No Filipino Christmas is ever without bibingka and puto bumbong. They are inexorably associated with misa de gallo, the dawn mass on the nine days before Christmas. While they are more common as street food, they are so popular (even among tourists) that even five-star hotels serve them–using the traditional cookware–during the holiday season.
Bibingka, above, is a rice cake similar to the Western pancake in appearance. In taste, texture and way of cooking, however, they are very much different from each other. Bibingka is made from galapong, baked in a special clay pot, lined with a piece of banana leaf, with live coals on top and underneath. It is topped with slices of kesong puti (white cheese) and itlog na maalat (salted duck eggs). The newly-cooked bibingka is spread with butter and sometimes sprinkled with sugar then served with niyog (grated coconut). Galapong is glutinous rice soaked in water then ground with the water to form either a batter or a dough, depending on what the cooked dish is supposed to be.
Puto bumbong is a dish made from purpled-colored ground rice cooked in bamboo tubes that are placed on a special steamer-cooker. Then, they are removed from the bamboo tubes, spread with butter and sprinkled with sugar and niyog (grated coconut). They are then wrapped in wilted banana leaves which will keep them warm and moist until ready to be eaten.
On the left is the steamer in which the puto bumbong is cooked. The bamboo tubes are half filled with the purple-colored rice in the huge bowl. The bamboo tubes are usually wrapped in cloth to avoid burning the hands of the vendor when they are removed from the steamer when the puto bumbong is ready. Took the photo last night while searching for a “virtual pet” that my twelve-year-old daughter simply “must have”. I would have taken a photo of the bibingka cooker as well but I wanted a photo of the actual cooking, live coals and all. But the stall was about to close and cooking was over for the night.
UPDATE with new photos on November 24, 2012 @ 5.07 p.m.
For more puto-bumbong photos, see A puto bumbong picture story.