Nov 1, 2013

Eat Baye-baye at Least Once in Your Lifetime

For an Ilonggo like me, All Soul's Day or Tigkalalag or Kalag-kalag will always be associated with a unique delicacy from the island of Negros -- the baye-baye. 

Every November 1 in Negros, baye-baye is always present in the menu of every Ilonggo household.  Days before, some hardy souls will prepare baye-baye on their own, ready to take on the back-breaking task involved in baye-baye making.  My family used to go this route in preparing baye-baye, just so we can enjoy the taste of it during the Tigkalalag.  Some go the easy way, opting to purchase the delicacy from sellers who have made it days before.

Baye-baye is a rice dish,  It is sweet, with the pleasant smell of roasted rice, very delicious and incredibly filling.  I absolutely recommend it to those with sweet tooth.  It will also please the vegetarians.  The word baye-baye probably originated from the Ilonggo word bayoha (to pound).  For that is exactly what is done to rice to produce baye-baye:  the rice grain pounded to bits.

As far as I can remember, to make baye-baye, pilit  or glutinous rice is obtained from the nearest rice seller or miller, preferably freshly-milled rice.  The reason why baye-baye is usually made during Tigkalalag is because it coincides with the harvest and milling season, when rice is fresh. The best-tasting baye-baye relies on freshly-harvested and freshly-milled rice for its main ingredient.

The rice grains are roasted, then pounded in a lusong (or mortar) repeatedly until the grains break apart and turn soft and elastic-like to touch.  It is back-breaking work, with the men of the family taking turns in the pounding, or taking a bit of rest (it is that tiring!) but at this point, the smell emanating from the lusong is very aromatic, hinting of good things to come.

Brown sugar, that is also very common in the sugarcane-rich province of Negros, is added to the rice mix, together with grated or stripped young coconut.  The baye-baye will finally take on its final consistency which is sticky and malleable, ready to be formed into rolls and wrapped in either clear thin paper wrappers or banana leaves.

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The wrapped baye-baye are then eaten by the family, or given to relatives and neighbors during Tigkalalag.  The delicacy will last for several days outside the refrigerator, but it is really best eaten fresh.  However, any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator to be eaten at a later date.  When refrigerated, baye-baye will stiffen a little, but it will still be as delicious as ever.

Growing up in Negros, I also remembered an old man named Antipas who sold baye-baye and other native delicacies for a living.  He carried two baskets in his hands filled with these goodies, and he made the rounds at the town yelling "baye-baye!" or "lumpia!", wherein  people would eagerly come out of their houses and buy from him.  My personal favorite of course was baye-baye.

There are many variations to the making of baye-baye.  My old folks probably remember it better than I do, and can identify all the ingredients accurately.  I will update this blog post when I have consulted  them about this.  This thought made me reflect that the art of baye-baye making is probably a vanishing one, and we should really make an effort to transition the knowledge to every generation.

Ever since I have relocated to the island of Luzon, I no longer have the pleasure of eating this dish.  The closest food to baye-baye that they have here in Luzon is the espasol.  It is very similar, and yet very different.  The espasol is good, but the baye-baye has my heart.  There is really  no contest.

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