Filipinos love to eat; in fact, our way of greeting someone doubles as an invitation to dine with them, “kumain ka na ba?” (have you eaten yet?) is our usual question whenever we have visitors at home. And we have all sorts of food that are associated with a specific celebration, tradition or season. Foods that signifies every facet of our colorful Filipino culture and heritage.
Our featured recipe is just that, comfort food that reminds us of home and how simple life is back then. Alpahor na Kamote is a traditional Filipino merienda (snack) of sweet potatoes simmered in coconut milk and sugar, usually served in the afternoon. Serving and eating this sweet treat is often associated with the observance of Holy Week as most Filipino Catholics refrain from eating meat-based dishes during this season.
However, due to the modernization and the substantial influence of Western and neighboring Asian countries and their cuisine, this once popular dessert snack is losing popularity to our younger generation. The availability and our innocence about these foreign foods are what make them appealing to the youth.
But hope is not lost, because it is our joy to share with you the techniques and variations that you can try to make this merienda offering a hit for your kids. So allow us to teach you how to cook the best Alpahor na Kamote at home and let your loved ones, especially the kids, appreciate what made you fall in love with it when you were younger.
What is Alpahor na Kamote
Our country, the Philippines, being a tropical nation, is naturally dotted with tropical trees like the coconut and various root crops that abundantly grow in our soil. The stars of our recipe, sweet potato, and coconut milk, are typical components in many of our dishes, may it be savory or sweet.
Alpahor na Kamote is a sweet and creamy dessert soup that uses sweet potato as its main ingredient. The creamy consistency is brought about by the coconut milk, which is a typical component of many of our delicious treats. The pandan leaves give the dish that fragrant aroma that completes the sweetness of our recipe. The ingredients are simple and readily available, and for people living in rural areas, they can even be gathered in the backyard.
This snack is famous in Luzon, especially in the Southern and Central parts of the island, collectively called the Tagalog region. Holy Week traditions like the Pabasa ( a tradition of narrating the life of Jesus Christ, from His birth to His death and resurrection, highlighting His last week, thus the term Holy Week) serves Alpahor na Kamote and some other Filipino kakanin as snacks for those who just finished reading. Bystanders, mostly kids, also enjoy this sweet soupy dessert.
Over time, many variations have been made to the dish for it to remain relevant such as adding native produce which is in the season like jackfruit or bananas that adds another layer of sweetness and zest to the dish. And provincial adaptations have been created to suit the palates of people in that particular region. This goes to show that our featured recipe will always remain as a staple and authentic merienda offering throughout the archipelago.
Ways to make Alpahor na Kamote
Our featured recipe might be a traditional Filipino recipe, but making it is not limited to tradition. The simplicity of Alpahor na Kamote makes it suitable for cooking in many ways but still producing the same sweet snack that we all love. What we did was to list them down so that you can also try them at home.
Instant Pot Alpahor na Kamote
Instant Pot is probably one of the most versatile cooking there is, as it allows you to cook different recipes at the desired setting, giving you more time to do other household works. Simply put all the ingredients inside the pot and set the timer to the prescribed setting. The slower cooking time allows the ingredients to tenderize fully while absorbing the sweetness and the creaminess of the sugar and coconut milk. Using this method is one way of making sure that flavors are well concentrated and absorbed mainly by the tubers. The starch from the sweet potato aids in thickening the soup as well.
Slow Cooker Alpahor na Kamote
If you have plenty of time in your hands and don’t mind waiting for an extended period for meals to be cooked, then this is a suggested method for you. The slow cooking process produces a constant heat inside the pot, evenly cooking the ingredients. The extended cooking period also promotes further absorption of the milk and sugar into the starchy sweet potato, ensuring that the flavors seep into the tubers. Simply put the ingredients inside the cooker and set it to cook for about an hour or two in a low setting, making sure that the soup does not dry out by gradually adding coconut milk.
Pressure Cooker Alpahor na Kamote
This cooking method is probably the quickest way of nailing this recipe. The pressure build-up inside the pot tenderizes the sweet potatoes faster than the usual method of cooking it. It also aids in the better absorption of the flavors. Toss in all the ingredients inside the pot, and from time to time, make sure to release the steam to reduce pressure until the tubers are cooked thoroughly. This is recommended for people who still wants to enjoy this classic sweet treat but do not really have the luxury of time to prepare it.
Wood Stove Alpahor na Kamote
(Kalan de Kahoy)
Probably the most authentic and traditional way of cooking Alpahor na Kamote. In this method, a big iron pot is used as the cooking vessel, and the conventional wood-fired stove is used. The ingredients are put into the iron pot until they are thoroughly cooked. The smell of charred wood gives that home-cooked pleasant aroma to our dish, which is already aromatic because of the pandan leaves. Growing up in the province, the use of this method is not employed only for this recipe, but for almost every dish as dried branches and wood can easily be found lying in the backyard or nearby forest.
The nature of how Alpahor na Kamote was conceived is simple; find what’s available and palatable as a dessert, then mix them in with sugar and coconut milk, then voila, you have yourself a nutritious and filling merienda. As most of our dessert snacks, their execution, and components are always dependent on what’s readily available and what can be procured easily. With that formula, many variations of our featured recipe have been based on the local produce of the region it was made. So we listed them down for you so that you can try to cook them at home.
If you want to add another layer of flavor to our sweet and creamy snack soup, then jackfruit is the perfect addition to that. Jackfruit, being a tropical fruit, abundantly dots our landscape, and often grows wildly. The flesh of the jackfruit is somehow firm and has a sweet and slight hint of acidity to it; the latter characteristic is what’s going to add that zesty flavor to our recipe, making it more delectable.
