Enter one of my favorite traditional snacks, the marvelous putu bumbung.
It’s basically brown sugar-filled rice cake, served with grated coconut.
I used to be curious as to why the food bears a strange name “putu”, which means “grandchild” in Javanese. Did the first creator of “putu” initially make the food for their grandchildren?
I later chose to not bother about the etymology. It’s a name, not a noun, so it doesn’t have to have a meaning. Nouns are used to refer to things, names to label.
I’ve been always tempted to try finding a meaning behind names. Here in this country, people’s names are mostly derived from Sanskrit words, so they do have meanings. I think that’s where the inclination to find meanings comes from.
Bumbung, by the way, means “bamboo reed”. It’s mentioned in the food name because bamboo is used to form putu into its cylindrical form. Don’t worry, the bamboo has been sanitized with mermaid’s tears before usage, so it’s clean. Eating putu bumbung won’t cause you diarrhea. Promise.
Later I found there’s also a similar food in India, called “puttu”. That’s putu with double t. This puttu doesn’t use brown sugar filling or grated coconut, yet the overall look is quite the same. They even had a special tool which makes the cooking process look more dignified.
This made me think if the steamed rice flour cake was originated from India.
It might be from China, as the country also has strong influence in our culture, but putu doesn’t sound Chinese (or does it?). And the cake will crumble if you take it with chopsticks.
I’m sure it’s not from Arabia, because it’s made of rice. Also, I can’t think of a musafir eating putu on the back of his camel, in the middle of strong desert wind. What an unnecessary hassle!
So, I must guess it from India. The brief discussion above shows us India is the most likely to be the country this food comes from.
A more imaginative approach would be saying that Sugriva brought in putu bumbung recipe to Jawadwipa while he was in search of Sita. Because why not?
First image credit: ahlinyakue