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Suman (Filipino Steamed Sticky Rice Truffles)

Why It Works

  • Soaking the rice in a single day helps develop to a softer, fluffier texture and reduces the general cooking time. 
  • Wrapping and steaming the suman in banana leaves imparts a definite floral taste that provides complexity.
  • Steaming the cooked rice ensures the ultimate rice cake has its correct sticky texture.

Rising up within the Philippines, I used to be typically woken from my siesta by the rhythmic chanting of avenue distributors, whose voices echoed by way of the empty sweltering streets within the late afternoon. That is how I knew it was time for merienda, in any other case often called a meal in between meals or, you understand, snack time. I used to hurry to our balcony, craning my neck as if I have been a giraffe, to seek out the road peddler. In the event that they have been near our home, I’d chant again to them. Quickly after, I used to be rewarded with the privilege of selecting first from their heat steaming basket. Tucked inside was suman (a steamed sticky rice cake), mwasi (a boiled rice patty topped with shredded coconut and muscovado sugar), baye-baye (a mochi-like cylindrical cake made with toasted younger or glutinous rice, grated coconuts, and muscovado sugar), and typically a model of a donut twist known as bicho-bicho. It simply relied on the day and the peddler’s whims.

Critical Eats / Vicky Wasik



The suman I typically bought from the peddler—which is the recipe I am sharing right here—is constituted of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. It is then served scorching with a beneficiant sprinkle of muscovado sugar on high and/or with a facet of candy ripe mango. The banana leaf provides the suman a definite tinge of inexperienced and imparts a floral scent to the rice cake.

In pre-colonial Philippines, rising rice was labor-intensive and rice was due to this fact largely reserved for deities, leaders, and socio-religious rituals and gatherings like harvest ceremonies or honoring ancestors. After the industrialization of agriculture, the Philippines produced extra rice and the crop ultimately grew to become on a regular basis fare to be loved by all, spinning off numerous rice-based dishes and snacks, together with an enormous array of baked, steamed, and boiled rice-based snacks known as kakanin, derived from two Tagalog phrases: “kain” (to eat) and “kanin” (rice).  

Critical Eats / Vicky Wasik


Kakanin, in the meantime, might be additional damaged down into subcategories, considered one of which is suman, which is a kind of rice cake that’s normally wrapped in one thing. There are various variations of suman, which range amongst areas and even from island to island and are distinguished by the type of wrapper used or the strategies employed to cook dinner them. You possibly can change among the substances, the wrapper, and the form and nonetheless make one thing understood to be suman. There’s suman latik―sticky rice cake served with coconut caramel and curds―and suman sa lihiya, which is made with lye. On Panay Island the place I used to be raised, now we have not less than three completely different sorts of suman: ibus (eeh-boos), which is similar sticky rice cake however wrapped in buri (palm leaves) and boiled; biko (bee-koh) made with entire rice kernels (not floor rice or rice flour) and cooked with coconut milk and brown sugar, then slathered with latik, a coconut caramel sauce, and baked (in contrast to most suman, biko will not be wrapped in leaves, however it’s nonetheless understood by most to be a kind of suman); and alupi (ah-loo-pee), which is a grated cassava suman. There’s additionally a suman known as moron (or chocolate suman) that’s a mixture of sticky rice and tablea (native chocolate).

Once I was growing this recipe, it was necessary to me to excellent the sticky rice itself, which is the first part. You possibly can at all times jazz up the rice by including different flavorings like ginger, chocolate, and grated coconut, however the success of this suman sinks or swims with the rice.

Critical Eats / Vicky Wasik


The important thing to creating suman is soaking the rice forward of time to assist totally hydrate the grains and reduce down in your cooking time. I’ve undoubtedly burned the underside of a pot whereas making suman and that’s one thing we need to keep away from: As you cook dinner the rice, it releases starch that can follow the underside and typically sides of the pot if not stirred always.  When the rice burns, there’s no saving it, so be certain that to thoughts and stir the rice always.

After the preliminary cooking of the rice, it is unfold out to chill, then reduce into parts and wrapped within the banana leaves, which then get cooked once more—a necessary two-stage cooking course of that offers the completed suman its signature sticky texture. There are a number of methods to cook dinner the assembled suman packets, however the main one is to steam them. When organising your steamer, ensure you at all times have sufficient water on the backside and examine in between batches and refill as wanted. I like to recommend letting the water come to a boil first earlier than you add the suman to steam, so that you’ll have a extra correct cooking time than in the event you load the entire thing up after which look ahead to the steam to begin. In the event you’re including extra water to forestall the steamer from going dry, be certain that to get it as much as boiling first in order that you do not drop the temperature and reduce the steam off halfway by way of cooking.

Critical Eats / Vicky Wasik



As soon as the suman is steamed, give it a few minutes to chill down earlier than opening the banana leaf wrapper, however not lengthy sufficient that it is gone chilly. It must have sufficient residual warmth to slowly soften the topping of muscovado sugar, and likewise to offer a distinction with the cool mango. I nearly at all times pair my suman with a cup of espresso to steadiness the candy with just a little bitter. You possibly can even add a scoop of ice cream and make it suman à la mode. Past that, be happy to deal with this sticky rice cake as your clean canvas and let your creativeness go wild.

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