The people of the Philippines love celebrations. Celebrations are the avenues where they can see their friends and loved ones. Those events function as ways to bond and reaffirm familial connections and friendships. Celebrations also reflect the religiosity of a specific population. Religious gatherings are a thing in the Philippines.
These celebrations resemble and manifest one of the essential Pinoy values. These get-togethers unearth family-orientedness, which is one of every Pinoy family’s vital qualities. Social gatherings function as a memory lane for such events to bring us back our childhood memories; they also serve as an avenue for catching-up with relatives who live far distances.
One of the most awaited celebrations in the country is the festivity of the Yuletide season. Being the only Catholic nation in Asia, the Philippines puts extreme importance on the celebration of Christmas or the birth of Jesus Christ. This event is anticipated with numerous preparations such as putting up Christmas trees and other decorations, attending simbang gabi, and preparing gastronomically appealing delicacies.
The Christmas celebration in the Philippines is one of the superb festive activities in the country. Massive preparations are taking place every time the yuletide season is fast approaching. The Filipino people, renowned for their resilience, despite financial hardships, always see that they can celebrate Jesus Christ’s birth with their loved ones and close friends. As such, despite financial struggles, they see to it that there is food on the table. Hence, Christmas is not just a celebration of Christ’s birth but also a symbolism of our people’s hard work and perseverance.
You know it's already Christmas season in the Philippines when puto bumbong or puto bombong (purple rice cake steamed in bamboo tubes) stalls everywhere! Now, if you are missing this dish and can't wait a few more months to have this treat, worry no more as we will teach you how to make puto bumbong!
Traditionally, vendors gather in front of the church to sell this treat to the churchgoers every time they step out of every Misa de Gallo (early morning mass in days preceding Christmas). Still, nowadays, it is almost everywhere during the yuletide season.
The memory of eating puto bombong is what most Pinoys hold dear. While for non-Filipinos and Pinoys abroad alike, it is not a matter of space anymore to be able to taste this sumptuous delight when you know how to cook puto bombong!
What is the Best Puto Bumbong Recipe
rm derives from the Tagalog words “puto,” which pertains to a steamed rice cake, and “bumbong” or “bombong,” which means bamboo tube.
You can characterize this rice cake’s appearance as violet colored sticky brushed with margarine, sprinkled with warm coconut and muscovado sugar, then wrapped in banana leaf. Its festive violet color with a yellow touch and the green cover creates an appealing appearance that will instantly make you crave for a serving upon first look.
The history of Puto bombong terminology came from the Tagalog word, puto, which means steamed rice cakes, and bumbong or bombong, which means bamboo tube. Traditional bakers prepare this delicacy from a unique variety of glutinous rice, pirurutong, dark violet. Pirurutong does not come on its own as you can mix it with glutinous rice (malagkit in Tagalog) and sometimes with regular white rice to provide a less sticky consistency.
The rice mixture was packed densely into the bamboo tubes and steamed. You may cook the pirurutong and rice either as whole grains or ground. However, some modern versions allow for the replacement of pirurutong (due to it being rarely available) with an artificial food coloring or sometimes purple yam flour, although it is frowned upon and labeled as inauthentic.
Puto Bombong is a kind of kakanin, which refers to any rice-based dessert or snack popular in the Philippines and even in the Southeast Asian Region. The original essence behind the culture of preparing and eating kakanin is to celebrate a bountiful rice harvest. However, what made puto bombong extra special is its connection to the holiday season, and why is that?
During the Spanish colonization, the friars introduced Misa de Gallo or Simbang Gabi, a mass conducted at dawn, starting from December 16 to welcome Christmas. It is a local belief that if you finished the pre-Christmas masses' series, the heavens would give you anything you wish for by praying. However, at the early times, Pinoys back then encountered more extended workdays during the Simbang Gabi season (yes, Christmas Rush was already a thing).
