Doesn’t the word remind you of lazy afternoons spent reading komiks and feasting on boiled corn kernels with a topping of fresh grated coconut and a sprinkling of salt or sugar? It’s not ordinary boiled corn, though; we’re talking about binatog or kinulte.
Both binatog and kinulte imply action on something; the corn was batog-ed or kulte-ed. For want of information, I would say that batog is related to apog, or lime, which is the substance used to treat the corn. Likewise, kulte is probably from Spanish culto, or cultured. Indeed, the corn is cultured or treated… with lime.
Did did you know that corn is not native to the Philippines? Spaniards brought it over from Mexico during the 16th century, along with other crops and methods of food preparation. One such method is nixtamalization: the indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica soaked and cooked corn kernels in a limewater solution to remove the grain’s hard covering. The result is corn that is easy to grind, has higher nutritional value, and tastes better. The chemical changes in the treated grains allowed further processing of corn into other food products.
If you examine the word nixtamalization, you’ll be able to extract a familiar term, tamal. In Mexican cuisine, tamales are cakes of treated, dried, pulverized and moistened corn to which different fillings and seasonings may be added; these are wrapped in dried corn husks, and then steamed until cooked through. Tamales are also made in the Philippines, with slight variations from the Mexican recipe.
Mexican tamales at http://www.yelp.com
Philippine tamales at foreverazul.wordpress.com
If nixtamalized corn kernels are washed right after lime-treatment, then boiled to a desired softness, the result is binatog. Ready-made binatog is available in Hispanic and mainstream stores; look for cans of HOMINY.