This Visayan-style Suman Malagkit is sometimes also called budbud. This soft and chewy banana leaf steamed sticky rice dessert with hints of ginger in a vanilla coconut milk caramel is my dear Filipino friend’s (hey Christian 👋) favorite dessert of any kind. And you are gonna see why!
These are different from tupig because of the caramel sauce, the fact that they are steamed instead of grilled, and that they are made with soaked sticky rice instead of rice flour. Honestly, they are more like a dessert Filipino version of lontong than they are like tupig.
For those new to making these, fear not! This carefully crafted recipe ensures that you not only master the art of crafting Suman Malagkit but also do so effortlessly. The gooey, caramel-infused rice cakes are encased in banana leaves, imparting a distinctive aroma, and they can be made in a steamer, or a pot fitted with a steamer basket.
May your kitchen echo with the joyous laughter of shared cooking madness (in my house, that’s a good thing, OK?) and the irresistible allure of Suman Malagkit. Happy cooking!
🥰Why you are going to adore the ever-loving heck outta this recipe
🥸 Foolproof Rice: I’ve nailed the perfect, soaking, cooking, and steaming method! The perfect texture for the finished rice ensures your Suman Malagkit is a flawless masterpiece, rich in taste and texture.
🍮The Easiest Caramel on Earth: No candy thermometer is needed, and no careful pastry-chef skills are required either. This delicious caramel sauce is not only easy but also requires no refined sugar.
✅ Tested and Approved Worldwide: Like all recipes on my blog, this tender rice cake made in a steamer was made repeatedly until perfect, and then has undergone rigorous testing across kitchens worldwide from a giant team of recipe testers I work with. Cook with confidence, knowing that this tried-and-true delight will shine wherever you are on the globe.
🍚Notable ingredients and substitutions
Glutinous rice, also called sweet rice, sticky rice, or Malagkit, is the heart of Suman Malagkit. Despite its name, it contains no gluten; its stickiness comes from high amylopectin content. This rice creates the chewy texture essential for the dish. If unavailable, sushi rice makes a suitable substitute. Don’t make it with regular white rice or brown rice though, as those aren’t starchy enough. Trust me, I have tried and failed with both of those.
Rich, creamy, and a staple in Filipino cuisine, coconut milk, or "Gata," infuses the Suman Malagkit with a tropical essence. It is the magical creaminess behind everything from bubur sumsum, che ba mau and Vietnamese banh flan. Opt for canned full-fat coconut milk for the ultimate indulgence. In a pinch, coconut cream can stand in, but this is better reserved for making things like kem chuoi with.
No proper Visayan Suman recipe is complete without a subtle hint of grated fresh ginger. This aromatic root lends a warm, earthy flavor, complementing the sweetness of coconut milk and sugar. If fresh ginger is elusive, dried ginger powder can step in, or you can just leave it out for a more general suman.
A touch of vanilla introduces a fragrant note to the Suman Malagkit. I find vanilla powder much more convenient than dealing with fresh vanilla bean pods. There is also extract in the recipe, and if the powder is hard to get or too expensive, you can use the extract in both places in the recipe. Or substitute with pandan extract for another authentic Filipino twist.
Acting as both a vessel and aromatic enhancer, banana leaves impart a distinct fragrance to the dish. In the Philippines, these are called Dahon ng Saging. Most good Asian grocery stores sell frozen banana leaves. If unavailable, corn husks (like you would use for making tamales with), or a couple of layers of parchment paper serve as viable alternatives. If you have extra leftover banana leaves, they are great for shaping portions of nasi uduk, nasi minyak and nasi kunyit, and for serving dishes like sambal goreng on top of them!
Palm, coconut, or brown sugar provides depth to the coconut caramel sauce. Of course, if you can't get any of those, you can also use regular ol' granulated sugar. If you have leftover coconut sugar after making this, it is great for making kuih dadar, and if you have leftover palm sugar, nothing else makes a better filling for ondeh ondeh.
*See the recipe card at the bottom of the page for exact quantities, nutritional info, and detailed cooking directions.
📖 How to make perfect suman malagkit
Nail these sticky rice cakes on your first shot by following these step-by-step instructions with helpful tips. Or you can follow along with the easy-to-print recipe card towards the bottom of this page.
Prepare and Soak Rice:
Gently rinse glutinous rice in a mesh strainer under cold water until clear. Place in a container, cover with water, and refrigerate for 8 hours, or overnight. Drain soaked rice in a mesh strainer.
Infuse Coconut Mix:
In a pot, bring water, coconut milk, sugar, fresh ginger, salt, and vanilla (powder or extract are both fine) to a boil over medium heat.
Cook Rice to Tender:
Mix in the drained rice, and simmer covered for 25 minutes until tender.
Portion ‘em out:
Cut banana leaves into rectangles. Spread 3 tablespoons of cooked rice in the center of a leaf.