In this regard, early Filipinos needed carbo-loading as they had to wake up early to attend the Simbang Gabi and work afterward. Hence, first Filipino farmers would go to the kakanin-selling stalls to fuel up their stomachs with Puto Bombong together with a hot cup of salabat or ginger tea.
Such history gives you an overview of how this kakanin was appreciated before; puto bombong was a to-go food and a quick breakfast rather than just a traditional delicacy. Nowadays, this food embodies festivity and merriment.
What kind of steamer is used
Unlike other dishes and rice cake variants, this Christmas favorite is made unique with its special cooking tool-- puto bombong steamer. This cooking device is composed of two parts: the steamer and the bamboo inserts.
The steamer is stainless steel, and a circle in shape with four protruded holes that release the hot steam and house the bamboo cooking utensils. Pour a few cups of water in its metal body, and put the tool directly on the stove for boiling.
Meanwhile, put the mixture in the bamboo inserts as these are where you will cook your rice cake. These shoots are cylindrical and have a tiny hole on the bottom where the heat penetrates through and a broader hole on the top where the puto bombong slides off when cooked. To avoid splatters, tightly wrap the bottom part with a cotton cloth to insert the bamboo cylinders well, so steam will not escape through the holes.
The local markets in the Philippines, Divisoria in particular, sell this unique steamer. However, several online stores offer this product worldwide and are either sold separately or as a package. Nevertheless, you can create it yourself if you are a handyman.
Nowadays, hotels and restaurants across the Philippines put puto bombong as part of their menu, primarily dessert. It usually takes place, most especially in the Yuletide season. However, these establishments, more often than not, utilize metal cylinders or the usual regular steamers. Furthermore, there are instances when they use purple food coloring or purple yam (ube) flour instead of the pirurutong. Culinary experts and Filipino dessert veterans argue that these methods do not claim authenticity. The usage of coloring or purple yam flour is not observed in provinces that produce puto bombong.
Troubleshooting your Recipe
It would be a significant killjoy when what you expect to be a merry meal would turn into a waste of time. It is also hard to assume that you will perfect your first attempt at making puto bombong. However, it is prudent to anticipate encountering a mishap so you can solve it in no time with these simple troubleshooting tips.
- When you find your puto bombong stuck in the bamboo inserts, the superb way to remove them quickly is by inserting some margarine or butter in the opening while it is still hot. Eventually, the margarine will melt, making the festive kakanin slide off quickly.
- Use banana leaves in wrapping puto bombong when you accidentally removed the shoot from the steam. Add sugar to the mixture to turn it sticky and cover it cylindrically. Let it cool down for a while, and it's ready to go.
- When the mixture is overcooked and turns out jelly-like, roll it on shredded coconut pulp to absorb moisture and retain its firmness.
Belonging is such a complicated family of kakanin, puto bombong indeed got some lookalikes. Batangas and Pampanga, Philippines, have a variant of the dish, which is called putong sulot. However, this Batangueno and Kapampangan version is made using white glutinous rice and is available all year-round.
In other Southeast Asian neighbors such as Indonesia and Malaysia, there are similar dishes to the puto bombong. These are Kue putu and putu mambu. However, the distinction comes with the appearance as these rice-based desserts are green in color since they use pandan leaves for flavoring.
Taking a route down to South Asia, puttu or pittu is a similar dish known in India and Sri Lanka. However, it is more of a savory meal and not a dessert. Also, they create these related dishes by using non-sticky rice flour, yet they cook them using bamboo tubes.
We want to create your preparation as easy as possible and your eating experience is as enjoyable as possible. Thus, we present some tips for you so you can have the ultimate puto bumbong.
- Consume the dish immediately while hot. The last thing you want for your Christmas treat is unmelted margarine and lumpy muscovado sugar (as it would taste like eating a body scrub). The kakanin will feel bland when eaten cold.
- Add some finely chopped cheese for added saltiness and creaminess. Cheddar cheese or Quezo de Bola are great options as these two are readily available during the holiday.
- In case you plan on doing the traditional method using the pirurutung, soak the purple grains overnight along with regular glutinous rice before grinding it. Otherwise, you will end up with a dry kakanin mixture.
