Misa de Gallo and Puto Bumbong Pre-amble…


Misa de Gallo (early morning mass) started this morning in Philippine churches… The mass in our neighborhood was at 5 a.m., and despite opening my eyes a few minutes before 5 a.m, I didn’t attend. Every year, I think I am going to do the full 9 masses, and as a very early riser, it really shouldn’t be an issue. But I have “completed” the entire Misa de Gallo (9 masses) only 3 or 4 times in my entire life, and attempted to complete it another dozen times or so… And I don’t count afternoon or evening “anticipated” masses as part of my efforts. Regardless of my erratic personal attendance scorecards, I do enjoy Misa de Gallo, not just for the religious significance, but rather because I find that the wee hours of the morning are extremely calming for me. I like being up, usually by myself between 4:30 to 6:00 am. I enjoy the cool, drier weather conditions. I like taking a walk in the pre-dawn darkness. I use the time to reflect on anything that needs reflecting. I mentally run down the year that has passed, grateful for all of the good things that have happened, and mildly annoyed or alarmed by the bad things, or things I simply cannot control. I used to attend Misa de Gallo, then return home to work undisturbed on my gingerbread creations for an hour or two (except I would wake the crew when I made the icing in a high powered electric mixer), but lately I have endeavored to finish the gingerbread house earlier in December. And finally, I enjoy the food that is often served after the early morning mass, traditionally a salabat or ginger tea and some rice cakes…

Puto bumbong (purple rice logs) screams early morning Misa de Gallo fare. I can only imagine emerging from a large old provincial stone church, having attended early mass, noting that the dawn is just emerging, and the smell of puto bumbong made the traditional way fills the air. It is an idealized image, but one I hold nevertheless when I attend mass in the neighborhood community center or assembly hall… so this year I have made it a personal goal to figure out how to make puto bumbong from scratch, and at home. I even bought my own single purpose puto bumbong steamer. But before my recipe and results, here are some observations from recent “covert” operations to observe puto bumbong vendors (in Manila) in action. First, the mixture most commercial vendors use today is purchased in bulk, and not made by them at all. The mixture is heavily adulterated with plain rice (up to 50+%) which is mixed with glutinous rice to reduce the cost and “fluff up” the end result. Second, nearly all of the vendors I observed apparently used violet food coloring to achieve their purple rice cakes, and NOT the more fragrant and expensive and often difficult to find pirurutong! This whole violet food color thing does bug me immensely. Pirurutong imparts a distinct fragrance and natural color that is GORGEOUS, and replacing this key ingredient with purple dye is simply outrageous for me. The flavor and texture of a naturally colored puto bumbong and an artificially colored puto bumbong are light years apart, and I lament the apparent loss of yet another classic and traditional delicacy to expediency and economics… And third, the commercial vendors are far more efficient at cooking the delicacy than I ever will be. With a few twists of their wrists the bamboo vessels are coated with butter/margarine, filled to just the right density, cooked and extracted in about 2-3 minutes flat. Mine took far longer and we were much clumsier, but I am proud to say, tasted a whole lot better to my palate!

Remember, if the only puto bumbong you have been eating is a lighter, evenly light purple or violet version rather than a stickier, dense and nearly dark purple or almost blue-black version, you are missing out on the real thing…

Click here for a post a couple of years ago on Misa de Gallo delicacies, including an artificially colored puto bumbong photo…


24 Responses

  1. I bought one after the misa de gallo but the puto bumbong I bought was dense, and bright purple. I hated it. Now I need to look for authentic puto bumbong out there.

  2. you’re right about the purple dye thing, MM. I get mine from Christ the King in Greenmeadows but they do taste somewhat “artificial.” Where can I get REAL puto bumbong? Thanks!

  3. yey! no burns! very good, MM. great way to start the simbang gabi. merry christmas to you and your family!

  4. My grandmother when she was around never missed Misa de Gallo. The treats awaiting her after the mass were one of the motivating factors – bibingka, puto at kutsinta, empanara on ground rice dough deep fried with grated papaya, shrimp and bean sprouts filling, arroz caldo, puto bumbong, tamales and espasol – coming back home with basketful of these treats! No comparison with the efficiency of the production rate of pro puto bumbong maker to yourself – that’s what they do for a living and if you filled hundreds of bamboo tubes a day you will develop a robotic type of speed in filling in those tubes! The puto bumbong makers compromise authenticity to finance – a bottle of purple costs only a mere fraction of pirurutong. I guess this is your first time doing puto bumbong probably after six more try you will achieve Speedy Gonzalez puto bumbong action. You did a fabulous on your first attempt!

