I want to preface this recipe by first stating that amongst all the kakanin recipes that I did for this website, this putong bigas/puti is probably the hardest one I ever made. There are just several components in this Filipino recipe that requires the exact following of steps to perfectly achieve the correct consistency of the finished product.
I failed on several of my first attempts with this kakanin recipe and I have to say that I’m quite proud that I finally nailed it and got to recreate it successfully for this recipe’s Youtube video on my channel (which you can watch below).
This putong bigas/puti is not the traditional Filipino recipe, rather it’s my modernized take on it. At some point, I felt like I may have bitten more than I could chew but the end results were so worth it. We rarely have homemade putong bigas/puti at home as it’s mostly reserved for special occasions growing up and now I know why.
This is my favorite kakanin recipe texture-wise. Putong/bigas/puti is the smoother version of the classic puto or steam rice cake. It’s also fluffier which is my favorite thing about it. In terms of taste, I say that it’s pretty much the same as the classic puto recipe. However, I found that putong bigas/puti makes for a lighter snack than the classic puto.
What is Puto?
Let’s first differentiate between the classic puto and putong bigas/puti. Both are steamed rice cake delicacies in the Philippines. Both have the name puto with the classic puto recipe being made from slightly fermented rice dough. This dough is then steamed in a mold to become the fluffy rice cake in the form of a mini-cupcake lookalike that every Filipinos are familiar with.
Puto is normally made in batches and is traditionally steamed in molds made from banana or coconut leaves. The name puto is derived from the Malay word “putto” which is translated to “portion”. Yes, Spanish-speaking readers, it’s not a dirty word in the Philippines.
I have a theory about where this yummy rice delicacy got its name from. You see, puto is an indigenous Filipino recipe that has been cooked by ancient Filipinos since before the Spanish came to the archipelago.
I think in times of scarcity, ancient Filipinos came up with the puto recipe because they need to use every resource they have, even rice that’s on its way to being spoiled. So they made it into rice dough and equally portioned it into bite-sized treats so that everyone in the community can have their share.
Puto may also be a celebratory or sacred delicacy for the ancient Filipinos, cooked for feasts. This gave the cooks the need to carefully portion their prepared fermented rice dough so that everyone can have a rice cake delicacy. There is evidence that ancient tribes in the Philippines use rice cake delicacies as offerings to their ancient gods.
The first two theories I’ve mentioned are pretty much just my guess on how puto got its name. What do you think?
The modern version of puto in the Philippines doesn’t really use slightly fermented rice dough anymore. Instead, processed rice flour that’s readily available in the market is what’s usually used in the majority of today’s puto recipes.
Puto is probably one of the most–if not the most popular rice cake delicacy or kakanin in the Philippines. It’s commonly eaten for miryenda or afternoon snacks or it’s eaten as a complimentary side dish to more savory dishes like dinuguan or kare-kare.
Other Steamed Rice Cakes in the Philippines
Fortunately, there are other indigenous kakanin recipes that survived colonization and were retained by Filipinos in the modern-day. Like with puto, there is evidence that ancient tribes in the Philippines had some of these rice cake delicacies as offerings to their pre-colonial gods. One thing that all these native delicacies have in common is that they all have a glutinous rice component in their recipe.
Everyone will have a favorite kakanin of their choosing but every one of them are undeniably delicious and brings the feeling of home. A lot of these kakanin dishes are commonly found on the feast table during celebrations and fiestas.
Ginataan bilo-bilo is made from cuts of root vegetables, like ube and kamote, saba banana, and chewy rice balls all cooked in creamy coconut milk. This one is pretty much what many Filipinos will describe as a bowl of happiness and comfort. It’s one of the many Filpino comfort food in the Philippines, with many Filipino children having fond memories of being served ginataang bilo-bilo by their lola during miryenda.
Sapit-sapin got its name from the different layers of flavors and colors of the dish. Sapin can mean to cover or put layers over, perfectly describing this rice delicacy of different layers of sticky glutinous flavors. Common flavors are ube, coconut, and ube. It’s one of the most gorgeous kakanin dishes.
