Hits From the Pasalubong Vol. 3: Tupig

Tupig

As I’ve mentioned before (here and here), the Filipino term
“Pasalubong” refers to the gifts and souvenirs that people receive from
a traveler arriving from another destination. So when my cousin, Kathy, recently arrived in L.A. from the Philippines, she gifted my family with some wonderful Filipino goodies.

Now while my cuz’s suitcases were full of presents like slippers and Manny Pacquiao t-shirts (sweet!), I of course was most interested in the edible gifts. Among the tasty Pinoy treats were the usual yummy suspects of chichacorn and various candies, but I was most taken by the appearance of Tupig.

Tupig is a Filipino snack that is a favorite around Christmastime–which was perfect for us as my cousin happened to arrive on Christmas Eve. More specifically though, Tupig is very similar to Suman: a Filipino delicacy of sweet glutinous rice that is wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. But what makes Tupig different from Suman is that instead of being steamed, the banana leaf parcels are grilled over an open fire, yielding a pleasantly smoky and charred flavor.

However, not all Tupig are alike. Aside from wrapping the sweet rice mixture in banana leaves, Ilocanos also like to place the rice in sections of fresh bamboo; the bamboo is then baked underground in a burried fire pit or baked over an open flame.

In whatever form it presents itself, wrapped in a leaf of stuffed in a shoot, Tupig is a wonderful example of Filipino culinary ingenuity–preparing an amazing dessert with whatever is at hand and with limited resources.

Let’s take a closer look at these packages, shall we?

Tupig_banana_leaf

Banana Leaf Tupig

Both types of the Tupig my cousin smuggled brought were from the town of Batac in Ilocos Norte, Philippines. As you can see in the picture above, the charring of the Tupig is not exclusive to the banana leaf, but the flame also penetrates the sticky rice within.

Considering that the Tupig traveled across the Pacific to get into my
gullet, I reheated the banana leaf packages by wrapping them in a wet paper
towel, then nuking them in the microwave for
a good 5-10 Mississippis.

Tupig_banana_leaf2

Not a banana slug. Go Gauchos!

My reheated banana leaf Tupig was a thing of beauty–sweet and smoky with flecks of grated and toasted coconut. The texture of the Tupig was also delightfully gummy–think of mochi, but warm. If Tupig is this good after a long flight, I can only imagine how spectacular it is fresh off the streets in Batac.

While the banana leaf variety of Tupig is easy enough to get into, the bamboo variety takes a little more elbow grease. My mother used a heavy meat cleaver to cut the bamboo shoot in half lengthwise. But I have no heavy meat cleaver. Luckily though, I do collect the weapons of Moroland (that’s a joke, btw).

Tupig_bamboo

Have bolo, will travel.

The trick of cleaving open a bamboo shoot is to just tap your sharp implement of choice into the top of the non-wrapped end of the shoot (one end of the tupig is wrapped in cellophane). Continue to lightly tap until the edge of the blade is wedged a couple inches into the shoot (no need to raise your blade high into the air and then chop down–risking a severed limb if your aim isn’t true).

Once you have your blade wedged into the bamboo, then you can bang the bottom of the bamboo (with the blade embedded in the top) on the ground until you make your way through the bamboo.

Tupig_bamboo2

Tupig_bamboo3

Tupig_bamboo4

Espada Tupig y Daga

Once the bamboo is split, the tastiness is yours for the taking as the rice and coconutty goodness is exposed to the world!

Tupig_bamboo5

Tupig_bamboo6

Tupig is better than one.

To harvest the sweetness within the shoot, just use a spoon to scrape out the rice. Place the sweet rice on a plate, then reheat in the microwave for a few seconds with a wet paper towel placed atop. Voila, warm and comforting Tupig.

Tupig_bamboo7

Tupig or not Tupig? That is the question.

The bamboo shoot Tupig was just as sweet and tasty as the banana leaf Tupig, though it lacked the same smoky and charred flavor. Also, as opposed to the smooth texture of the banana leaf Tupig, the grains of rice in the bamboo shoot Tupig held their shape. And because of the bamboo shoot, the rice that was immediately adjacent to the walls of the tube were browned and crisp.

In all honesty, I thoroughly enjoyed both types of Tupig, going through a couple of tubes and a few banana leaf packages on my own. But if you were to hold a machete to my head and make me choose one, I think I’d pick the banana leaf version if only for that whiff of smokiness from a distant land.