Wrap in Banana Leaves:
Fold sides, and roll up (kind of like a burrito with plenty of room on the sides to secure the filling in), securing the ends with either toothpicks or twine. Repeat forming until all filling is used up.
Steam the Suman:
Steam the wrapped suman for 40-45 minutes over medium heat until the rice is fully cooked and achieves a sticky, compressed consistency in either a bamboo steamer or a pot fitted with a steamer basket.
Prepare Caramel Sauce:
While suman steams, in a saucepan, whisk together the coconut milk, palm sugar, vanilla extract, and salt. Simmer until sugar dissolves, thickening slightly.
Cool and Serve:
After cooking, allow the suman to cool for about ten minutes. Unwrap the gooey rice cakes and drizzle with prepared caramel sauce before serving.
Suman Malagkit is a lovely dessert to follow classic Filipino dishes like adobong sitaw, sisig, or ensaladang talong. The sweet, sticky goodness of the rice cakes beautifully complements the savory notes of these traditional favorites.
If you want to serve it as part of a Southeast Asian dessert spread, a few other desserts that nicely complement it with different textures and flavors are Putu Ayu, cekodok pisang, martabak manis, and bubur cha cha.
- Perfectly Soaked Rice: Ensure the glutinous rice is thoroughly soaked for at least 8 hours or overnight. This step is crucial for achieving the desired stickiness and tenderness in your Suman Malagkit.
- Art of Steaming: The tighter you wrap the rice mixture, and the more securely you seal it, the chewier and more compressed the suman will be. Make sure the water in the steamer doesn’t come in contact with the parcels and keep the heat on medium so they steam gently for best results.
- Steamer selection: The best steamer to use is a bamboo steamer, as it will let some of the moisture out. If you are using a steamer with a metal or glass lid, or are using a pot fitted with a steamer basket, stretch a clean kitchen towel over the top of the pot directly under the lid to prevent hot condensation from raining down on your cooking suman.
- Careful Caramel Crafting: Pay attention to the caramel sauce. Stir together water, coconut milk, palm sugar, vanilla extract, and salt over medium heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture slightly thickens. Don't let the caramel cook on high heat or to the point where it darkens and becomes bitter.
Glutinous rice, also known as "Malagkit" in Filipino, is the key ingredient, providing the sticky texture essential for this dish. You can also make it with sushi rice or other short-grained japonicas.
Banana leaves impart a unique fragrance, but if unavailable, corn husks, or several layers of parchment paper can be used as a substitute for wrapping the rice mixture.
Absolutely, make it in advance and reheat gently or enjoy at room temperature. The flavors often deepen, enhancing the overall experience. Just make sure to reheat it before serving, because suman will stiffen if refrigerated.
🥶Storage: After indulging in the deliciousness of Suman Malagkit, store any remaining portions in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to three days. Avoid freezing, as it will not thaw with a nice texture!
🔥 Stovetop Reheating: For a stovetop reheat, place the Suman Malagkit in a steamer or a pot fitted with a steamer basket. Steam over medium heat for about 8 minutes until warmed through. This method ensures that the rice maintains its gooey consistency.
🍚 Microwave Reheating: To reheat in the microwave, place the desired portion in a microwave-safe dish. Cover with a damp paper towel to retain moisture. Heat on medium for short intervals, checking and stirring in between until thoroughly warmed. This method is a quick alternative while preserving the dish's enticing texture.
✌️My faves to serve with this dish:
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Suman Malagkit (Filipino Gooey Caramel Rice Cakes)
- Container for soaking
- Toothpicks or kitchen twine
- Rinse the glutinous rice in a fine wire mesh strainer for a few minutes under cold running water until the water runs clear. Place the rice into a container and cover with water, soaking it for 8 hours or overnight under refrigeration. Drain the soaked rice in a wire mesh strainer.
- In a pot over medium heat, bring the water, coconut milk, sugar, grated fresh ginger, salt, and vanilla powder or vanilla extract to a boil.
- Add the soaked, drained rice and mix well. Place a lid on the pot and lower the heat to a very low simmer, letting the rice cook for 25 minutes. It’s okay if the rice isn’t 100% tender, as it will continue to cook in the banana leaves later on.
- Cut banana leaves into rectangles, ensuring they are large enough to wrap the rice mixture. Spread a portion of the rice mixture onto the center of a banana leaf. Fold the sides of the banana leaf over the rice mixture, then fold the top and bottom to create a rectangular parcel. Secure the edges with toothpicks or kitchen twine.
- In a steamer or a pot fitted with a steamer basket, steam the wrapped suman for about 40-45 minutes or until the rice is fully cooked and has a sticky, but compressed consistency.
- While the suman cooks, in a saucepan over medium heat, stir together coconut milk, palm sugar, vanilla extract, and salt for the caramel sauce. Simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, and the mixture thickens slightly.
- Once cooked, allow the suman to cool slightly before serving. Unwrap the gooey rice cakes, and drizzle the prepared caramel sauce over the suman before serving.