Puto bumbong is one food that to me, tastes better when there’s a chill in the air and Christmas carols are playing incessantly in the background. While I often read and hear about how it’s the perfect food to eat after Simbang Gabi (dawn masses held nine days before Christmas), that’s not my memory of it. It’s more of an “incidental” food for me: it happens to be there or I’m in the vicinity of a Ferino’s Bibingka or a Via Mare. There’s even this one caterer I know who serves it for dessert, (and making a killing out of it too).
These sticky purple rice cakes are steamed in small bamboo tubes, and when done, are tapped from the bottom to release. They’re then slathered with butter (or traditionally Star margarine — do they still make that?), and served with muscovado sugar, the unrefined product that separates from molasses, and a healthy grating of coconut.
Via Mare still serves a good puto bumbong. For a small extra charge, you can choose to have it with cheddar cheese (as I did) or with grated queso de bola (Edam cheese). I find that the cheedar cheese blends harmoniously in the mouth with the rough muscovado, the gritty coconut, and the unctuousness of the puto bumbong. I did detect a slightly processed taste in the puto bumbong though. I suspect that some if not all of it may have been made with reconstituted ube powder.
Not a sin, but it sure kills the flavor.
I had this weird craving for guinumis (gee-NU-mis) the other day. This drink (can I really call it that?) is a melange of gulaman (unflavored — mostly red — gelatin), toasted pinipig (immature rice pounded until flattened), gata (coconut milk), crushed ice, and sugar.
For me, the coconut milk is what makes or breaks guinumis. I know of no other place where I can have it except for Via Mare. They don’t disappoint. Usually. I can’t really complain about the one I had, but I thought that the coconut milk was watered down. Considering the short shelf life of coconut milk, it’s no wonder they do this, as well as to keep prices low.
But it sure kills the flavor.