- Use a food processor in case you do not have the traditional stone grinder. It is best to grind the rice mixture for 10 minutes per batch until you achieve a fine and even consistency.
- Squeeze the excess water out of the ground pirurutong mixture using a clean cloth to avoid overly moist and not firm puto bumbong.
- To be sure that the dish is fully cooked and prevent a gluey mess, cover the top of the bamboo tubes with banana leaf. You will know that you have already cooked the kakanin fully when the leaf cover pops.
- Use kitchen mittens when removing the dish from the bamboo tubes to avoid burning your hands.
- If you have some leftovers, remove it from the banana leaf cover and store it in a tight container. Do not put them in the microwave for reheating, as it is better to re-steam them instead to achieve a freshly-cooked taste and texture.
Best Served with
Consuming Puto Bumbong is more enjoyable together with these treats! Check out these dishes that are ideally served with our featured sweet that will turn every meal or even a regular merienda extra special!
Puto Bumbong With Bibingka
If food can be friends, Bibingka and Puto Bombong might be BFFs! Bibingka is a rice cake made from galapong (wet rice flour), coconut milk, sugar, and eggs, and as our featured dish, it is a delicacy enjoyed during the Christmas season. Bibingka has a cakey and spongy texture opposite to that of puto bumbong, which is sticky.
Salabat is a heartwarming drink that is a traditional favorite served during the cooler ber-months (September to December). Salabat is simply a fresh ginger tea ideally paired with puto bumbong to wash out the sweetness in your tongue. It has a light spicy heat and menthol-like refreshing feel that can soothe cold weather discomforts.
With Tanglad Tea
The hot Lemongrass or tanglad, as the locals call it, is an ideal partner for puto bombong. Lemongrass tea possesses numerous beneficial effects on one’s body. Apart from enjoying its lemony tanginess, it also has antioxidant properties for your kidney and liver. Its natural diuretic component helps your digestion and remove toxic wastes from your body. As such, who wouldn’t love puto bumbong with lemongrass tea?
With Calamansi Tea
Calamansi tea is an MVP among all teas in the Philippines. It can be served either hot or cold. Since it possesses Vitamin C, it prevents and cures cough, colds, flu, and sore throat. Calamansi tea, apart from its beneficial effects, its tanginess can be an ideal partner of the puto bumbong.
With Dragon fruit Tea
Boasting its richness in Vitamins B1, B2, and B3, dragon fruit is good for your health and your tastebuds. Furthermore, it is also rich in protein, magnesium, iron, and fiber. With these beneficial qualities and good taste, it is, without a doubt, an ideal partner for your puto bumbong. Dragon fruit tea hails from the northern Philippines.
With Tsokolate de Batirol (Hot Chocolate)
For kids and kids-at-heart alike, hot chocolate is the ultimate beverage to pair with the rice cake. The tsokolate de batirol was made by mixing ground tablea and milk using a traditional wooden tool (batirol). This conventional hot chocolate will give a perfect balance of chocolatey bitterness and the right sweetness that everyone would like for a hot drink. This drink can be used as a substitute for salabat as some puto-bumbong stalls also include it in their menu.
With Black Coffee
Puto bumbong is an ideal partner with your hot black coffee. The pungent aroma of the coffee beans shall complement the taste of the rice cake. The combination of puto bumbong and black coffee is an ideal breakfast for the family’s early risers. Puto bombong, as a meal in the early hours of the morning, can also be paired with coffee with creamer.
With Orange Juice
The tanginess of orange juice will be ideal to be paired with puto bumbong. The combination of orange juice and puto bumbong is perfect for merienda time. With such variety, it shall excite the kids to get up from the afternoon siesta and have puto bumbong and orange juice.
With Pancit Luglug
Pancit Luglug is a pancit palabok variant made using boiled thin rice noodles and drenching it in thick orange seafood flavored sauce. It is internationally known as "Fiesta Noodles," following the name given by a Filipino fast-food chain with numerous franchises worldwide. Puto bombong can be eaten as a dessert after you have enjoyed your serving of Pancit Luglug.
