Simbang gabi, the most ever-waited tradition of most Filipino Catholics during Christmas season. This is the time where you could go pray together with your family and your friends. This is a nine-day novena mass to celebrate before the day that most Christians believe as the time Jesus was born.
But after every end of each mass on each of those nine days, we have one tradition in which we Filipinos love: to eat our favorite kakanin.
A rice cake or what we call as “kakanin” is a kind of specialty made from rice. One of the things that you should know about Filipino food culture is that kakanin is cooked in different ways, either sweetened or not. Different kakanins vary from place to place in the Philippines. What is to be noted though is that this is the similar food culture we have with other Asians.
Kakanins are Filipino delicacies. They can be eaten as afternoon snack, a dessert or appetizer or even as a meal during breakfast mostly if it is paired with a hot choco or coffee. And since we are in the topic of simbang gabi, among the many reasons for the churchgoers sacrificing themselves to attend the early morning mass service is to have food relief after each service.
Filipinos may go home after every mass or go directly to work. But one thing we should note about Filipino churchgoers is that they always find time to get certain relief from early morning starvation.
For those who are into kakanins, here are the 9 specialties which you may find at the food vendors or shops near the church after the simbang gabi.
#1 Puto Bumbong
I called it the violet food obviously because of the violet color. Puto bumbong is the most popular Kakanin delicacy at Christmas time. During the simbang gabi, Filipinos would line up to their favorite stores outside the church just to buy this delicious kakanin.
#2 Puto maya at sikwate
Puto maya is a kakanin originated from Cebu. It is made of glutinous rice, ginger and sweetened milk. The puto maya is commonly enjoyed with fresh mangoes and hot chocolate drink called sikwate. Sikwate is made from 100% cacao beans.
There are many different kinds of bibingka in the Philippines and I tell you all of those are so delicious. Bibingka is cooked with banana leaves, with hot coals positioned on both top and bottom of the pots as the heat source. It is made of mostly coconut milk and rice. Some places like in Cebu adds a tuba. Tuba is called palm wine and it is an alcoholic beverage made from the sap of various palm tree.
Bibingka is a delicacy in Mandaue city but it is rare now to find vendors selling this kind of rice cake on the streets of the highly-urbanized city.
Biko is rice cake made from sticky rice, coconut milk, and brown sugar. There are two ways to make biko. First method, to cook the rice separately from coconut milk-sugar syrup called latik. Second, is cooking the rice straight in the syrup. I personally like the second method. But whichever method, I am always assured that biko will still be delicious, if cooked right.
#5 Budbud Kabog
Budbud kabog is the local term for suman. This kakanin is originally from the northern part of Cebu. It has a unique texture and flavor, different from the usual suman or budbud in the Philippines. All kinds of budbud are best paired with sikwate.
Sapin-sapin is made from sticky rice and coconut milk. It is made up of layers each with a different color and flavor. Usually , sapin-sapin is composed of 3 layers. The lower layer is colored yellow and has the flavor of ripe jackfruit. The center part is white and flavored with young coconut. The top layer is violet in color and has the flavor of purple yam or more commonly known as ube.
Palitaw is a flat and sweetened kakanin. It is made from malagkit(sticky) rice which should be washed, soaked, and then ground. Cooking this is perhaps, among the most laborious of the rice cake culinary process. But you can get the hang out of preparing and cooking it specially if done right.
Creating palitaw though can be done very easy by just scooping the dough. Flatten the scooped dough and then drop it into boiling water. An indication that it’s cooked is when the palitaw floats from the boiling water.