Latik in Bikol is different from Latik in Tagalog. Latik in Tagalog is the toasted coconut milk that we use as toppings for biko (sweetened sticky rice); we call that mamok or mamek in Bikol (depending on the Bikol dialect that you are using—Bikol as a language has many dialects or language variations). As I always say to my non-Bikolano friends, cooking in coconut milk with chillies is a basic way of preparing Bikol dishes. So if you master cooking gata the Bikol way, you already know how to cook different Bikol dishes, you just have to change the main ingredient—meat, seafood, or veggies.
Latik can be treated as an appetizer, a side dish, a spice for your soy sauce dip, or as rice toppings—which is my favorite. People in Bikol who can’t afford to have ulam (main dish that Filipinos eat with rice) would just eat latik as ulam. This is because preparing latik in rural Bikol communities doesn’t cost you much, because chillies can be usually found in backyards and you can ask your neighbors for coconuts. Chillies and coconut milk in Bikol are also not as expensive as in Metro Manila because of the vast supply. Based on my experience, latik can last for three weeks if refrigerated, and days if not refrigerated so it’s easy to store for hard times like during this pandemic.
Disclaimer: I am no expert and we usually just eyeball it when cooking at home, so this is just based on rough estimates. You may tweak the amount of ingredients based on your liking, of course. My general rule is to just make sure the ingredients submerge in gata (coconut milk) while cooking:
¾ cups minced garlic
½ cup minced onions
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced turmeric (You can skip this if you can’t find this in the market. I know that turmeric supply in local markets in Manila is inconsistent.)
*2 ½ cups pangalawang piga ng gata (for my non-Filipino friends—this is basically just coconut milk with a little water. “Pangalawang piga” or second squeeze means the second squeeze of coconut milk from the shredded coconut meat. They add a little water to get the second squeeze.)
*1 cup kakang gata (pure coconut milk)
1 ¼ cups chopped chillies (I want to note that different kinds of chilli peppers have different levels of spiciness. So it is not only the amount of chillies that matter, but also the kind of chillies that you are using)
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of sugar
*Important note: I only use freshly squeezed coconut milk because the canned and powdered ones don’t oil, which is a very important aspect in cooking Bikol dishes, especially for latik because the oil will help in extending the shelf life of latik. I bought two (1 large and 1 medium) coconuts for this.
- Prepare all the ingredients
- Sauté the garlic until aromatic. (I read somewhere that it’s a Filipino thing to sauté the garlic first before the onions. I’m not sure about it, but my Mom would always tell me to sauté the garlic first.)
- Add the onions, ginger, and turmeric. Sauté until the onion is translucent.
- In medium fire, add the pangalawang piga ng gata/ second squeeze coconut milk and stir once in a while to make sure that the coconut milk is not burnt at the bottom of the pan.
- When the gata/ coconut milk boils, lower the fire then add the chopped chillies. Continue stirring once in a while.
- Wait ‘til the gata/ coconut milk turns oily before adding the kakang gata/ pure coconut milk. After adding the kakang gata, add the salt and sugar then mix.
- Turn off the fire when the kakang gata starts to oil. Your latik is now ready. You may transfer it to a sterilized bottle or container when it’s no longer too hot.
Cooking gata in Bikol means you have to make the gata oily. This is different in Thailand where they don’t want the coconut milk to be oily when cooking Thai dishes, or at least that’s what I’ve learned from my cooking class in Chiang Mai. Adding kakang gata later than the pangalawang piga also makes it creamier, as not all the gata turns into oil. So you have the balance of oily and creamy gata. The oil also helps in extending the shelf life of the dish as gata spoils easily. When I started living in Metro Manila, I didn’t want to buy dishes cooked in gata from eateries here because they either scrimp on gata or don’t cook it well enough until it oils. Haha.
Please update me if you tried the recipe and message me if you have questions. I really wanted to write the recipe with a little cultural background, because eating is always a cultural experience so might as well put in the cultural context of the dish! 😉
Hi! I’m Gale, a Crocheter, Crafter, Wanderer, and Researcher/ Ethnographer from the Philippines.
Let me share with you my crochet and craft projects, work side-trips, local recipes and food picks, and language and cultural tidbids– basically my struggle to find sparkle of joy in this world.