My mom loves to make biko at home but it does require a lot of patience and arm strength to make. The finished product is more than worth it as one bite from a piece of biko won’t be enough. Biko is made out of glutinous rice and coconut milk with a layer of gooey sweet batter topping.
Palitaw is a delight to make at home and you can easily make it with kids. A batter is made from sticky rice, coconut milk, and sugar then shaped into small disks. These disks are then dropped into boiling water and will float up when it’s done being cooked. The boiled dough is then dusted with grated coconuts, sugar, and sesame seeds. Litaw is the Tagalog word for float.
Kutsinta is like the smoother version of puto with a jelly-like texture. This delicious and light rice delicacy is made from ground rice, sugar, and lye which gives it its muddy yellow-orange color. Topped it with grated coconut and you have a delicious snack in the afternoon.
Read more at The Big Four: Top Loved Kakanin and Their Origins or Top 12 Best Filipino Kakanin Recipes if you want to find out more about the many different rice cake delicacies or kakanin in the Philippines.
Different Varieties of Puto
Now let’s get back to puto. It’s arguably the most popular kakanin in the Philippines. Like a lot of Filipino dishes, especially the authentic ones, you can find a thousand and more versions of puto. Different areas and regions in the Philippines will have their specific recipes for puto. It’s quite fascinating researching the different versions out there.
With modernization and great innovation in today’s culinary scene, puto went and evolved through the years. And even more, different versions of it popped up into the scene. Some have clear influences from other cultures while some puto recipes beautifully transformed the indigenous delicacy but still remain undeniably a steamed rice cake.
Selling different kinds of puto turned quite into a lucrative business for a lot of Filipinos. It never goes out of style and the recipe can easily adapt to what’s the current trend of the culinary world.
What is Putong Bigas/Puti?
Now that we’ve established an understanding of the many kinds of kakanin and different versions of puto in the Philippines, let’s not talk about the main recipe, putong bigas/puti. Putong bigas/puti is essentially a smooth version of the classic puto, similar to kutsinta without but without the lye.
Putong bigas/puti got this great consistency because of its use of the use of regular everyday rice rather than the usual glutinous variety of rice common in many kakanin recipes. I really prefer this version of puto as it’s much lighter to eat. Although it’s quite challenging to make, the finished product is definitely more than worth it.
But worry not! I’ve got just the recipe for you to follow down below to cook homemade putong bigas/puti. All of the ingredients needed for this delicious kakanin recipe are listed down below as well as the step by step instructions.
We’ve also created a fun video for you to watch if you prefer to learn through visuals. Enjoy!
- 500grams rice flour
- 250grams white sugar
- 1 ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 ½ tsp instant dry yeast
- 1 tbsp. vanilla
- 3 cups water
- WATER ROUX
- ½ cup rice flour
- 2 cups of water
- First, prepare and measure all the ingredients you need.
- In a big bowl, mix the rice flour, sugar, baking powder, and yeast. Mix well.
- Pour the water and vanilla into the dry ingredients then mix until no lumps. Cover and set aside.
- Now make the water roux. Mix rice flour and water in a pan. Stir until there are no more lumps. 5. Then turn on the stove over medium heat. As soon as paste forms on the bottom, turn over low heat. 6. Stir constantly until a sticky paste is formed.
- Immediately add the roux to the rice flour batter you made earlier. Mix until there are no more lumps. You don't have to cool down the water roux. Don't worry, the yeast will be fine.
- Cover and let rest for 1.5 hours.
- Shortly before the 1.5 hour is over, prepare your steamer. Set the stove to medium heat.
- After 1.5 hours, stir the batter to remove bubbles. Don't overmix.
- Grease your molds with vegetable oil or a non-stick spray (do not use olive oil).
- Pour the batter into the molds. Arrange into a steamer. Leave some space for the rice dough to rise while steaming.
- For small molds, steam for about 10 minutes. For larger molds 18-20 minutes (the water must boil before steaming).
- Serve and enjoy the puto bigas