"Bicho bicho! Bicho bicho!". Hollers like this make children (and some grown ups, too) scamper out to the streets. It is the equivalent of the ice cream van's melodies to our Filipino ears.
What is it that made us run? Soft and fluffy, piping hot bicho-bicho! It is the Philippine equivalent of donuts. So now you understand what the excitement was about. It tastes almost the same but is lighter, softer and, in my biased opinion, yummier.
I have been trying to make them for some time now but with no success. After giving up and moving on, I just by chance happened to make them. I was trying to make sweet potato bread but the dough turned out too soft. I didn't want to add more flour because that will dilute the sweet potato taste. So I tried frying the dough. The dough was brown and slightly crusty but soft and pillowy inside. The sweet potato flavour was very apparent and made the crust a lovely brown colour when fried. It was love at first taste.
I suddenly had visions of the bright, hot sun and the children scampering to get to the vendor's basket full of bicho bicho, waving hands clutching coins. The first mouthful is like heaven. The sandy sugar smears the lips but is left there for licking after the last stub of bicho bicho is gone.
It is funny how we yearn for simple pleasures like this. No matter how much and how nice the food we get to taste today, there is still some food from the past that we'd like to have a chance to eat again. It is as close to reliving yesterday as we can get.
4-5 c. plain flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 tbsp. active dry yeast
1 1/4 c. milk, lukewarm
1 c. cooked sweet potato puree
1/4 c. melted butter
1 tsp. salt
Put the 4 c. of the flour, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl. Add the milk, egg, sweet potato puree, butter, and salt. Use an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment to knead the dough until smooth and elastic. Add a bit more flour if the dough is too soft. It will be a bit tricky to knead this by hand because the dough is soft and sticky. Mix with a wooden first then knead with oiled hands.
You may not need to add the full amount of flour. Aim for a very soft dough that forms a ball. If the dough is too wet, like thick batter, you need more flour. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place until double in bulk (about 1 1/2 hours).
Heat up some oil in a wok or pan to medium hot, enough for deep frying. When hot, pinch a bit of the dough with oiled fingers and stretch to form a thin long piece, about 6" long and 1" wide. Don't make the dough too thick because the dough needs to cook through before turning brown on the outside. This dough expands quite a lot so don't crowd the pan. Fry on medium heat, turning over when one side is browned, until puffed and browned. Roll in sugar while hot.
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