04 Jun2007

Puto, Cebu Style

by Marketman


I interrupt New York posts with a couple of goodies from a recent trip to Cebu. When I think of “puto,” it typically conjures up images of little rice cakes made from ground rice and steamed to a slightly sticky, pillowy, sweet carb orb hit, that one pops puto2into ones mouth at about one per 10 second intervals. Unless stopped by some strong external force, I can eat about two dozen small putos without difficulty. So when I was asked if I would like some “puto” at my office in Cebu, I assumed I was getting the little UFO’s… but I forgot that puto isn’t always puto, if you know what I mean. In parts of the Visayas, and even different parts of Cebu, puto refers to a simple steamed dessert of sticky rice with coconut milk and sugar and sometimes salt. Once cooked, it is wrapped in some fresh banana leaves and is often served with sweet mangoes. I actually did a post on this before, but at the time, I referred to it simply as Malagkit, and one of my crew at home does it very nicely indeed…

To make, I am told, because I have never done it myself, you simply steam malagkit or sticky rice over water until cooked. Then the rice is removed and coconut milk, some sugar and a touch of salt and ginger is added to the rice and it is returned to the steamer where it puto3is cooked further until the coconut milk is done. Then it is scooped in small serving portions and wrapped in banana leaves loosely (as opposed to say a suman treatment) and served once cooled. I had one with two sides of ripe mango and it was great. I suspect many folks would find this a bit bland but I kind of like it that way. It is extremely filling however and I only managed to eat most of one serving before feeling a bit bloated… Some people serve this with a bit of brown or white sugar and I imagine it would be good with a latik of some sort as well. Gosh, this is the kind of subtle, authentic, local, delicious, delicacy I would love to introduce to curious foreign palates that perhaps can’t handle a binagoongang baboy at a first attempt at Filipino food … Simple and delicious.



  1. ykmd says:

    Growing up, THIS was what I knew as puto. It wasn’t until I went to Manila for college that I encountered the UFO version. Those pictures bring back memories of summers spent rising at the crack of dawn to buy puto from the neighborhood vendor. I’d often find her squatting on the floor, blowing at the embers through a bamboo tube. She had one of those houses where the “first floor” was hard-packed dirt and the living spaces were overhead.
    I would then rush back to my lolo’s house where I’d have my puto with sikwate (hot chocolate) and mangoes, if they were in season. My grandparents are long gone but every time I eat puto wrapped in banana leaves I remember those days.

    Jun 4, 2007 | 11:39 pm


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  3. Apicio says:

    My feeling for this pairing borders on the chauvinistic. Yes it is popular all over South-east Asia and yes even in the West too now, thank the Thais. However, it only attains its consummate iteration with our excellent mangoes and our not too sweet and lightly salted suman.

    Middle pic is exceptionally appealing. Tsk, Steve Jobs should develop smell-o-rama for my i-mac next.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 12:26 am

  4. The Steak Lady says:

    Oh boy. Reading this post and seeeing the pics makes me want to hop on a plane back home to Cebu to have these treats again. and this is best paired with sikwate. Heaven! =)

    Jun 5, 2007 | 1:10 am

  5. Mary-Ann Evangelista says:

    Yumm! This reminds me of my lola’s antala.
    She used to serve it on a big plate with banana leaves.
    We can’t get enough of it, we even eat them for midnight snack with coffee. Dipping it in salt really makes it taste even better. Even the pan with a little burnt and crunchy leftovers, we attack. As kids it’s so much fun! It’s a contest of who gets the biggest and crunchiest part.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 2:43 am

  6. lojet says:

    Puto and sikwate were an everyday breakfast fare when I was growing up in Cebu. My mother goes to church very early in the morning and after mass stops by her favorite vendor for puto then go home to make her special sikwate thick and dark and sweet. It was such a common everyday fare that I often opt for the instant nescafe coffee instead. Now, I crave for the puto and sikwate of my youth…the puto cooked in a special clay putohan redolent of coconut milk, sugar, salt and ginger and sikwate that pours like melted chocolate…sigh.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 7:05 am

  7. flip4ever says:

    I realize you were posting about the puto but it was actually your third photo (of the mangoes) that had me transfixed for about 20 seconds and close to drooling. :)

    Jun 5, 2007 | 7:43 am

  8. lee says:

    i had this and budbud kabog at the dumaguete palainitan. nice.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 8:47 am

  9. marge says:

    Just recently, I was wondering what “puto” really means… Because we have a lot of delicacies called “puto”, yet they are really different from one another… We always have this every Sunday and we call this puto maya… My dad always buys the violet rice one (i don’t know what it is called)..:) And we always pair it with sikwate! really delicious! You should try it sometime!:)

    Jun 5, 2007 | 9:47 am

  10. TOPING says:

    lojet, the ginger does add that special zing to puto… I’ve also tried this with monggo cooked in coconut milk on the side.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 12:07 pm

  11. konjaro says:

    This reminds me of Sunday mornings back home. We would have puto with sikwate before leaving for church. Without the two, the Sunday morning is incomplete.

