Categories
dessert Filipino street food

Puto Bumbong

Puto Bumbong is a Filipino delicacy that’s traditionally served during the Christmas season in the Philippines. It literally translates to steamed glutinous rice (puto) cooked in bamboo (bumbong), and it’s a staple at my best friend’s house, where we gather for Noche Buena at midnight on Christmas Eve. The purple color comes from the mixture of sweet rice and black rice (pirurutong), but I’ve seen recipes that call for purple food coloring, which is obviously cheating! Puto bumbong is served with butter, sugar and freshly grated coconut on top. I asked my friend’s mom if she would show me how to make puto bumbong, and she was happy to oblige.

Puto Bumbong
Dave Chappelle says “I want that purple stuff!”

Cooking puto bumbong is fairly quick but preparing the rice is a three-day process. On the first day, you take a mixture of equal parts of sweet rice and pirurutong and soak it overnight. On the second day, you take the mixture and grind it in a blender. (In the Philippines, you’d traditionally use a grinding stone of some kind.) Then the mixture is placed in a cotton sack (like a flour sack) for another day in order to drain any excess water. Since it’s generally warm at Christmastime in the Philippines, you’d simply hang the bag outside and let gravity do the work. With the colder winters here in the States, better results are obtained by putting a heavy weight on the bag to force the excess water out.

The rice mixture should be ready the next day, and it should be moist, not dry. The next step is to use your hands to mix it up and break up any clumps.

Purple Rice Mixture
Clumps are bad.

To cook the puto bumbong, you need a special steamer. This one has three holes on top so that the steam can escape and cook the puto in the bamboo. The cloth wrapped around the bamboo helps prevent burnt hands.

Puto Bumbong Steamer

Simply fill up the bamboo with the rice mixture and put it on top of the steamer. You can tell when it’s done when the rice turns dark purple and kind of shrinks into the bamboo.

Three Different Stages of Doneness
Clockwise from top: almost done, just started (light purple), and finished (dark purple).

Before you remove the puto bumbong from the bamboo, hold the top of the bamboo over the steam to finish cooking the end that was farthest away from the steam.

Finishing the Ends...
Finish off the tip.

To remove from the bamboo, hold the bamboo in your left hand…then hit the pinky side of your left hand against your right palm by the base of your thumb. The puto bumbong should plop onto plate.

Puto Bumbong with Butter
Lots of butter is very important!

To finish, slather the puto bumbong with butter and then top it with freshly grated coconut and sugar (either white or brown). In the Philippines, puto bumbong is sold by street vendors after Mass during Christmas week and is wrapped in banana leaves so customers can take it with them. Since we normally enjoy these at home, we just eat it fresh from the steamer…no banana leaves required.

Thanks to my Tita Lety for showing me how this delicious Christmas treat is made. It’s always great going to their house on Christmas Eve for Noche Buena just a few hours after finishing our own Christmas Dinner.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain Filipino musings TV

Bourdain Rocks the “Land of Lechon”

I called my mom about 5 minutes before No Reservations: Philippines was going to air in California, and instead of greeting me, she said, “Are you watching No Reservations?” It wasn’t airing in Hawaii, where I was on vacation, for two more hours, but I did call her to make sure she was watching.


You know Bourdain was in the real Philippines because it said BAWAL UMIHI DITO
(translation: don’t pee here) on every wall. :)

If the Pacquiao/De la Hoya fight was the Filipino equivalent of the Super Bowl, I think this block of television devoted to the cuisine of the Philippines might have been our NBA All-Star Game. Granted, 44 minutes isn’t nearly enough time to do justice to the diverse cuisine of the Philippines, but I thought the show did a good job highlighting some of the great things about the Mother Islands. Bourdain is also a self-described history nut, and he had a lot of great questions about the cultural and historical influences on the Philippines.

I’m not going to recap the whole episode, but it was nice to see Bourdain fall in love with sisig and lechon, and then later declare that the Philippines is No. 1 on his “Hierarchy of Pork” on his Travel Channel blog.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain Filipino TV

Philippines Tops Bourdain’s “Hierarchy of Pork”

As the No Reservations – Philippines episode gets set to air, Bourdain’s latest blog post boldly declares that the Philippines is No. 1 in his so-called “Hierarchy of Pork,” ahead of Bali and Puerto Rico.

