WHEN my husband Raff and I got back home to Cainta after staying with my sister in Mandaluyong for a year following Raff’s stroke and hospitalization, among the stuff that I found at home was a box of Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado (Balatinaw). I opened the box and found two packets—one, a vacuum-packed plastic bag filled with Balatinaw rice; and the other an aluminum foil-like packet that contains pure dark cacao cubes and sugar. The instruction card says to mix everything in a stockpot with 5 cups of water, bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat and cook until thick and done.
I have always loved heirloom rice, and it makes me happy to know that there is a strong movement in recent years to encourage farmers to continue planting heirloom rice so that it does not fade into oblivion. A number of restaurants have made it their advocacy to use certain varieties of heirloom rice, and quite a few celebrity chefs, both local and foreign, have now made it their personal quest to promote heirloom rice. Even food companies are now actively involved in the promotion of heirloom rice and other uniquely Pinoy ingredients. Marigold Corporation, the manufacturer and distributor of Mama Sita’s mixes and sauces, happens to be one of them. I do believe that Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado is a serious and strong effort to encourage farmers to keep planting heirloom rice, since they no longer have to worry about marketing their products and pricing has been kept competitive.
I cooked the Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado the next morning, and though it took a bit of time to prepare the concoction, the result was quite encouraging. It was a delicious dark chocolate rice porridge. The Balatinaw rice gave it a good bite and the roasted pure cacao gave it an intense dark chocolate flavor—not too sweet, just right. You can tell that the Mama Sita’s kitchen team gave the product much thought and kitchen tests to perfect the mix before marketing it.
Balatinaw rice, which is sourced from Bauko, Mt. Province, is perfect for Champorado not only because of the bite but also because it gives the Champorado an appetizing deep brown color. Balatinaw is a deep purple to black medium, whole grain and semi-sticky rice variety with a hint of fruity and chocolatey flavor and aroma.
Raff loved the Champorado! But since Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado was packed eclectically in a brown corrugated box, I doubted if it was commercially available, so I got in touch with Mama Sita’s Ces Nepomuceno-Gamad, who told me that it is only available at the Mama Sita’s pop-up kiosk at the tiangge section of Greenhills Shopping Center in San Juan.
I am told that Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado comes in different heirloom rice variants: Balatinaw, Ominio, Minaangan and Kalinga Jekot.
Ominio, which is often confused with Balatinaw, has deep purple to black medium, semi-polished grains. It is a type of sticky or glutinous rice that is sourced in semi-polished state from Barlig, Mt. Province.
Minaangan rice comes from Banaue, Ifugao. It has reddish brown, thin whole grains, and is a semi-sticky rice variety.
Kalinga Jekot has beautiful , oblong and reddish grains that exude a full-bodied aroma. A type of sticky or glutinous rice, it is perfect for delicious local desserts or kakanins.
If you notice, all four heirloom rice varieties come from the Cordilleras. This is because Mama Sita Foundation supports the Department of Agriculture’s Philippine Heirloom Rice Project by using Cordillera heirloom rice for making Mama Sita’s Champorado Rice + Cacao Porridge.
One pack of Mama Sita’s Heirloom Rice Champorado kit costs Php180, which is worth it because it yields two to three servings and is absolutely delicious. Personally, my hands-down choice is the Balatinaw.