They have a chewy texture and generally are sweet tasting. They are eaten for breakfast with a hot chocolate drink or as a snack, and are served especially at Christmas.
There are probably over at least 70 different kinds of Suman made in different regions of the Philippines.
They are usually wrapped in banana or coconut palm leaves, and then cooked by steaming or simmering. Sometimes, though, they are made of already cooked rice, with no further cooking needed.
Depending on the area, other types of leaves, or even empty coconut shells, may be used as a cooking wrapper. Sometimes the bundles may be secured with string or strips of leaves; other times if the leaves are long enough, the wrapped bundles of rice just have the ends tucked under and piled up on the pot seam-side down. Some cooks will shape the Suman wrappers very intricately, so that the resultant rice cake takes on the shape. Most often, though, they are likely to be log shaped or rectangular.
Many Suman are meant to be eaten out of hand, pulling back the wrapper as you progress.
You can buy Suman ready-made at markets; in fact, most people do now.
Some Types of Suman
- Suman sa lihia (or Lihiya) – rice is soaked in water with a few teaspoons of lye (sic) in it, bundled and secured in a leaf, and simmered in water. Blander tasting than some other types of suman, as it is meant to be served with a topping such as a coconut sauce (“latik”), occasionally with grated coconut and sugar, or coconut jam.
- Suman sa ibus – soaked rice is mixed with coconut and salt. It is then wrapped in a buri palm leave to make a small bundle, which is then secured with the spine of the leaves as string. It is then simmered or steamed. It is served either sprinkled with white sugar, or with fresh mango.
- Suman sa antala – rice is soaked, lye added, wrapped in banana leaves, steamed.
- Suman sa Binuo – soaked, ground sticky rice is mixed with sugar and coconut milk, bundled in Tagbak leaves, steamed. Very chewy with somewhat of a minty flavour.
- Suman sa Inantala (or Suman Antala) – soaked rice is mixed with coconut and salt, then cooked. This cooked mixture is then wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed.
- Sumang Kamoteng Kahoy – ground cassava mixture with sugar and coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves, and steamed.
- Budbud kabug – made with millet seed instead of rice. The millet is simmered in coconut milk, then wrapped in banana leaves and steamed. Usually served with mango and hot chocolate.
- Balintawak – a third of the rice is mixed with cocoa. The plain and flavoured rice mixtures are then spiralled together, wrapped in a banana leaf, and simmered.
- Budbud sa Tanjay – sticky rice simmered in coconut milk and sugar. This is then wrapped in banana leaves, and simmered again.
- Palitaw – wet balls of sticky rice are flattened, and dropped into simmering water. They are done when they rise to the surface. You take them out, plunge into cold water to help prevent them sticking to each other, then drain. This is served with two sides: grated coconut, and a mixture of ground sesame seeds and sugar.
- Espasol – made in Laguna and Quezon areas. Cooked sticky rice is mixed with coconut milk and sugar syrup. It is rolled into log shapes, from which slices are cut off, then sprinkled with rice powder to stop them sticking.
Suman can be frozen; just microwave or steam to serve.
Called “bud bud” in Cebuano.