What Is Binignit And How Is It Different From Bilo-Bilo?

If you enjoy ginataang halo-halo, you'll love this Visayan version!

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What is Binignit?

Binignit is a sweet dessert or snack dish that is famous in the Visayan region. It is both a kind of sweet lugaw (rice gruel) and a ginataan (cooked with coconut milk or cream) dish. It is made with tubers like taro, sweet potato, or purple yam, saba banana, landang or palm flour jelly balls, and glutinous rice or pilit in Visayan and malagkit in Tagalog, all cooked in coconut milk and cream.

What is the importance of binignit?

In the Visayas, particularly in the Cebu region, binignit is usually made and consumed during the Holy Week. According to Louelle E. Alix, a heritage worker and food historian, this tradition was started among Catholic Cebuano farmers, who created the dish so that they could keep working while still observing Lenten traditions.

During Lent, Catholics observe fasting and abstinence from meat. Cebuano farmers, however, need something more substantial in order to work their fields. In order to keep their abstinence from meat, they created a meatless dish that was full of carbohydrates that would give them enough energy to work: the binignit.

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Ginataang halo-halo is also known as ginataang bilo-bilo in Luzon due to the bilo-bilo, which are chewy rice balls made from glutinous rice flour.
Photo by Riell Santos
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Are binignit and ginataang halo-halo the same?

Binignit is similar to another coconut milk-based dessert: the ginataang halo-halo or bilo-bilo. While binignit is popular in Visayas, people in Metro Manila know it better as ginataang halo-halo or bilo-bilo. The cooking method for both are largely the same; both are cooked in coconut milk and cream, and they both usually contain all or a combination of different tubers, saba, and/or sago.

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What are the differences between binignit and ginataang halo-halo?

Some variations occur in the use of the glutinous rice or the pilit if you're Visayan and malagkit if you're Tagalog. Binignit recipes usually instruct you to simply cook pilit as one would when making lugaw or use glutinous rice flour to thicken the soup. On the other hand, ginataang halo-halo or bilo-bilo recipes feature bilo-bilo, a rice ball made with glutinous rice flour and water. However, while these variations may be more common in their respective regions, some binignit recipes also adopt the use of bilo-bilo.

Bilo-bilo are glutinous rice balls made from malagkit flour and water.
Photo by Patrick Martires
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What is landang?

Another unique ingredient in binignit is the addition of landang or palm flour jelly balls. While ginataang halo-halo recipes usually use sago, binignit features landang, which are similar to sago but have a flatter, more abstract shape (as compared to the perfectly round sago).

Both sago and landang are made from palm flour, but are sourced from different varieties of palm trees: sago are made from sago palm trees while landang come from buli or buri palm trees. They both differ from tapioca pearls in that tapioca pearls are made from cassava starch, and not palm flour.

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When cooking ginataang halo-halo, the sago pearls are usually cooked separately, softened in boiling water, and then set aside for later use. These are simply stirred into the ginataang halo-halo at the end of the cooking process.

Conversely, when you cook binignit with landang, the landang is part of the recipe and cooked first. To prep landang, it must be washed first until the water runs clear, much like how one would wash rice. Then, it is boiled in water until it is soft. Just like sago, it's important to stir occasionally to prevent these from sticking together. When the landang is soft, the rest of the binignit ingredients are added and the dish is cooked until done.

Binignit is a versatile and easy-to-make snack that can be a sweet and warm merienda when it's fresh from the pot or a chilled dessert that will cool you off on a hot day. No matter if you like it hot or cold, binignit is a comforting and delicious dish to satisfy your cravings!

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