Who would have though it! Yes I am still here and standing tall as a contestant in the Project Food Blog and ready to roll up my sleeves for round 2. But first I want to send a warm and adoring thank you to everyone who commented, supported and voted for me so far. Mouah !!!

Now the challenge for the 2nd round is as follow: Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with.  Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post. Voting will begin Monday, September 27th, I hope I can count on YOU to vote here for me.

Yes, my dessert actually matches my wall color!

This was a particularly difficult challenge for me because, well look at the title of my blog, I do ethnic recipes all the time. I am always cooking outside of my comfort zone. It’s really hard for me to come across foods that are unusual to my standards because I have tasted so many varied cuisines already. Funny enough the more I focused on my dilemma a clear vision started taking shape. My stream of thoughts and ideas eventually landed me in the Philippines.

Why the Philippines? It all stared with a care package I received from the Foodie Exchange. Mhe-Lhanee of Pens, Pans, and Puns and I decided to have an exchange together. She is from the Philippines. This would be my first exchange with someone in Asia and I was super excited. We actually had quite a few to and fro emails and in no time I had taken quite a liking to her.  Mhe-Lhanee is just so sweet and nice. And she is funny! At one point she said she did not want to send things to exotic to scare me. My answer was simple: Bring it on! And boy did she. There are a couple of really unusual items in this package: sauteed shrimp paste, banana catsup, mussel chips, dilis, honey glazed pilinut and durian candies.  Even one of my cats, Mickey, was terribly excited to sniff out the new arrivals.

Mhe-Lhanee succeeded in pulling the carpet from under me as an ethnic foodie. Trust me it is no small feat. So I am dedication this challenge and the recipes below to her. Thank you my friend half way across the world. I hope one day we meet.

I really think Filipino cooking is full of mystery and the unknown for a North American. The tastes, colors and textures are very exotic. I was particularly fascinated with the desserts.They seem to consist mainly of flans or custards like sweets that can be very starchy. They also use an ingredient a lot which I only started playing around with: glutinous rice flour. I chose to make Butsi with Ube Halaya, or sesame balls with purple yam paste. I am actually going to show you two desserts.

Ube Halaya (adapted from here) is a very popular dessert in the Philippines and it is normally eaten as is but it is also use for halo-halo and filling for pies and tarts. I saw some at a local ethnic grocery store…never had seen these yams before. The flesh is actually a dark purple. Here is the recipe for this dish….

1 1/2  cups mashed cooked purple yam
1 cup coconut milk
1 14oz can condensed milk
a pinch of salt
1 tablespoon butter

1. Peel and slice the yams into medium pieces and boil until tender. Drain and mash.
2. In a deep saucepan combine all the ingredients except the butter. On medium high heat stir non stop while the mixture cooks. Keep stirring until the mixture thickens, it can take anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes.
3. When it looks like the middle picture add the butter and mix it in well.
4. When it starts to pull away from the sides of the pan and when a lifted spoon full doesn’t fall it is ready.
5. Keep 100gr aside for the Butsi and poor the rest into a well-buttered dish and level the surface and smooth the purple yam. A traditional topping is toasted coconut. Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.

I know it looks funny but it is really very good.

OK are you still with me? We are halfway done….still have to make the Butsi.

Butsi (adapted from here) to the Philippines is what Sesame Seed Balls are to China. Essentially it is a deep-fried glutinous rice dough rolled into a ball and filled with a sweet paste. It has a crisp outside and a chewy inside. Here is the recipe for this dish….

3/4 cup Ube Halaya
240g glutinous rice flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
60ml water

1. Mix glutinous rice flour with 2 tbsp sugar, salt, and water, and knead just enough to form a ball.
2. Divide dough into small pieces and form small balls, about 12.
3.Roll each dough ball into a flat disc then place a tbsp of Ube Halaya in the middle.
4.Wrap Ube Halaya with the dough and pinch shut. Roll the ball in sesame seeds. Repeat with the rest.
5. Deep fry in hot oil (about 350 F) until golden brown. Drain on a paper towel. Cool a bit before serving.

Sesame balls are usually serve with dim sum. To cut open like in the picture take a pair of scissors. Very rich and addictive! Please take a moment to go vote for me.

Voting will begin Monday, September 27th, I hope I can count on YOU to vote here for me.

Organized by Foodbuzz, “the Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year”.