Wednesday, December 18, 2013


Here I am sharing with you  a very simple way to cook our favorite Christmas  traditional steamed rice cake...

Puto Bumbong is served with hot salabat (ginger tea), a favorite snack for churchgoers especially during 'simbang gabi' or 'misa de gallo (early morning mass) on Christmas time. Simbang Gabi is a 9-day period (Dec 16-24) of joyful waiting with prayers and glorification, for the advent of the baby Jesus.

Puto Bumbong is traditionally made from a special fragrant variety of glutinous rice called 'pirurutung', which is purplish black in color. It is originally cooked in bumbong (bamboo tube), served with grated coconut and brown or muscovado sugar. 

And the reason it became a favorite snack on Christmas is actually because of the hot salabat -- a traditional drink for peasants on cold December mornings as they go to church.

Puto Bumbong originated in Malaysia from among the Tamil-speaking Indian community. In Malaysia it is known as 'putu bambu', and cooked with white sticky rice. The word 'putu' comes from the Tamil word 'puttu' which means 'portion'. 

Tamil is the oldest living ancient language originating in Sanskrit. These Tamil speaking people came from South India. So really, our puto bumbong has its deepest roots in South India.

Malays were the third group of people who migrated to the Philippines about 5,000 years ago. There were 3 groups of Malays. The first group came from West Borneo. They were well-built, of medium-height, with brown complexion, straight hair and flat nose. They settled in Palawan and Mindoro.

In Mindoro, the Malays found the purple pirurutung rice naturally growing as wild grass. They liked its fragrant smell and delicious nutty flavor, a good quality sticky rice to cook their 'putu bambu' with. 

Soon this wonderful rice cake, now with a purple hue, spread among the descendants of these Malays in the Tagalog, Ilocano and Bicolano regions. Thru time, the name evolved into 'puto bumbong', as we know it today.

Here is my recipe of home-made puto bumbong (steamed without the bumbong!).


1 c galapong (glutinous rice soaked and ground)

1/4 c thick coconut milk

1 c ubi (purple yam), boiled, grated or mashed
pinch of salt
pcs of wilted banana leaves

fresh grated coconut
brown or muscovado sugar
butter or margarine

note: if using powdered glutinous rice, add enough water to make 1 c galapong


1. In a bowl, mix all ingredients. Form into balls, then into long tube.
2. Wrap in banana leaves. Steam. Put toppings. Serve with hot salabat.

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