We are in the Philippines, which are home to one of the longest Christmas seasons in the world, stretching from the beginning of September until the end of December. In fact Christmas carols are heard as early as September and the season last until Epiphany, the feast of the Black Nazarene on the second Sunday of January, or at the Feast of the Santo Niño held every third Sunday of January.
As a results, months of festivities are dotted by a wide array of delicious, often colorful treats, and among the most popular (and beloved) is puto bumbong, a purple steamed rice sweet.
Stand outside any Catholic church during Simbáng Gabi, the nine-day period of masses leading up to Christmas Eve, is impossible not see spot vendors serving up the brightly-colored, steaming snacks to churchgoers who stop at their stalls.
People line up at their favorite street stalls outside the church just to have a taste of this speciality.
It is so popular among locals and foreign tourists alike that even five-star hotels and luxury gourmet restaurants serve them during the holiday season using the traditional methods.
The color of traditional puto bumbong should come from the rice and food coloring is not necessary. Traditionally it gets its hue from a variety of sticky rice known as pirurutong, which is naturally a dark brownish purple. Preparing pirurutong typically takes several days, beginning with soaking a mixture of pirurutong and white sticky rice in salt water overnight. Then the mixture is groundwith a grinding stone or food processor, and hung to dry. Once it’s reached a moist texture, the rice concoction is poured into bamboo tubes, called “bumbong ng kawayan” in Filipino (this might have been the reason of its name), and steamed until it becomes a deep purple. After removing the rice from the tubes, vendors set several cylinders atop a banana leaf, generously slather them with butter or margarine, and top with a mix of freshly-grated coconut and muscovado sugar, a type of partially refined sugar that helps a lot to make puto bumbong taste good and authentic. It is then served on wilted banana leaves which will keep it warm and moist until ready to be eaten.
Even if you can still find lot of traditional puto bumbong, many vendors now use ube (purple yam) powder since pirurutong is a bit harder to come by and to prepare. Some, hoping to really pump up the hue, add a drop of violet food coloring to the mix, though this is typically frowned upon.
No matter the source of the purple, the colorful dish is sure to spread holiday cheer to all of those able to get their hands on the sticky Christmastime treat!
Images from web.