Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Building a Better... er... Something

I arrived home last night to find my mother fussing over a piece of pepperoni.

Let me explain: My mother runs a small bakeshop out in the middle of the San Juan / Mandaluyong area. The bakeshop's been around for over twenty-five years -- she started it up a little after I was born, if I remember correctly. Technically, I think of it as the sibling that's closest to my age.

Lately, the bakeshop has been trying out a bunch of new products. I've recently had the benefit of taste-testing such things as capuccino-flavored cookies, chocolate-banana bread, and two revised formulae for brownies. My officemates themselves can testify to the Easter Egg samples I brought along last April, in fact. If anything, it all gives me a convenient explanation as to why I'm slowly gaining weight. :)

For the last week, however, their experimentation has revolved around Pizza Bread -- specifically, the possibility of coming out with a cheap bread-loaf product that would replicate the sensation of pizza without drastically raising the price. By some coincidence, her suppliers were offering discounted prices on certain identifiable ingredients, so it was an easy matter of purchasing the right samples.

The question that was being batted around last night, however, involved what exactly gave pizzas their taste. Bread based on pepperoni pizza, for example, would theoretically only need cheese and pepperoni to make a similar taste. But what about the standard supreme pizzas, the ones with everything on them? What ingredients are essential to creating their taste, and which items can be left out? For that matter, how close can one get to replicating their taste with a loaf of bread without massively driving the price up?

Now, because this is not the "Pizza Webring", I'll stop talking about pizza.

I'm sure that most urban Filipinos are aware that there is a chocolate-laced suman variant making the rounds. Personally, I think that it's natural: Suman is a sweet and sticky dessert or snack, and chocolate goes in much the same categories. It was only a matter of time before somebody put the two together.

That raises a question, though: Is it therefore possible to come out with other "flavors" of suman? And if it is, then why hasn't anyone done that yet?

If you're looking for a more concrete hypothesis, then here's one: What about mint suman, i.e. suman with a hint of peppermint to its taste? I'm sure that there's no shortage of mint lovers out there... would they be interested at the thought of mint suman?

If we can consider the possibility of making a better meal out of suman, then what about working meat into the equation somewhere? There's a Chinese delicacy, ma chang, that does pretty much the same thing on a larger scale. Can we work, say, bits of beef, pork and/or fish into a piece of suman in order to give it those corresponding flavors? What about vegetables? What about egg? Heck, I can imagine a fried-glutinous-rice variant here.

Okay, so the meat-and-vegetables are a long shot. But then, what if we stick to the dessert option? Has anyone ever thought of flavoring suman with sweet purple yam? Or mixing in some vanilla extract? At the moment, I'm wondering if it would be viable to work in certain types of fruits - say, banana or jackfruit. Perhaps mango might even work.

I'm aware that I probably need to have an in-depth understanding of the process by which suman is made in order to see if any of these are possible to begin with. But I'm certain that, in the process by which suman is made, there is always a point where the ingredients have to be mixed into the rice, and that's what we can use to our advantage. There's got to be a way by which the sugar goes in. There's got to be a way by which the salt goes in. There's got to be a way by which everything else can go in.

I mean, we do have to agree that, with fourteen regions and seven thousand islands, you can go anywhere in the Philippines and try out a different version of the rice treat no matter where you end up. If we have this kind of innovation on a country-wide, culture-wide scale, then why haven't we taken advantage of it yet?

Think about it, especially when you're chewing that next piece of suman.



eClair said...

I think I remember eating moron, something akin to the suman (or maybe it's the Waray version of suman) which had peanuts mixed in it.

As for suman and mangoes, suman sa mangga at Tsoko Nut has slices of mangga on it, and chocolate syrup as well.

The suman with ube is something I would love to see one time... I really like ube and I have eaten bibingkang ube (what I mean by bibingka here is not the one we usually see during Christmas but the one that is like the biko) and so I think that the idea of having suman with ube flavor is not unthinkable for me. =)

Marcelle said...

Chocolate flavor sounds cool.

Gaea's Apprentice said...

If there's a cheese-flavored one... notify me immediately.

Sean said...

Clair: Yes, there are a number of different suman variants spread across the regions of the Philippines. I can only imagine what would happen if we got all of them in the same place at the same time during Christmas.

Marcelle: You did try the chocolate suman at Sacha's despedida, right?

Gaea's Apprentice: If there's a cheese-flavored one, I'd be the first in line. :)