Rice inside bamboo brings to mind khao lam, a Thai treat that is grilled, often en masse. The Filipino puto bumbong, by contrast, is traditionally steamed over a lansungan, a small-batch device that requires continual hands-on attention. Like many dishes associated with the Christmas season, puto bumbong might be considered too much trouble to prepare on a whim. Except during the holidays, the lansungan probably sits in the back of the pantry.
Puto bumbong is prepared from a naturally purple variety of sticky rice; food coloring is only a fallback. The rice is soaked overnight, then run through a blender or grinder. The resulting fine-grained product is loaded into a section of bamboo that's been wrapped in cloth, to insulate fingers from heat, and set atop the lansungan. During several minutes of steaming, the bamboo is inverted once, so the rice cooks more evenly, then the bamboo is removed and the rice, extracted. (At the Bayanihan festival, the blade used for this step had also been fashioned from a section of bamboo.) The cooks reload and repeat; customers like me walk off with soft, purple sticky rice dressed with margarine, brown sugar, and grated coconut.
Also shown, all on the savory side: bicol express and binagoongan, two pork dishes cooked with shrimp paste; lengua, beef tongue stew that would have been as delicious with nokedli as it was over white rice; bopis. A vinegary dish that reportedly pairs well with beer, bopis is often prepared from minced pork lung and heart; this version was made with pork liver and, perhaps, a few chewy bits of stomach.
Bayanihan Cultural Festival
St. Jacobus Lutheran Church, Rainbow Preschool Gym, 72-01 43rd Ave. (at 72nd St.), Woodside, Queens
(The 2013 festival was held on November 30)