07 Feb2008


Screech to a halt! Turn the car around! I spotted a bibingka (puto, to non-Cebuanos) vendor streetside putting in a new batch of bibingka/puto in molds into her large makeshift wood fired steamer! Folks who ride with me in a car these days do so at their own peril, as I am notorious for stopping/photographing/buying food or produce. I had passed this particular area on Veterans Drive in Lahug (near the small street market) HUNDREDS of times in the past 5 years as it leads up to where I stay when I am in Cebu… but I have never noticed this puto seller before… It always amazes me what you find when you simply open your eyes.


Just a few weeks ago, Mrs. MM attended a family reunion in Cebu where over 300+ relatives showed up. And one of the topics of conversation was the puto or bibingka that a grandmother used to serve to guests from near or far. They all recalled it as having unusual purple dots sprinkled onto the off white rice cakes. I vaguely knew what they were referring to, but because my own grandmother was not terribly fond of sweets, we didn’t have the same puto during our summer visits to lolo and lola.



I also wondered out loud if the little dots might not be some sort of flavoring, such as ube or something else, but everyone seemed to think they were just plain food color, and purely for decorative purposes. So when I spotted this bingka or puto vendor this morning, I decided to stop and find out more. These “binkang pinalutaw” are simple rice cakes (ground regular rice, not glutinous rice), made with freshly squeezed coconut milk and a touch of sugar. They seem denser than Manila puto, and sit like a rock in your stomach. Made in small ensaimada or mamon molds lined with young banana leaves, they are a hearty merienda or snack. The rice is fresh, with no hint of fermentation at all, the sweetness is pleasant but not cloying, and it keeps for a day or two without refrigeration. They made sure I knew that they didn’t include the grated coconut in the mixture, just the milk, as the former tended to result in faster fermentation of the finished product. And yes, the little dots of purple are simply for decoration… they do nothing for the flavor. And these days, they also mix a lot of food coloring into the basic rice mixture to create the bright purple versions they were cooking when I happened to pass by.


Lani and Cathy, who have been manning this stall for years, grind up the rice, add coconut milk (no solids) and sugar fill banana leaf lined molds that are then placed in a huge steamer with conical lid. They tend a wood fire (and occasionally throw in some coconut shells as well) to steam up in about 15 minutes a batch of roughly 18+ putos. They sell these for PHP6 each, or 17 for HP100. Imagine? For less than the cost of a Starbucks frapuccino, we were able to have a morning snack for 17 people??? Now that is what I call a good deal! And while I just stumbled upon this particular vendor, I know there are hundreds of similar folks who have a food specialty, make it day in and day out, make do with makeshift and worn equipment, and still manage to turn out such simple and yet utterly satisfying delicacies… life is indeed better than you think if you can appreciate something as simple as this binkang pinalutaw, cooked roadside in Cebu…




  1. chi says:

    Well, they sure are purple! I don’t really have anything significant to say. I just wanted to be first to make a comment – lol …

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:16 pm


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  3. felina c. says:

    just wondering if there would be any baking powder to cause the puffiness of the bibingkas….surely looks filling eh!

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:38 pm

  4. Jennifer says:

    MM, What makes some puto/bibingka split open on top and some not split open?

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:41 pm

  5. Maria Clara says:

    Our ingrained love and genuine creativity for rice pastries each region has its version! The bingkang pinalutaw is meant for you this day – you know this route by heart and it is only this day you catch these ladies. There is something on roadside goodies that calls attention – this bingkang and iced cold buko juice is a real treat for merienda. I suspect these two young ladies used tuba as a leaving agent. I would say the purple dots sprinkled on top of the puto of Mrs. MM’s relative could be ground pirurutong drizzled – stepping back in time in early 70s through the 60s food coloring was never implemented in our cuisine especially in baked and steamed goods.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:48 pm

  6. millety says:

    MM, i know that when I was small, some puto had aome actual ube on top – these were actual flecks of boiled and mashed ube. Sad to hear it’s just food coloring now. Somehow, Pinoys find violet a very appetizing color, hence, the current trend of “ube-fying” many of our kakanin. Ube colored and pandan-scented goodies are always yummy!

    Feb 7, 2008 | 12:53 pm

  7. Em Dy says:

    I noticed that they don;t put salted egg on top to jazz it up.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 2:26 pm

  8. Ed Noel says:

    MM, I recall my Lola having a “suki” selling these types of puto and bibingka w/c were delivered to her house in V. Ranudo every week w/o fail. Memories of this makes one long to taste them again if they still make it the way they used to in Cebu…..It’s always a pleasant experience reading your blog every time I get the time to do it. More power to you!

