CHRISTMAS KAKANIN. There are over a hundred steamed, simmered, or baked kinds of kakanin. Every town and each region in the country has its singular creations flavored with coconut, honey, pandan, sugar, salt, corn, nuts, seeds like sesame and anise. They come in orange, brown, white, yellow, green, pink, and violet. But during the Christmas season, the violet puto bumbong and the smooth bibingka reign supreme.
PUTO BUMBONG. The principal ingredient for puto bumbong is a violet rice called pirurutong. The violet and malagkit rice variety are mixed and steamed in narrow bamboo tubes called the bumbong.
Traditionally, the cylindrical rice cake is served on banana leaf and it is topped with margarine, grated coconut, and brown sugar. In the olden days, the puto bumbong is usually taken with salabat or ginger tea. For us, we love to partner the puto bumbong with thick tsokolate or kapeng Barako.
BIBINGKA. The best bibingkas on the other hand, are made from choice galapong (rice flour) enriched with eggs and topped quesong puti, and salted eggs. Heat from live coals in the clay kalan and a metal batya (tray) placed on top cook the bibingka evenly.
EPILOGUE. The contraption consisting of bamboo tubes over an aluminum steamer for the puto bumbong and the clay kalan and metal batya for the bibingka are common sights in make-shift stalls in church patios and along side streets, especially during this joyful Filipino Yuletide season.