Suman (Filipino Steamed Sticky Rice Cakes)

Why This Recipe 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 usually 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 had been a giraffe, to search out the road peddler. In the event that they had 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 trusted the day and the peddler’s whims.

Critical Eats / Vicky Wasik

The suman I usually bought from the peddler—which is the recipe I am sharing right here—is comprised of glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. It is then served sizzling with a beneficiant sprinkle of muscovado sugar on high and/or with a facet of candy ripe mango. The banana leaf offers 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 finally turned on a regular basis fare to be loved by all, spinning off numerous rice-based dishes and snacks, together with an unlimited 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, certainly one of which is suman, which is a sort of rice cake that’s normally wrapped in one thing. There are numerous variations of suman, which fluctuate amongst areas and even from island to island and are distinguished by the type of wrapper used or the strategies employed to prepare dinner them. You may 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, we now have not less than three totally 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 (not like most suman, biko isn’t wrapped in leaves, nevertheless it’s nonetheless understood by most to be a sort 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).

After I was creating this recipe, it was necessary to me to excellent the sticky rice itself, which is the first element. You may 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 an excellent suman is soaking the rice forward of time to assist totally hydrate the grains and lower down in your cooking time. I’ve undoubtedly burned the underside of a pot whereas making suman and that’s one thing we wish to keep away from: As you prepare dinner the rice, it releases starch that can persist with the underside and typically sides of the pot if not stirred always.  When the rice burns, there’s no saving it, so be certain to thoughts and stir the rice always.

After the preliminary cooking of the rice, it is unfold out to chill, then lower into parts and wrapped within the banana leaves, which then get cooked once more—a vital two-stage cooking course of that offers the completed suman its signature sticky texture. There are a number of methods to prepare dinner the assembled suman packets, however the major one is to steam them. When establishing your steamer, be sure to at all times have sufficient water on the backside and test 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 if you happen to load the entire thing up after which await the steam to start out. When you’re including further water to forestall the steamer from going dry, be certain to get it as much as boiling first in order that you do not drop the temperature and lower 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 supply a distinction with the cool mango. I nearly at all times pair my suman with a cup of espresso to steadiness the candy with a bit of bitter. You may even add a scoop of ice cream and make it suman à la mode. Past that, be at liberty to deal with this sticky rice cake as your clean canvas and let your creativeness go wild.

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