Suman (rice cake in a tube) in three flavors

Suman (rice cake in a tube) in three flavors |

To say that the English translation for suman is rice cake is a bit confusing since the term “rice cake” encompasses more than suman. When cooked in a tray or dish, rice cake is called bibingka, kakanin or kalamay. If cooked to achieve a bread-like texture, it is called puto. But, the thing is, a traditional Christmas fare, a pancake-like rice delicacy topped with slices of salted eggs and white cheese, is also known as bibingka. And while it is almost exactly accurate to say that suman, in its most common meaning, is rice cake in tube form, another traditional Christmas fare known as puto-bumbong is also a rice cake in tube form but not really categorized as suman.

Confused? For purposes of this entry, let’s take suman in its most widely accepted definition — rice cake in tube form.

There are so many varieties of suman in the Philippines, some associated with particular regions. Most are wrapped in either coconut fronds or wilted banana leaves. If using uncooked rice, often soaked for several hours in water, the suman is cooked submerged in water or coconut milk. If using cooked rice, the wrapped suman is steamed.

Even the accompaniment for suman varies. The most common is a mixture of grated fresh coconut and sugar. Some suman varieties are served with a dipping sauce of coconut jam or chocolate.

My suman recipe uses glutinous (sticky) rice that has been cooked in coconut milk. The cooled rice is double wrapped in wilted banana leaves then steamed for about 45 minutes. The plain and most basic recipe is given below, followed by instructions on how to make the chocolate-flavored suman and suman with chopped fruits that you see in the background of the photo above.


  • 1 c. of glutinous (sticky) rice, soaked in cold water for at least six hours
    1 c. of coconut milk, fresh (see how to extract coconut milk) or canned
    a generous pinch of salt
    banana leaves


  1. Strain the rice. Cook in coconut milk with salt. I used a rice cooker and it did the job wonderfully. Cool the rice.Meanwhile, prepare the banana leaves.

    Rinse the banana leaves. Wipe dry. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

    Pass every part of the leaves over an open flame to soften and wilt. Unless you do this, the banana leaves will break when you wrap the rice with it.

    Cut the banana leaves so that you have 8 to 10 pieces that are about 8″x8″ square and another set of 8 to 10 pieces that are about 12″x12″ square. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

    Place an 8″x8″ piece of banana leaf on top of a 12″x12″ piece. Place two to three tablespoonfuls of cooked rice at the center. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

    Wrap the rice with the smaller piece of banana leaf, as tightly as you can, and folding the sides neatly. Use the larger piece of banana leaf to wrap the parcel. The double wrapping seals the rice well and serves as an insurance that in case the first wrapping tears, there is another layer to protect the precious rice inside.

    Repeat until all the rice has been wrapped. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

    Stack the parcels, seam side down, in a steamer basket. Steam over boiling water for about 45 minutes. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

    Cool the suman for about 15 minutes before unwrapping to give it a chance to firm up. Top with grated fresh coconut and sugar, and enjoy!

Quick Notes

Some variations:

To make suman with chocolate, follow the basic suman recipe above. Prepare the banana leaves. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

Place about two tablespoonfuls of the cooked rice on a piece of banana leaf, add chopped chocolate (I used dark chocolate), wrap and steam following the same procedure for the basic suman recipe. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

The chocolate melts during steaming and the result is a reddish-brown rice with dark spots of chocolate. Delicious!

If you’re not a chocoholic like me, you can add chopped fruits. I wanted to add fresh mangoes to my suman, but it isn’t mango season, so I had to content myself with chopped canned peaches. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

It’s the same procedure but, instead of chocolate, you add chopped fruits. Suman: rice cake in a tube. In three flavors.

And you have fruity suman! Speedy likes the suman with peaches more than the ones with chocolate. I like all of them — including the plain suman. They’re great for breakfast or anytime of the day snack.

Cooking time (duration):2 hours total

Number of servings (yield): 8 pieces

Meal type: snack

This suman recipe is part of Kulinarya‘s October celebration of Filipino food.

The Kulinarya gang: Kath, Trisha, Trissa, Olive, Caroline, Ninette, Peach, Althea, Asha, Malou, Cherrie, Acdee, Valerie, Sheryl, Divina, Anna, Dahlia, Joy, Maribel, Tressa, Jen, Pia, Malaka, Mimi, Erika, Kat, Lala, Selfie, Oggi, Katrina, Rochelle and Marica


  1. arlene says

    Dear Connie, I am an avid reader of your blog and have tried various recipes already. Thank you for generously sharing your ideas with us!
    as i am out of the philippines and banana leaves are not easy to get, what would be a good alternative for wrapping the suman?

    • says

      Hi Ms. Connie,

      Just wanted to let you know that I tried the chocolate suman- and it was heavenly!!! I’ll try to use langka and/or a halo-halo mixture next time. I’m even looking into trying out a savory version, similar to lo mai gai :)

      Thanks for sharing your recipes!

  2. Leah says

    Hi Connie,

    I was wondering if there was an exact measurement for the water needed for soaking the rice in.

    Kind regards,

    P.S. I love your website. I have tried several of your recipes and they were all a success.

    • Ryan says

      Among the many varieties/mutations of the rice cake, I love Tacloban’s version called “Moron”. Fine grounded rice mixed with coconut milk and tableya choco as flavoring rolled and wrapped inside a banana leaf. Very delicious especially when served cold.

  3. niceyfemme says

    Ooh! I’ve been experimenting with suman and failed TWICE. I’m glad you have a recipe and I’d try this soon. Thanks! :)

    Please say hi to Speedy, please tell him it’s from his fan ahhaha… I love the peach roses btw… so sweet of him!

  4. says

    I’ve never tried the mango combination – but since it’s mango season here I think I might give it a go! This looks fantastic!