    Jun 5, 2007 | 2:08 pm

  12. shalimar says:

    i had to explain to the people of the north this is the cebuano puto\all time favourite MM
    mingaw ta sa cebu… am in london for a while and will raid shops soon for things i will haul back…..

    Jun 5, 2007 | 3:48 pm

  13. peanut says:

    Can there be anything more heavenly than puto and sikwate early in the morning?

    Jun 5, 2007 | 8:30 pm

  14. Leticia says:

    I had never heard of this before. In Brazil it does sound more than a little weird – puto in Portuguese means male hooker and it is also one of the many not so nice ways to say someone is homosexual. In Spanish I am pretty sure the meaning is similar. It sounds great though. The mangoes always get me salivating but I am allergic to them.

    Jun 6, 2007 | 8:52 am

  15. Marketman says:

    Leticia, of course “puta” is for the female version… but I never realized puto had a male connotation… yikes, doesn’t bode well for taking this kinda dish global… :) Now I am really curious where this term originates from… my little research has turned up nothing… will keep searching.

    Jun 6, 2007 | 9:18 am

  16. carma says:

    hmn. this is like the thai sticky rice. my mum says it’s our puto seko. i like the version from som’s, as it’s a bit sweeter. although i think that it’s best to use your own mangoes, as the ones from som’s aren’t as sweet.

    Jun 8, 2007 | 7:49 pm

  17. aileen says:

    i am a cebuana but grew up in manila. everytime i’d go home to cebu, i would always buy puto maya. this puto maya is available here in manila at metro gaisano in market market and it’s very good. they mixed the malagkit with brown (or violet?)rice and the combination of sweet and salty flavors is perfect. the last time i bought it was just 7 pesos a piece and sikwate is also available for i think 7 pesos also a cup. the first time i saw this in metro gaisano marketmarket, people were waiting in line for the puto to get cooked, and guess what, all of us in line were cebuanos. you might want to try it, i think it’s better tasting than the ones i buy in cebu

    Jun 8, 2007 | 10:34 pm

  18. suzette says:

    a drizzle of sweetened gata or condensed milk over this would be nice also :)

    Jun 8, 2007 | 10:43 pm

  19. chick says:

    this reminds me of one Thai dessert than I love.. sticky rice w/ mangoes and coconut milk! :D

    Aug 16, 2007 | 2:18 pm

  20. h.c. says:

    i just wanted to share a fun experience i had with my niece when we went home to cebu for a vacation in april. we decided to go to carbon to shop for some inexpensive pasalubong. it was around 8 in the morning and the stores were still closed, so we just wandered around until we reached the open karenderia. we promptly sat down on a table shared by two other diners and ordered what else? puto and sikwate. hmmm, heaven! not satisfied with just one order, we ask for another helping. this memory will last me until next year, when i get to go back to cebu.

    Oct 1, 2007 | 3:45 pm

  21. wowee says: says:

    hmmm…yummmyyyyy reminds me this i miss the Puto and sikwate with manga early in the morning thats my breakfast…can’t wait to go home in cebu… lami kaayo maglaway gyod ka… hehehe :D

    Dec 4, 2007 | 2:49 pm

  22. jasmen says:

    hey guys,im jasmen,is there anybody can teach me how to cook puto& sekwate..please…tell me the recipe …really want to know how to make stickyrice puto….thnks

    Apr 22, 2008 | 8:18 am

  23. lheen says:

    ….want to taste your product…

    it seems delicious…

    Jul 14, 2008 | 12:50 pm

  24. kiaro says:

    sige lang mo hisgot ug cebu, daghan pud baya ni diri sa Zamboanga.lami pa dyud.bisita sad mo nganhi

    Aug 22, 2008 | 1:34 pm

  25. Remy Pusta Saludes says:

    Know what, naa pod “puto maya” deri sa Tagum City, Davao del Norte. Sege na lang mo Cebu, Cebu. Ayos ug lami sad kaayo among “puto maya” deri oy. Mag-ilog gud akong mga apo ug mga anak kung magdala na ko ug puto maya gikan mosimba. Okey it is real good and delicious with some sweet mangoes and sikwate of course. . !

    Apr 3, 2009 | 5:52 am

  26. cristine says:

    Hmmm maka gutom man sad ning picture daa. Na miss na gyud n nako wala man gyud na dire sa US. Pwedi ba mangayo og recipe pleaseeeeeeeee. Thanks you

    Apr 8, 2009 | 5:45 am


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