    Feb 7, 2008 | 2:56 pm

  9. DADD-F says:

    My Ninang would make puto by grinding the rice herself after soaking it overnight. And she used pure coconut milk instead of water. The she would steam the prepared puto batter over the wood fire. There’s a nice big hearth(?) in Lolo’s very big kitchen in the ancestral home in Leyte. I’ve tasted puto everywhere but hers is absolutely like no other! I miss it so. I miss her.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 3:32 pm

  10. tamsie says:

    Oh my lord, I heart bingkang pinalutaw (or puto to those from Luzon). As a kid growing up in Cebu, I used to dunk these in thick sikwate, never mind if I scalded my tongue. Thanks for bringing back sweet memories, MM.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 3:48 pm

  11. Vennisjean says:

    makes me crave for it…kaso lang only those in the palenkes are available here. Eh ayaw ng mama ko bumili nun lalo na when its already in the plastic. What do they use to meke them rise MM? baking powder or tuba?

    Feb 7, 2008 | 5:28 pm

  12. dee bee says:

    ah.. i accidentally made ‘bingkang pinalutaw’, except i didn’t know it at that time :) in my quest to make puto (bulacan-style), i tried so many recipes and one of them produced something similar to what you described ‘sits like a rock in your stomach’ and looked like those pictured above. problem is i don’t know which recipe produced bingkang pinalutaw…doh!

    Feb 7, 2008 | 5:28 pm

  13. lorraine says:

    Hi MM, I was wondering if you know how to make pichi pichi? :)

    Feb 7, 2008 | 7:10 pm

  14. Marketman says:

    lorraine, I did a post on pichi pichi here. But I didn’t think it was a particularly good version…

    Feb 7, 2008 | 7:17 pm

  15. Ebba Myra says:

    When mom pass away most of the comments of the folks who attended the reception after was that they will miss her puto. She still cooks the old fashion recipe and hate using the pre-mixed flour, instead she asked or looked for feshly ground rice for her faous bibingka/puto. I also rememberthat I intentionally put some fod color in her mix and it turned out pinkish/purple, she got so mad and threw away that batch.. she said she just wanted her puto plain white…

    Feb 7, 2008 | 8:45 pm

  16. Gina says:

    Em Dy, one of the things that fascinated me when I moved to Manila from Cebu was the ever-present salted egg on merienda fare(bibingka, ensaimada, etc). The saltiness and sandy texture is an interesting counterpoint to the sweetness. Growing up in Cebu, I did not really see/eat salted egg in Cebuano delicacies. Hindi siya uso as an ingredient in Cebuano cooking.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 10:39 pm

  17. Artisan Chocolatier says:

    MM, Exactly which corner of Veterans Drive is this find at? Is this the one near the Hotel and Petron Station?

    I too pass this stretch everyday and I need to keep my eyes out for this things (I guess I can’t multi-task driving and watching the sidewalk…hahahaha).

    I would love to carry their stuff in my sari-sari store, which is located just a little way further up Marco Polo Plaza.

    Feb 7, 2008 | 11:58 pm

  18. eej says:

    I’d like to have some right NOW! MM, I’d trade places with you in a heartbeat. You slave away in a cubicle while I look for tasty and interesting local delicacies in PI… Are we on for the switch ;)

    Feb 8, 2008 | 1:51 am

  19. HungryDude says:

    So simple, Yet soo appetizing I, for one have never tasted this delicacy and all the other stuff thats posted on this blog. But what fascinates me is MM’S supreme adoration for food. Whether its from the Streets of Cebu, to the Wet markets, on to the Higher end of the Food chain paris, germany, U.S, HK. What virtual Tour of the Continent..

    Feb 8, 2008 | 2:42 am

  20. paoix says:

    these are amazing!! i remember them growing up… soooo good!

    Feb 8, 2008 | 2:56 am

  21. gemma says:

    the hearty cebuano puto is simply the best!!!

    Feb 8, 2008 | 5:24 am

  22. Maria says:

    wow, mm, You made my day here in Quebec. I miss those bibingkas. My mom used to order them in argao. Really deeeeelicious. I used to pair that with homemade sikwati. (homemade hot chocolate) for those who are not bisaya. Thanks for the post.

