking 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 and muffins.
Pichi Pichi Recipe
- 2 cups grated cassava - - no need to squeeze out liquids
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 2 teaspoons baking soda solution - - (SEE NOTE 2) or 1 tsp lye water
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 20-30 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.
This Pichi-pichi recipe was originally published in May 2015. Updated on November 2019 to include new images and videos and additional tips. The recipe remains the same.