Thanks to everyone that left a comment or emailed me following my post on my newly acquired puto bumbong steamer. The suggestions and tips were extremely helpful. I also consulted several cookbooks but I wasn’t entirely happy with the recipes I found… either they assumed I knew too much about making the puto bumbong (the simplest recipes are often the hardest), or they assumed I knew nothing at all but didn’t clearly detail the necessary steps for success. So after some trial and error, here are Marketman’s recipe and tips for puto bumbong, made more of the old-fashioned way, with fine ingredients and a desire to learn and preserve a classic kakanin… As with puto, the deiicacies with the fewest ingredients are often the hardest to get right (I gave up on puto for the time being)…
First, the mixtures of rice… Here I can best counsel that it may take you a few tries to find the mixture you like best. Fresh glutinous rice is stickier than old glutinous rice, I think. Some sticky rices are more sticky than others. The mixture I settled on was roughly this proportion: 2 cups of malagkit or tapol, upland Mindoro variety, and quite sticky and very fresh, 1 cup of pirurutong or purple upland Mindoro sticky rice, and 1/2 cup of regular everyday eating rice, in this case, sinandomeng. You may choose to increase the regular rice to 3/4 of a cup if you prefer your puto bumbong to be less dense and chewy. Rinse this mixture briefly under cold water and remove hulls or other impurities. Then soak in several cups of water to just cover the rice grains, overnight or roughly 8-10 hours. If you are just as inclined to follow a short cut recipe that calls for the exclusion of pirurutong and addition of purple food coloring instead, stop reading this post NOW and pinch yourself until it hurts. Shame on you! After the soaking, take the mixture, mostly drained of water to the wet market and get it ground up there, or grind it up at home if you have a rice grinder. I find that a whirl in the food processor does NOT do the trick.
Bring the resulting pale lavender sludge home in a bag and wrap it with cacha or cheese cloth and hang it until the mass dries out, at least 4-6 hours. It will be quite dense and solid. Now use a large cheese grater to break up the rice into fluffy little flour like bits (though they will denser and bigger than flour). The mixture needs to be fluffed and aerated and fondled with your fingers to the right lightness. The commercial vendors mixture is quite dry and extremely light and airy and this helps them save on cost as well, coaxing the maximum rise from the minimum amount of rice. Fret not if the mixture starts to smell like it is fermenting… that happens after a few hours and it will be fine when cooked. But do not let it turn sour which will happen if you wait too long… this is the reason puto and other rice cakes have that distinct slightly acidic or sour taste or aftertaste…it’s part of the experience.
Next add about two inches of water your steamer and let it come to a gentle boil. Heat up your bamboo tubes on the steamer. Remove the bamboo tube, add a dab of butter (most use margarine) to the top end and perfect your wrist swirl to coat the inside of the tube with melted butter. Add the rice mixture without packing it down and steam it until cooked. Ours took a LONG time, which I only finally figured out was due to the TINY hole at the end of the bamboo tube. Commercial vendors CUT OFF the tapered end and have a huge hole, perhaps 3/4 of an inch in diameter at EACH END of the bamboo tube. How they prevent the mixture from falling out one end is still beyond me at this point. At the last minute, turn the tube over to finish off the cooking of the other end of the puto bumbong.
Extract the delicacy with a skewer or knife, or if you want to do it with a flourish, tap it on a counter and jerk it firmly until the puto bumbong comes out, hopefully, relatively gracefully. And if you are thinkng poopy thoughts, banish them from your mind right NOW. Top with more butter, lots of brown or white sugar and grated coconut and some add sesame seeds. It is MARVELOUS. I always thought the concoction was rather tasteless on its own, but made with good pirurutong, it is fragrant and delicious. Of course the added sugar and coconut is absolutely necessary to fully experience this… but once you have had the real thing, the commercial versions will never thrill you again… And actually, I am not sure if there is anyone, perhaps Via Mare?, that still serves a traditionally made puto bumbong on a regular commercial basis… if you know of a place, leave a comment here for other readers’ benefit…Thanks!