    Feb 8, 2008 | 6:49 am

  23. Marketman says:

    Artisan, if driving down to Lahug from your new store (is it open yet?), it is on the right side before you get to the first stop light near the market. Look carefully and I think they only cook in the mornings, as I don’t see them in the evenings. Also, you MUST contact Manang Lima from Mandaue who makes superb biko and budbud kabog… her details are in my archives. Gina, yes, salted egg is used less often in Cebu. I think the attraction of the mixture is that the saltiness of the egg heightens the sweetness as well…it’s the same reason there are chocolates offered with sea salt now…salt plays off sweet…

    Feb 8, 2008 | 7:30 am

  24. S says:

    hey, marketman: yeah- that was the ch.V reunion –it was last Jan. 18 @ C.L.g. hehe your right- it was well attended & most attendees belong to an affluent family/politician/socialites etc… saw Mrs. MM but i was shy to approach- she was w/ her bro… hehehe she might think im a stalker. hahaha (ohh- no…- im not a relative- i help the organizer/prime mover of the reunion for the coordination- coz some of them are previous client.) hehehe

    Feb 8, 2008 | 12:48 pm

  25. dhanggit says:

    the color purple is so inviting!! i’ve never tasted this yet..they look really yummy..must be perfect with a hot tea or coffee :-)

    Feb 8, 2008 | 7:38 pm

  26. u8mypinkcookies says:

    looks delish! ;)

    Feb 8, 2008 | 9:10 pm

  27. cooking mama says:

    wowwiiii!!!The color looks so inviting, I feel like flying to Cebu tom, or better yet, I’ll concoct a recipe of my own, the other blogger was right when she said it will go well with iced buko juice but mine will be with condensed milk like how my folks prepared it during my childhood days in San Pablo city, Laguna. mmmmmmm!

    Feb 8, 2008 | 9:32 pm

  28. Mrs. MM's cousin says:

    I was at the reunion and left Cebu with a hundred of these violet flecked puto….The modern version is not as good as the ones made in the old days when the aforementioned lola was still around to bring us some whenever she returned from Cebu. They were shaped elongated oval and we ate them with melted butter and melted cheese, preferably Mozzarella type. Lola purchased them from the Carbon Market. The one who used to cook this puto came from Mambaling. The new versions are a bit heavier and as you said, ube or pirurutong has been replaced by food coloring. I will let you know where to find the original version once I have sourced it from my Cebu connections.

    Feb 9, 2008 | 11:21 pm

  29. Homebuddy says:

    Hey, Im from Lahug, Cebu too! I’ll check this out next time I go home. ‘Love Cebu bingka very much, I wish you could find a recipe for this to post so we can make it and ease the longing!
    Same here, I too am wondering what those few ube colored flecks were, maybe it is just to enhance the bingka in all probability,
    and Mrs. MM’s cousin is right, they were shaped oval.

    Feb 10, 2008 | 10:47 pm

  30. Dodi says:

    Hi MM!
    To Em Dy, I grew up in Mindanao and the Visayas and salted eggs never figure in their diet. It must be a regional thingie, although my family used to “import” salted eggs from Laguna all the way to Cagayan de Oro before. And yes, Visayan puto is denser and more filling. Has anyone tried “putong bulok” made out of “bulok itik eggs” from the Laguna areas?

    Feb 11, 2008 | 10:07 am

  31. maria says:

    wow. looks so yummy…yet so far.

    i would like to experiment on making really really soft puto but don’t have the time or equipment. would you know of a store which sells regional food specialities? thanks

    Feb 11, 2008 | 4:59 pm

  32. tikling says:

    yummyyyyyy…recipe pls…thanks

    Feb 12, 2008 | 5:22 am

  33. Candygirl says:

    Hey, I’m going to Cebu next month. I’ll try to look for lani and cathy and taste their bibingka (I hope they speak tagalog :-)

    Feb 13, 2008 | 10:27 pm

  34. gorgeousinsomniac says:

    Hey! I’m from Cebu. I really miss eating this kind of bibingka. I always look for these whenever I’m in Cebu.

    My taste buds never learned to like the bibingka made here in Manila.

    May 14, 2008 | 4:23 pm

  35. Nino says:

    Yes, definitely goes best with sikwate!

    Jun 6, 2008 | 9:16 am

  36. girlee says:

    It really looks good. Just wondering if you a recipe of the pichi pichi made from sweet rice that’s color purple.


    Jun 30, 2008 | 12:51 pm

  37. rowena amores says:

    hi looks yummmmy purple bingkang pinalutaw/rice cake cebu style… pahingi naman recipe please


    Sep 2, 2008 | 1:00 am

  38. eileen cana says:

    Wow a friend of mine brought back some bingkang pinalutaw from cebu, i really want to know the recipe so that i can make my own bingka because i just love it and it brings back a lot of memories growing up in Minglanilla, Cebu. Share naman the recipe please,please,please….

    Mar 10, 2009 | 10:25 am

  39. judith abella says:

    Looks good. I remember helping my mama in Cebu made these kind of puto but unfortunately I can’t remember the recipe. Can you please share your recipe……Salamat

    Mar 29, 2009 | 6:00 am


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