In his post, Bourdain had high praise for both sisig and the lechon he had in Cebu.

What we did get right, I’m quite sure, was making sure that the amazing, porky delights of “sisig” got plenty of camera time. If you’ve never had this divine mosaic of pig parts, chopped and served sizzling and crisp on one side on a screaming hot platter, then you’ve yet to have one of the world’s best beer drinking dishes. And speaking of pig? It can now be said that of all the whole roasted pigs I’ve had all over the world, the slow-roasted lechon I had on Cebu was the best.

First Manny Pacquiao and now No. 1 on Bourdain’s Hierarchy of Pork? All we need now is for Charice to become bigger than Celine Dion, and we can start our official cultural takeover of the world.

Categories
Anthony Bourdain Filipino musings TV

Watch Bourdain Eat the Philippines on No Reservations

I know I’m probably the last Filipino food blogger to mention this, but the much-anticipated Philippines episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations is airing on the Travel Channel tonight at 10pm EST. For a preview, check out his travel itinerary.

Don’t pee here, Tony!

On his Travel Channel blog last October (on my birthday, no less!), Bourdain said this upon his arrival to the Philippines:

Of all the people who watch NO RESERVATIONS, it’s been Filipinos who have been consistently among our biggest fans and most vocal about our having yet to film in their country.

“You’ve been all over Asia,” I hear again and again, “…so WHY haven’t you come to the Philippines?!”

Well…I’m here. And the pressure is on…

All I can say is “Don’t worry. We’re NOT doing balut. Been there. Done that.” And privately think to myself, “Don’t screw this up … don’t screw this up … don’t screw this up.”

It’ll be nice to see a show that highlights Philippine cuisine without featuring balut because it’s such a cliche for “adventurous” eaters. Also, It looks like the silog segment got cut, but you can watch it here.

Even though I’m in Hawaii right now, it’s family dinner night so we’re staying in, and I’ll be in front of the TV watching. Will you?

Categories
Filipino musings

Saveur Explores Christmas in Pampanga

I picked up the latest copy of Saveur mainly to drool over the cover story about filet mignon, but as I was thumbing my way to page 87, I caught a glimpse of a roasted pig on a spit and immediately stopped. As I started reading, I discovered that it was part of an article called “Days of Feasting” about the Christmas season in the Philippines, more specifically in the city of Arayat in Pampanga, an area known for their outstanding regional interpretation of Filipino food.

The author, Robyn Eckhardt of Eating Asia, stayed with the family of her friend and colleague Marc Medina during her stay in Pampanga, and she was introduced to the annual gorgefest that occurs all over the Philippines during the holidays. Eckhardt’s main connection to the cuisine was the Medina’s family cook, Lucia Mallari, who prepared most of the meals during her stay. Overall, it’s a good read and I suggest that you pick it up while it’s on newsstands since the article isn’t available online.

Four recipes accompany the article, including an Adobong Manok (chicken adobo) recipe that doesn’t include soy sauce (Mallari claims her recipe is the “real” one), Pinakbet (Philippine vegetable stew), Ulang sa Gata (prawns in coconut milk), and Ensaimada (Philippine-style brioche).

Seeing these recipes in Saveur, especially with their Tagalog names listed first, was really heartwarming because Filipino food hardly ever gets any attention from the “mainstream” culinary media. I’ve always thought that Filipino food could hold its own against other Asian cuisines and have often wondered what’s holding it back. It’s even more amazing when you consider that in America, Filipinos are one of the largest Asian populations in the country (approx. 4 million), but I’m willing to bet more people have eaten Thai food in their lifetime than Filipino food and there are only around 250,000 Thai people in the U.S.

Maybe Manny Pacquiao’s newly claimed worldwide superstardom is going spill over into food, and this Saveur story is just a happy coincidence that will ride the Pac-Man wave.

Blatant Manny Pacquiao cameoGratuitous Manny Pacquiao cameo.

Then again, Manny did eat at Nat’s Thai Food in Hollywood almost every day when he was training, which I thought was an odd aspect of his regimen, but I guess we have to give Thai food its props for helping power the Pacquiao Express.