This particular variant of our recipe is quite similar to another, though not to be confused with, a soupy dessert snack called Guinataang Bilo-bilo. This variant hails from the Central Visayas region and a fairly common merienda offering in that part of the country. The process is the same as cooking our recipe; however, the most distinguishable difference is the use of kamoteng ube (purple yam) in place of the sweet potato, giving the dish its distinct purplish color. It is quite popular among the kids, partly because of its ubiquitous yet appealing color and its mildly sweet and rich flavor. The ingredients are simmered in coconut milk and sugar until all of the ingredients are cooked, most of the time the preferred way of cooking is by a wood stove to infuse the charred and smoky aroma with the soup.
Another variant coming from the Visayas region, particularly from the Iloilo province, this version is different because of the addition of glutinous rice with the ingredients. Tubers like purple yam are used instead of sweet potatoes. Jackfruit is also added to the soup to add zest to the flavor. In a pot of boiling water, mix in glutinous rice along with the tubers and simmer them until they are cooked. Add in the coconut milk and sugar as well as the plantain and allow the banana to tenderize before serving it. This variant is often served in birthday celebrations and as snacks for folks working in the rice fields.
Ginataang Kamoteng Kahoy ( Cassava In Coconut Milk)
Cassava is the main ingredient in this variant of Alpahor na Kamote, cassava in Filipino is called Kamoteng Kahoy, literally translated as wooden sweet potato due to its tough flesh and exterior. The process for cooking this recipe is rather simple though it takes some time for the flesh to tenderize fully. Peel the skin of the cassava and boil them until they are tenderly cooked halfway through. Then add in the coconut milk and sugar and simmer them until the cassava is cooked thoroughly. You might want to add-in pandan leaves as well to give it a fragrant and enticing aroma.
Cassava, along with sweet potatoes, grows abundantly in our soil because of our tropical climate, and both of them can be found, if not as the main ingredient, a component of many of our recipes.
Cooking this dish really takes some trials before you can perfect it, however, do not be disheartened because we have listed some troubleshooting steps that you can perform should you encounter mishaps in cooking this dish.
- Runny soup
In this scenario, the culprit could be the addition of too much water into the soup.
One way to remedy this problem is by adding coconut milk to try and thicken the soup. Or if you have excess sweet potatoes, then you can add them in as well. The starch of the sweet potatoes helps in thickening the sauce without adding too much liquid.
- Bland tasting
Putting too much liquid than the required amount could be the cause of the problem, and the solution is simple. Add a few tablespoons of sugar to add sweetness, putting a few slices of plantain can also help add that taste you lack in the soup.
Alpahor na Kamote might look dull and straightforward at first glance. However, this sweet and creamy delight packs a nutritious punch as well; no wonder this is a choice of afternoon snack our grandmothers and mothers prefer to serve for us. Knowing the health benefits of what we are eating gives us more reasons to love and appreciate them, so we listed some of them here.
- Sweet potatoes are rich in fibers and antioxidants, which stimulates good gut health.
- They also contain high amounts of Vitamin A, which is right for your eyes.
- Coconut milk, which gives our recipe that creamy taste lowers blood pressure and cholesterol. And if taken in moderation, this also helps in weight loss.
Hey, we all know that prevention is always better than cure; the same principle applies in cooking as well. That’s why we listed down some tried and tested tips that you can practice to prevent mishaps in the kitchen and make you a star when cooking Alpahor na Kamote.
- Instead of purchasing ready to use coconut milk or the one in powdered form, why not switch to freshly pressed coconut milk. Just buy newly grated coconut, pour warm water and press them using cheesecloth or strainer to sift. Two batches of coconut milk can be produced; the first batch is called coconut cream, and the last batch the coconut milk. The previous batch can be used as a replacement for water when cooking our recipe.
- Adding lime zest to this dish makes it even more fragrant. Or if you don’t want the zest floating around the soup, just squeeze the lime zest using cloth into the soup.
Best Served With
The sweetness and creaminess of our featured recipe make it a perfect partner with various dishes. As a bonus, we noted some of the foods that you can partner with.
- Black Coffee
The bitterness of the coffee is a perfect partner with our recipe’s sweetness. The contrast between the two creates a deep layer of flavor that you can’t resist.
What’s a better way to start your day than a warm bowl of Alpahor na Kamote and our ever famous breakfast fix, Pandesal. The mildly salty and sweet bread highlights the creaminess of our recipe.
- Puto ( Steamed Rice Cakes)
What could be more traditional than pairing our sweet treat with Puto? The soft and fluffy puto dipped in our sweet and soupy merienda treat is indeed heaven-sent.
Eating is not just about being full; at times, it makes us nostalgic about the past and how simple life is back then. So we hope that with all the things we’ve shared with you, you’ll be able to cook Alpahor na Kamote with enthusiasm and be reminded that food doesn’t have to be luxurious for it to taste great. At times, simplicity is the key. Happy cooking!
For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!
Best Alpahor na Kamote Recipe
- 2 lbs Sweet Potato
- 1/2 cup Cooked Tapioca Pearl small
- 1 1/2 cup Coconut Milk
- 2 cups Water
- 1 pc Pandan leaves
- 3 lbs White Sugar
- 2 tbsp Cornstarch
- Clean and peel the sweet potato, slice it about 1/2 inch thick.
- Put the water in the casserole, when it's boiling already, add the pandan leave and sweet potato then boil for 5 minutes.
- Add the tapioca pearl and coconut milk, mix until it boils to prevent coconut milk from forming.
- When it is boiling already, add the sugar and slightly mix for 5 minutes.
- Dissolve the cornstarch in water and pour slowly in the casserole.
- Serve hot.