Friday, June 3, 2011

Lola Ding’s Maja Blanca


I have always known myself to be lucky to have two lolas (grandmothers) in my father’s side of the family. My father’s mother, Lola Nena, was widowed when my dad was only 6 months old. My grandmother’s parents asked her to go back to their home in Pampanga with her three children in tow instead of her being on her own with her in-laws in Iloilo. My grandmother’s sister Lola Ding, was already widowed by then without any children and had already moved back with their parents. They were the only two girls in a brood of 6 and this made them very close. I loved them both equally and never differentiated between the two. They were always known to me as Lola Nena and Lola Ding.

They both enjoyed the many flavors of our local fare, and both of them marrying men from Negros only added to the enrichment of their palates to the Ilonggo taste and way of preparing food. I was blessed to have been brought up in a household that valued home cooked and balanced meals that were healthy and delicious. It’s very important for a family to be able to sit down to a hearty meal that has been lovingly prepared.

My Lola Ding was the better cook, and she has passed on many of her secret recipes to the few of us willing to learn. One of my favorites that she used to prepare was the maja blanca.

Maja blanca is known as Filipino white pudding. This is made from coconut milk and corn starch with latik which is coconut milk that you heat up until it curdles and turns brown. The usual maja blanca sold commercially are yellow with corn kernel bits. My Lola Ding’s maja blanca was white and was made with carabao’s (water buffalo) milk. It’s so simple and pure to look at but it tastes so rich and creamy and it melts in the mouth.

As with all great chefs and cooks, there are no precise measurements to follow when preparing a particular dish or dessert. Everything is measured by taste. As much as I would like to share exact measurements for my grandmother’s maja blanca, I have none, but it’s unbelievably simple I can make it with my eyes closed. Just mix cornstarch with water (set aside), mix carabao’s milk with sugar and coconut milk, heat (medium heat) in a pot till sugar dissolves, add water with cornstarch. There should be enough cornstarch to turn the milk mixture to pudding consistency in room temperature. Pour everything into a round mold. You can use a glass pie pan. Next is to make your latik by cooking coconut milk till it turns brown and flaky. When latik is cool, top your maja blanca with it. This is a really delicious dessert that’s a cinch to make, yet sinfully good.

Whenever I make maja blanca, it takes me back to fond memories when my lola was still alive and we would have Sunday lunches with them. Each bite is savoring the taste of the past.

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