  5. MM, I was wondering if it is at all possible to have similar results without the use of the special bamboo steamer. Your pictures are making me crave for puto bumbong and it frustrates me because there is no puto bumbong available here. It’s torture!

  6. hay been working on every single sundays this month… missing the advent as well…
    missing filipino delicacies so much and oh i found 2 filipino restaurants in fr lauderdale but hmmm hmm not worth it

  7. I miss puto bumbong. I think, I haven’t tasted the “real one” in my entire life but I miss it just the same. I hope one day, I’ll be able to eat an authentic puto bumbong.

  8. Hi MM,

    I’ve had puto bumbong and liked it but it sounds like it was more than likely the wannabe variety. Is pirurutong the same as Thai black rice?


  9. After reading this, I too, am wondering if I ever had authentic puto bumbong. Hmm, does the one outside Mandarin hotel count?

  10. Whenever I go to SM Supermarket I always buy puto bumbong and bibingka for our merienda, it’s always available…

  11. I don’t think i ‘ve ever tasted real, authentic puto bumbong. Seems real good, MM. Have you tried that of Via Mare’s? I am not impressed with their bibingka but am quite happy with the bumbong. Don ‘t know if it’s pururutong, though. Great work, MM. Kakainggit.

  12. hmmmmm.. so maybe that’s why, after all these years, I don’t appreciate those ones we have tried so far!!!

    I think I’m one of those who haven’t tried authentic-made puto bumbong yet!

  13. I am so unsure if the puto bumbong we have been enjoying all these years is the real thing. Just last night, we tried the puto bumbong at sm hypermart at libis…it’s quite dense, but honestly MM, I don’t think I really know the difference. I may have to try the ones you made to know for sure…wink!

  14. I think I might just have stumbled on an unexpected puto bumbong treasure. I bought a few pieces after mass from a stall run by a couple. When we opened the leafy packages for breakfast, we were pleasantly surprised by a distinctly different aroma, and dense, chewy, very dark purple strips of puto bumbong. It’s quite unlike the lite ‘n brite puffy commercialized bumbong that we’ve bought over recent years. They were close to the authentic puto bumbong of childhood memories. And at 20 pesos per piece, yeap, I’ll definitely go back there for more in a couple of hours… ;-)

  15. thanks MM for bringing to your readers so much information about a well loved filipino delicacy – and with first hand experience at that.
    i agree with mariaclara –how can you approximate the skill of those who flip those bamboo tubes for a living?
    to each his own . . . you have so many enviable competencies. you don’t have to add yet another one. but your drive for excellence in everything you do is truly admirable! pwede na is definitely not your standard —hooray !

  16. Thanks so much, Ted! Really appreciate the info – I LOVE Thai black rice. Having the right ingredients is half the cooking battle and better yet, it’s readily available in my area. Looking forward to studying the puto bumbong process and attempting to make some…

  17. chi, sorry for the late reply, and thanks Ted, for picking up the slack… yes, apparently the thai black sweet rice is very similar to our own pirurutong, Maria Clara talked about it in comments on the pirurutong a few weeks ago…

  18. Thanks MM – I went to read the post you referenced and yup – it has been confirmed that pirurutong and Thai Black Rice is one and the same. Thai Black Rice is one of my favorite desserts – hereabouts, it is served warmed and topped with coconut milk – YUM! It’s pretty pricey though so I decided to do some research on it and found a ton of recipes online.

    I created my own from the ones I found and have a super simple and foolproof recipe which I will share with all when I get to my home computer or after the holidays if I forget – I’m leaving on holiday this Friday and have a ton of stuff on my mind just now. Anyway, the recipes I found online were all distressingly complex and required lengthy steaming times. I use my rice cooker which cooked it in a flash and it comes out tasting exactly the same – go figure!

    Happy Holidays everyone and may the New Year bring you all that you wish for and just a little bit more…

    Best Regards,

  19. This is definitely one of the may reasons why i miss spending christmas back home, i miss the food/delicacies that you buy after attending the misa de gallo; i honestly miss waking early in the mornign to attend the service either with friends or family, and i remember in some days I would be in my uniform as my school starts at 6:45; I also miss going out with friends going from house to house and singing christmas carols knowing that we’ll be rewarded at the end of the night! Now that i have a young girl of my own, i wish that she could also experience the things that are special to me during this season! And it’s true that nothing beats the christmas celebration back home! As for us up in the north, it’ll be a white but cold christmas with family and friends minus the misa de gallo at 5am and puto bumbong! hehehe

    Enjoy your christmas everyone!

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