It is a traditional rice cake that doesn't look like any round iced cake with the fancy swirls or continental toppers, but you can pair them with hot tsokolate-eh prepared with good old batirol. Suman is as pinoy as it gets (well, the Malays and Thais have their own). It is glutinous rice and coconut milk steamed in layers of young banana or palm leaf, to which it owes its tubular, squarish or rectangular shape. There's suman sa lihiya, ibus and whatnot that I will not get into because you'll find all that info on Wikipedia.
Like I mentioned in a recent post, I am not a (white granular) sugar and suman person - I find sugar too gritty for my sensitive teeth. I'll only eat a spoonful of sugar to head off an allergic reaction (I have lots: alcohol; some weeds; caterpillars; wake-up-at-dawn sneeze inducing air; crustaceans et al). Even then I'd rather have Coke (you burp out the toxins, is what I think). There's a suman sa ibus that pairs well with sugar (brown in this photo) but not my favorite. Its the one that unwraps in a long spiral of narrow coconut leaves locked at the end with a fold and a frond 'stick'.
This suman is white grained, wrapped in very thin, pale yellow layers of banana leaves you rip in half after you unfold either top and bottom flap - it amuses 'natives' no end if you do it layer by layer. We eat them with sweet macapuno (coconut) strips, white beans and garbanzos (chick peas), topped with halayang ube (my dad's aunt's purple yam - not too thick or thin, not too sweet and you can still bite into bits of yam).
I liked the play of textures and taste - the suman itself a bit salty with a hint of coconut, the rice grains not too finely ground, contrasting nicely with the jelly like, thick syrup coating each macapuno strip.
I like the way the bean cuts in half as you bite, with the thin 'skin' pulling away from the soft, sweet squishy meat. Ditto with the garbanzos, albeit with a tiny bit of a crunch and graininess. I can't fully describe yam's taste, can you? I yam what I yam hehehe.
There's another suman (sa lihiya) I like but it's a hit or miss thing. Some suman makers make it better. This one's really dense, packed in heavy, dark green banana leaves (which lends scent and a hint of the 'organic') and comes in twos, flat sides in and bulgy sides out, entwined in banana fiber.
Sometimes you forgive this suman's shortcomings (tends to dry up and harden, best eaten on the day it was bought) if the latik (sweet caramelized or plain coconut milk dip) is just right: not too sweet, not too grainy with panutsa (muscovado sugar), and good, not-too-oily coconut jam taste. Purists like eating it with sugar and grated coconut, others prefer a chocolate dip.
The suman pinipig is all dressed up in what I call a happy green - layers of banana leaves so fresh I swear they're grown specially for the suman. The suman itself is also a nice green color with a smooth sheen to it, golden brown coconut bits here and there. It's soft but not too much - the pinipig (pounded young rice flakes) gives it - I don't know, is it 'body' or texture- like day old cereal. Definitely not stale, just that pinipig is rice grain that hasn't matured to full 'snap.' There's a subtle taste of coconut, this suman, aromatic with pinipig. This suman I will eat minus a whole caboodle of sweet stuff. This is a stand-alone sensation. I will dub me purist on this one, and I will eat more than one...plateful!