The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Puto (Pao) - Steamed (Meat-Filled) Rice Cakes

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

Puto (Pao) - Steamed (Meat-Filled) Rice Cakes

NOTE: This post is NOT in anyway intended to offend, malign or make fun of anyone especially TFLers from Latin America or those who can speak and/or understand Spanish. Our country has lots of Spanish influence too and you could definitely trace it in our language; although the feminine form retained its offensive meaning, the term "puto" did not; it just always refers to a delicious treat. For the sake of clarity, all of the terms "puto" you will find here refers ONLY to steamed rice cakes. No hate comments please. Thank you! 

Our country favors rice as its staple. Everyday from breakfast, lunch, afternoon snack, dinner and even midnight snack we eat rice but for special occasions we do not settle for plain steamed white rice. We turn rice into simple to very complex festive dishes like arroz valeciana, bringhe (something like a coconut milk arroz), talulo (rice in banana leaf), hundreds of different rice cakes and puto. I know this is not as grand as other bread TFLers make but puto often takes the place of bread or sometimes even rice in festive occasions. In birthdays the famous trio of puto, pansit (Chinese style stir-fried noodles) and spaghetti is so prominent that when they are seen in ordinary days the first question is "Who has a birthday?" 



I grew up on the traditional puto with the optional topping of salted eggs or cheese that my dad buys from a town 2 hours away from us. Traditionally, top quality rice was soaked and ground in a stone grinder, mixed with sugar and water and allowed to ferment in clay jars for a day or two. When the batter has overflowed and full of bubbles, it is then poured into molds and steamed until done. When I learned about sourdough I realized that puto is essentially a steamed rice sourdough starter! When eaten, this style of puto has a slight tangy taste and a sweet but almost vinegary aroma. It is very similar to the Indian idli, the only difference is puto uses only rice.



Today there are various styles of puto, some have milk or eggs, made with part or all wheat flour instead of rice and leavened with commercial yeast or chemical leaveners. I developed this to fit everyone if that's possible; gluten free, dairy free and vegan if you do not put the toppings. It uses rice flour and baking powder, a bit modern but close to traditional puto.



I just mixed rice flour and water into a thin batter and sweetened it to taste, added salt and baking powder then I steamed it until done. I used my little llaneras that's why they're oval but they're commonly round. I also put some salted eggs and cheese on top just like they do in stores, I like the cheese more and I even hate salted eggs topped ones when I was a child. I will use a good Edam for special occasions but I doubt other gourmet cheeses, perhaps it won't taste right because my nostalgic taste screams for the processed supermarket cheese used here.



My first attempt with puto did not turn out so well. It looks okay at the top but the sides are sticky, too moist and brownish. The interior was gummy unlike the fine crumb pictured above. I used baking soda and vinegar before because I did not have baking powder on hand; I think it was the culprit, maybe there wasn't enough acid to react with the baking soda and the rice cakes have a weird salty taste and alkali smell and taste; it also didn't rise as much, maybe it's also undercooked because I was a bit excited to eat them.



Here they are while they were steaming. I put all the left over batter in my biggest llanera and topped with both cheese and salted eggs. In parties this size is considered small, puto 5 inches high and 20 inches in diameter is not uncommon in such occasions.



I also made a nostalgic snack that my dad buys from a nearby town, puto pao. I remember they were the muffin like about half the size of my fist filled with sweet salty pork and salted eggs. Puto pao is  combination of puto and siopao (which came from the siu bao in char siu bao- steamed meat buns) making them meat-filled steamed rice cakes. I filled them with my asado (soy sauce cooked pork) and topped them with salted eggs just like what I remember. Salted eggs will complement the filling better than cheese and even though I hate salted eggs before, I love them when they are on puto pao.






 
The puto is slightly sweet, extremely soft and fluffy with a very fine crumb. I think this batch is best reserved for plain puto because it is too delicate for the meat filling, maybe I should reduce the baking powder if I intend to make puto pao. Puto pao is an excellent snack though it may not sound appealing to many of you of because of the flavor combinations but they are a thousand times easier to make than char siu bao.

Maybe I should also pour the right amount of batter, I thought some are going to overflow but fortunately they did not, they just formed a muffin top.



The photo above has a good amount of batter but I like the next one better, a higher full dome without overhanging sides. It's just the nostalgia in me that wants them to look like what I used to have. (You can see how the llanera endured many of my baking adventures)



Here is the large puto, it looks like the mother of the little ones. Which camp are you? Salted eggs or cheese? There are some traitor salted eggs that allied themselves with the cheese camp! :P







The crumb was a bit dry because it was left in the fridge for 3 days but it was still good. I cooked some pancit today and paired it with the puto and we were transported immediately to a birthday party! :P



Sorry for this long post, I'm just happy with how this turned out!

Thank you very much! Job




Comments

clazar123's picture
clazar123

The food you showcase is so different from where I live and I love the detail you provide with such lovely pictures! Thank you!

