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
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Stack the parcels, seam side down, in a steamer basket. Steam over boiling water for about 45 minutes.
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!
To make suman with chocolate, follow the basic suman recipe above. Prepare the banana leaves.
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.
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.
It’s the same procedure but, instead of chocolate, you add chopped fruits.
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.