Patupat: Sweet rice in a native wrap

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by Alexander Villafania

DAGUPAN CITY, PANGASINAN – Ever heard of “patupat”? It’s a native Ilocano food that is a popular snack or dessert related to several other native delicacies made of glutinous rice such as suman, tupig, kankanen, and puto bumbong. I grew up eating this delicacy before and after meals and it is absolutely one of my favorites.

Except for the food stuff mentioned above, few people outside the Ilocos region have seen or tasted patupat. It is essentially the same as suman but is somewhat harder. What makes it more unique is its wrapping – strips of coconut or banana leaves fashioned into small rectangular baskets. These essentially hold together the uncooked sticky rice into place.

Usually, the wrappers are woven first, with one end remaining open as the mass of sticky rice is being prepared. The weaving part is equally hard as the cooking process as the cooks usually have to strip the leaves into the right width and length. Basket-weaving techniques are usually used but the ones used for patupat is the simple kind. However, an enthusiastic patupat maker can create more intricate designs for their wrappers, which would usually be admired first, then torn apart by the consumer to reach the sweet rice inside.

The leaves’ aroma also mix with the sticky rice, which becomes stronger as they are boiled for more than 30 minutes in a mixture of sugarcane juice and coconut milk. The wrapper’s use in the patupat making process is not ended. After the boiling one end of the closed wrapper, it is tied to a hanger to drip-dry. There are a few blogs providing recipes for making patupat but they all follow the same cooking process.

Patupat can be eaten cold but it is best when eaten freshly cooked. Unlike suman or puto bumbong that require additional condiments such as sugar and coconut grating, patupat can be eaten straight out of the weaved basket. Normally, this is a challenging process, even with a pair of scissors or a knife to cut the strips of leaves. However, this process of removing the leaves add to the allure of eating the sweet rice inside.

It’s quite rare to see patupat being sold in Manila and usually these are small and are not that sweet. The original patupat comes from Pangasinan and Ilocos. Because of this, I usually ask my parents to send two to three of these through friends traveling to and from Manila. Or if I do go home to my hometown in Pangasinan, I usually bring back to Manila a cluster of patupat, as well as a variety of bangus products, fresh and deboned.

I just hope that more people would be able to get a taste of this delicacy.


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