Just a few hours till the first misa de gallo (mass of the rooster)â€¦YIKES, am I behind schedule this year or what? I am normally very put together around the holiday season and by this time I am concentrating on cooking and dinner parties. Instead, I havenâ€™t done an ounce of Christmas shopping for my own family (I think I have finished everyone else) and all of my heightened business related activity down South in the past 6 weeks has really screwed up my holiday schedule. By now I am usually thrilled to get up early to attend misa de gallo to be followed by 2-3 hours of undisturbed decorating of my annual gingerbread house or baking ensaimada or cookies. The ovens have been fired only once this weekâ€¦to bake a batch of Christmas cookies for my daughter’s last day of school tomorrow. Worse, I have photos for maybe 20-30 Christmas related posts for this website but I just havenâ€™t had the time to sit down and write.
But I did promise to bring you some of the holiday favorites and this post is about all those native kakanins that one indulges in during the holiday season. In many ways I prefer the rice based delicacies because they seem less cholesterol laden, less sweet and more naturalâ€¦ at least thatâ€™s my perception though the reality could be far removed. At early morning mass, a cup of hot salabat or ginger tea is the perfect way to sooth the throat and ward off the slight chill that develops in the dawn hours. I have never done a real provincial misa de gallo but my romanticized version does include several small vendors in nipa structures selling their delicacies to those emerging from the churches. I would start off with some puto bumbong, rice rolls made in specialized bamboo sections made out of pirurutong or purple sticky rice or with the addition of ube as a color and flavor enhancer. This steamed delicacy is served with butter or margarine, sugar and grate coconut. A little goes a long way but it has a unique taste that personally screams Christmas is around the corner!!!
Bibingka is also high on my list. I prefer it without the salted egg, howeverâ€¦ not sure why but since childhood I have liked it that way. There are few things as memorable as a hot bibingka with butter and sugar and grated coconutâ€¦ steaming and fragrant from the banana leaves they were cooked in. I actually bought a bibingka cooker this year but have yet to attempt using it. I donâ€™t typically see it in the morning but I do really adore sapin-sapin, that highly colorful confection of rice, squash, ube and other ingredients that is sticky, gooey, coconutty and absolutely delicious. It is really rare that you find a sapin-sapin made the old-fashioned way, with separate segments made from the finest ingredients then put all-together. Today, many folks take shortcuts and just color the segments made out of the same base materials. My favorite parts of the sapin-sapin? The yellow and purple segmentsâ€¦
Cuchinta is a long-time favorite. Lihiya seems to be the added ingredient that gives this dessert this unique consistency that is springy, spongy and solidified slime-likeness in nature. As a kid, I used to wait for the little bilaos filled with cuchinta and eat them like kids eat M&M’s these days. I also adore puto (rice cakes)and I can eat dozens of these in one sittingâ€¦there is something comforting about popping a small puto in your mouthâ€¦ then chewing on something that is soft, chewy, airy, moist and substantial all in the same mouthful. Many commercial putos sold today are bland and tasteless, but well made versions are fresh and their flavor distinct. I include several photos of puto here to bring you a bit of home if you happen to be viewing this from elsewhere in the worldâ€¦ I must get some shut-eye now if I am to make the first massâ€¦