  • wasabi prime January 20, 2010, 8:29 pm

    Nice — gifts from a traveler is a universal thing; just like Japanese omiyage. Las Vegas is such a popular destination for people from Hawaii, there are shops set up in LV just for gift-buying. People bring empty suitcases just to fill with things to bring back for family upon their return!

    Reply
  • Erin January 20, 2010, 8:37 pm

    They both look really great, but the banana leaf version looks so much more gluttonous. I think it would depend on my mood. I wish my cousin would come to visit with a suitcase full of goodies like this. I am pretty sure she’d just bring soy cheese.

    Reply
  • faith January 21, 2010, 1:38 am

    Ahahaha! I thought the same thing, it looks like a huge slug. But, yum! I really like tupig. I’ve never tried the kind cooked inside the bamboo, though. End result looks like bocayo.

    Reply
  • Frank January 21, 2010, 7:20 am

    Hi,
    The two desserts is similar to Lao and Thai version. My favorites has to be the tupig. It is call khoa lam in both Lao and Thai.
    http://www.thai-blogs.com/index.php/2008/02/20/sticky-rice-in-bamboo?blog=5

    Reply
  • Manggy January 21, 2010, 7:46 am

    Okay, mister– back off the puns! :) You’ve once again eaten something even I haven’t! (And my mum is from Ilocos!) I have to say, though, that the banana leaf one still looks more delicious, even though it doesn’t even require as much of an effort as the bamboo one.

    Reply
  • Lorena January 21, 2010, 3:55 pm

    Looks like I need to head to the Big 5 for that $3 machete! And I can’t believe my grandmother’s been depriving me of tupig all my life — it sounds so good (even if it’s not particularly pretty)…Yum!

    Reply
  • Impromptu Diva January 21, 2010, 10:17 pm

    wow this is interesting! i grew up in the philippines but the tupig i just know is the one wrapped in banana leaves! great post!

    Reply
  • bagito January 23, 2010, 2:12 pm

    I love tupig! I grew up in the Philippines but didn’t get to taste tupig till I was well-settled here in LA. You can buy frozen tupig at Seafood City…probably not as good as the ones fresh off the sheets of Batac but not half-bad once heated up in the microwave. And the chewier, the better. I’ve never tried the ones inside a bamboo thingy but I wouldn’t wanna go through all that effort anyway, esp. without that scary-looking bolo. 😉

    Reply
  • oggi January 25, 2010, 9:23 am

    Nice bolo. LOL. It reminds me of the ginormous knife in the Japanese movie DEATH TRANCE.
    I bought something similar, a Thai delicacy. I will try to make the banana wrapped ones, it looks delicious.

    Reply
  • Tuty January 25, 2010, 10:46 pm

    Marvin,
    You’re just too funny. Now, where can I get that machete? It’s the best for thwacking coconut.

    Reply
  • Tangled Noodle January 26, 2010, 7:25 pm

    Wow! I love suman but have never had tupig in either the banana leaf or bamboo. I feel so deprived as a Filipina. How awesome is your cousin for bringing these to you – and I thought I was being daring by bringing back two queso de bolas!
    Y’know what would be great with these? Coconut jam . . .!!! 8-P

    Reply
  • Lou January 27, 2010, 8:46 pm

    I can’t tell you how homesick this made me. Thanks for posting about the wonderful tupig.

    Reply
  • f. January 28, 2010, 5:52 pm

    you know how dj babu, in the documentary “scratch,” says filipinos have 2 role models – their dads and qbert? i’d nominate you for that list too. love the play by play on the pasalubong, love your blog. ilocano in the house, yo.

    Reply
  • Burnt Lumpia February 1, 2010, 9:22 am

    Hi Wasabi. Yes, gifting is a universal thing, didn’t mean to make it sound otherwise. I’ve never heard of omiyage though, so it’s good to get another term from another culture.
    Erin, the banana leaf version is definitely more glutinous, but in a good way. Soy cheese? I can’t imagine;)
    The bamboo tupig is really good, Faith. Try and have some if you ever get the chance.
    Thanks very much for the link, Frank. The thai version looks awesome!
    Puns? I have no idea what you are talking about Manggy. I never ever ever use puns. Ever. Anyways, I’ve got to go listen to some Tupig Shakur now on my ipod.
    $3 machete Lorena? How dare you! That’s at least a $5 dollar machete:P
    Thanks very much, