3 ways with 3 ingredients

glutinous rice, sugar and coconut: a trinity of ingredients that form the basis of many of the sweet confections in the philippines and the rest of asia. i can't even begin to cover them all as i discover them all.

i went to a party the other day and picked up a few of my favourite filipino sticky rice cakes:

sticky rice cake

kalamay, made from whole rice, coconut milk and brown sugar, then topped with latik, the brown, rich nuggets made from cooked down coconut milk.

sapin sapin 2

sapin-sapin, made from rice flour or rice that has been soaked overnight then crushed into a paste, sometimes yams or yam flour, coconut milk and sugar. each layered is tinted (the bottom one a deep ube-like purple, the middle a golden yolk yellow,the top one white), and steamed before the next layer is added. when i was a kid, sometimes you'd see the amazing multi-layered slabs that would go on for miles, but now it's just typically the three layers.


finally, cuchinta, which is my favourite of the three, but maybe for its oddity factor. although it is made in much the same way as most sticky rice flour desserts, it doesn't really taste nor look like most of them. the flavour is a rather fleeting brown sugar and watery coconut concoction, and as far as rice cakes go, while it is sticky, it is not overtly so, and it has almost a squeaky quality to it. it's a bit like a bouncy rubber ball that comes out of a vending machine--slightly oil and slightly sticky, bouncybouncy, and somewhat snot-like (there *is* actually a rice confection from baguio called kulangot which translates to "snot". it come in nifty single booger portions, too). these particular ones have been coloured with annatto, which is supposed to make them more appealing, but i have my doubts about that. the leavening agent is lye, which is made by burning a hardwood then dripping water through the ashes (a slightly complicated process, but not really; you can buy lye water these days, or check survivalist websites for recipes). the leavening and the fact that it is made with water, not coconut milk, probably accounts for why it's lighter and less chewy. freshly grated coconut on top literally grounds the rice cake with its meatiness and substance.


What a great read Santos! I love it when you present things that are totally strange and new to me! I mean, if I was somewhere they sold these things, I'd usually just walk around and glare at all the beautiful things, being afraid to buy them, 'cause I'd have no idea what they were. I'm no longer afraid! The sapin-sapin sounds particularly interesting...

Hi Santos, now you're making me drool. I think your kalamay is what we call 'biko'. Exactly the same altho called differently. Very few ingredients but not so easy to make. It's all got to do with technique and timing and a lot of elbow grease to stir the sticky stuff all the time. First time I made it, it was overcooked so it was like a whole mound of mashed sticky rice. Not so appetising. Second time it got burned. haha! I wonder what will happen the 3rd time.

hi zarah--glad to oblige! if only i had a handy dandy pocket guide you could carry around for reference :-) the sapin-sapin is quite beautiful, and very mild tasting, definitely something to look out for.

celia--THANK YOU!! we were trying to think of the name of the kalamay all day, and couldn't remember "biko". i think the only one of these three i would dare to make is the cuchinta, there's just so much elbow grease and care that needs to go into these, i don't think i have the patience.

whaaaa! those are my favourites! that was a nice read....

hi april--my favourites too :-D

Your kakanin pictures look awesome & no doubt they're all yummy! But please, please, can you please help me find a traditional galapong ( and not flour ) PUTO recipe? The kind that you soak the rice overnight & grind it fine the next day and steam...have made a few unsuccessful attempts but I haven't given up yet. I will appreciate your help very much! Thanks!

hi! i have one. somewhere. but i haven't tried it myself. once i find it, i'll let you know!

pardon, but the first picture you posted is actually a bico. kalamay is made out of glutinous rice (malagkit), grated coconut, peanut butter, brown sugar and margarine.

I really enjoyed this read. I can't say I was feeling homesick, because I wasn't born in the Philippines, but I definitely relate to that cuisine as my comfort food! So I was looking around for sticky rice recipes that weren't Thai and found yours. Thank you to iSel for the comment about the bico because I thought I was going crazy forgetting my childhood. I tried kalamay for the first time when I was in high school, and I remember really liking it--but you'd have to show me a picture before I could actually identify it now. Cuchinta w/ the shredded fresh coconut has always been my favorite, too, whereas my likes for bico have depended on my mood. On the other hand, latik is yummy anytime!!