With Mais con Yelo
Mais con yelo (shaved ice with corn) is a traditional dessert (cousin of the famous halo-halo) made by mixing crushed ice, corn kernels, and evaporated milk. This sweet, shaved ice would create a refreshing drink/dessert that will complement the heavy and sticky puto bombong.
The steamy hotness of puto bombong will surely go together with delight Halo-halo gives us. The colorfulness and tanginess of both delicacies will attract the attention of both children and adults. Who would say no to a delightful merienda of halo-halo and puto bombong? The kids and elderly will like this combination. Since both are sweet, consume responsibility. The variety of halo-halo and puto bombong will bring smiles to your family members’ faces.
With Black Gulaman
Also known as a sweet grass jelly drink, black gulaman has a thirst-quenching and vanilla flavored sweetness that can be ideally paired with puto bombong if you'll have the dish as a late afternoon snack.
With Salted Egg
If you want to level up your Puto Bombong toppings, adding salted egg will turn it way tastier! The white part is salty, and the salted yolk is creamy and savory, which complements the sweetness of the kakanin. This processed egg goes well with the cheese and butter’s milkiness, refreshing shredded coconut, and muscovado sugar's sweetness.
With Queso de Bola
Are you looking for another Christmas favorite to pair with your puto bombong when planning for a Christmas dinner or get together menu? A platter of Quezo de Bola is a sophisticated and less hassle option. You can serve it as a topping or as a co-finger food.
With Leche Flan
The combination of Leche flan and puto bumbong is ideal for people with sweet teeth. For them, the presence of puto bumbong and Leche flan on a dessert plate will surely bring smiles to their faces. The ube flavored puto bumbong is superb when paired with the milky and sweet Leche flan.
With Fiesta Ham
If you are not a fan of the grand Christmas feast but still can't let go of the Christmas spirit, the Fiesta Ham and puto bombong combo will do the job for you. It is simple but already translates into holidays. The sweet, salty, and smoky taste of the slice of Fiesta Ham stimulates and prepares your tastebuds for the dessert treat.
The world knows the Philippines for its joyful and energetic celebration of Christmas that it even embodies in a wide array of dishes, such as the puto bumbong! Moreover, these Christmas dishes reflect the Pinoy spirit; and like puto bumbong, they are as bright and lively as its color, as sweet as its taste, and as creative as to how they create it.
We can learn from this recipe blog that tradition and good delicacy go hand in hand. Thus, the past will always leave us something to enjoy, even in a delightful season like Christmas! Taking a bite of Puto Bumbong would instantly bring you back to the celebratory memories that will fuzz you.
Thus, whenever you don't feel like it is your lucky day, you now have the power to advance the most beautiful time of the year. As you now know how to create puto bumbong, you can bring the Christmas spirit into life anytime and anywhere!
For more delicious recipe, visit Eat Like Pinoy!
Best Puto Bumbong Recipe
- Bamboo tube
- Banana leaves
- 1 ¼ cup Rice flour
- 1 cup Coconut milk
- 1 tablespoon Ube flavouring
- 1 cup Coconut desiccated
- 1 cup Cheese grated
- ½ cup Butter
- 1 cup White sugar
- In a large container, combine rice flour, coconut milk and ube flavouring. Mix well until you form a dough. Set aside.
- Fill your puto bumbong steamer with water halfway through. Apply heat and then let the water boil. Set aside.
- Prepare bamboo tube and spread butter inside of each tube.
- Then, fill each bumbong (bamboo tube) with the mixture. Note: Do not compress the rice so that steam can pass easily.
- Once the water starts to boil rapidly, arrange each bamboo tube on the steamer. Continue to cook until steam comes out of the tube.
- Remove the tube from the steamer. Arrange the contents over a piece of banana leaf, then top with freshly grated coconut, cheese and sugar.
- Share and enjoy!