19 June 2008


Kakanin is our general word for the various sweet rice snacks found all over the archipelago (it comes from the word kanin, meaning rice).

All kinds of rice are used: glutinous, non-glutinous, white, black, red, brown. We have them ground into flours or whole. We prepare them by steaming, boiling, deep-frying, and even fermenting! They may be flavored by coconut, anise, pandan, ube (purple yam), among others.

A dizzying assortment of kakanin at a market in Puerto Princesa. Twisted deep-fried pilipit, deep-fried rounds of carioce, regular and ube kalamay, and cuchinta.

Espasol for 2 pesos each.

Espasol is ground glutinous rice cooked with sugar, coconut milk, and little bits of coconut then rolled in toasted rice flour. There are hazards in eating it quickly, as you can end up coughing from inhaling the loose powder. While originally from Laguna, it is now found all over the Philippines. Tagaytay (visit that link, there is a funny message from the mayor on the front page) is specifically associated with those espasol wrapped in paper, being hawked by vendors on every bus and roadside.

I asked them to skewer the espasol on barbecue sticks for easy eating.

Puto in huge slices for 10 pesos each.

I asked them to wrap this up in a banana leaf as well. Remember, you have that option!

is a steamed rice cake made of ground flour. So many towns have so many different variations. Often in Manila you know when the puto-man is coming when he honks his horn that sounds like a goose, but he usually wields only the plain white fluffy bready sort.

I read in one book that it's of Chinese origin, but I don't think so. When I was in Kerala, India, there was this fabulous breakfast dish called puttu, a steamed cylindrical (non-sweet) rice cake with grated coconut (served with garbanzo curry). Malaysia has its putu. We have our puto, or poto. Rice-centric persons probably have South India to thank for this and for its many incarnations.

The puttu at Saj Homestay in Cochin, Kerala, made by Saj's wife.

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