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

I'm trying to improve the way I take pictures with my mobile phone, I'm super glad that you enjoyed them. The internet really opened our world to other cultures and food which is super enjoyable! It is also a common practice here to cook without measurements and recipes.

dabrownman's picture
dabrownman

but egg whites for the lift like a souffle. Half flour and half rice flour is good too. Black rice is cool too.  Anything goes well with pancit if you are addicted to the stuff like me.  Nice post PAL and

Happy baking 

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

I never knew that! If I add whipped eggwhites, perhaps they will even be lighter than air but I will crush that dream for now because I don't have a mixer. We have a black variety of rice here but it is never used for puto; its most notable use is in puto bumbong. My next puto quest, naturally fermented puto!

Addicted to pancit? On special occasions, we combine thin and thick noodles with canned pork leg! So delicious!

Happy baking and steaming too!

bottleny's picture
bottleny

Did you rice flour in your recipe?
I looked up the recipes of puto pao in the internet. First few in the search list use all-purpose flour. The texture of that kind of puto pao should be different from the one using rice flour, right?

The puto pao sounds like the steamed rice cakes (發糕) in Taiwan, though the later (usually sweeten) don't have toppings like this one (or like muffins).

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

They are similar to 發糕 but 發糕 uses wheat flour and the emphasize on the crack is important; a bigger explosion is desired. With puto, it depends on the maker and technique if they want a cracked or smooth top; I have never eaten one with a cracked top but I've seen some. By the way are you Taiwanese? 

Puto made from rice flour made with baking powder is slightly sticky, more compact and filling compared to wheat flour ones. Traditional naturally fermented rice puto is soft, sticky and chewy.

You could try both to see what suits your preference. Thank you!

bottleny's picture
bottleny

The Taiwanese version uses the combination of rice flour and wheat flour, from 10:1 to 2:1. The more traditional way is to use higher percentage of rice flour and not to use any baking powder (it's not available during the old days). The texture of the traditional ones seems to be similar to what you describe as the naturally fermented puto.

The modern version uses less rice flour and uses baking powder instead.

Not sure whether you can read Chinese or not. Here is the recipe of the traditional ones, which uses 600g rice (not flour!) from the beginning and only use 65g cake flour.

Yes, I'm from Taiwan. :)

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

They're so similar! Thanks for the recipe, I understand less than half of it but I could practice reading Chinese!

Yippee's picture
Yippee

Hi, Pal/Job:

Your pao reminds me of the rice cake I used to have when I was a kid.  It was made with fermented ground rice batter, steamed, tangy and sweet, exactly as you described.  It's called "white sugar cake" (白糖糕). An auntie (not related though, one of my mom's friends; and I have many "aunties") had a small business selling white sugar cake during breakfast time only.  At that time, people didn't have any concepts of balanced diets and they would have "carbs" only for breakfast and my auntie sold lots of 白糖糕 to people on their way to school or work. Business was very good.  As a kid, I wish I would live in my auntie's house so I could have 白糖糕 all day long :-)

What's the reason you chose baking powder over yeast as a leavening agent? Is it because of your nephew's allergy? I tend to stay away from using baking powder or baking soda because of the weird tastes they lend to foods. 

BTW, I love salted eggs, especially the yolks.

I enjoy reading your post.  It brings back fond memories.

 

 

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

Puto is also breakfast food eaten with coffee or tea just bought from a vendor with good reputation, there's always one in the town. Only in special occasions when a family would go to all the trouble of making their own because of its labor intensive nature but thanks to modern innovations like rice flour, wheat flour, instant yeast, baking powder; we can make it easily. The Chinese and Spanish have the biggest influences in our culture and food, its no wonder we have similarities. I also call my parents' friends uncle or auntie hence I also have may "uncles and aunties". 

While writing this, I also recall fond memories because it's one of dad's frequent pasalubong (home coming gift) that I always anticipate. I am reading 白糖糕 Bai Tang Gao, is it Baak Tong Gou in Cantonese? I almost have zero knowledge in Cantonese, the only words I can pronounce write are the numbers and jyut beng.. Haha

Yes, I used baking powder because of my nephew' allergy, he also can't have any animal products. Sister will verify if this, natural yeast and psyllium husk is suitable for him on their next trip to the doctor. Thanks for your concern.

If you can't handle (I'm sorry if I sound rude here, I observed some degree of formality is always lost in English unlike our language or Chinese) baking powder or soda; how about 鹼水? It is used in our rice cakes and many Chinese food. Maybe the worst is 臭粉, I read it's the key for char siu bao to smile but I'm contented with plain char siu bao and this puto pao hits the spot to and is easier to make.

It's the whites that I hate until now but I get crazy for the salty yolks!


I'm happy that you enjoyed it! Thank you!

Yippee's picture
Yippee

is not even Cantonese, who taught you that? It's 潮州 dialect. You got the Baak Tong Gou right, though. Having a kid with allergy puts a lot of pressure on the family, I can feel for your sister. What's your nephew's name and how old is he? Let me know what the doctor says.  If there's anything I can help with the formula, I'm more than happy to.

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

Jyut beng... I heard it from the internet and our friend from Macau told me it's right.

I can't even remember his full name (Am I a bad uncle?), we just call him Lucky. He is 8 now, with God's help and mercy and the effort of the family, his conditions have greatly improved.

Truth Serum's picture
Truth Serum

Your English is wonderful. Your pictures are great !

Happy Steaming!

 

PalwithnoovenP's picture
PalwithnoovenP

I'm glad you like it!

Happy steaming too!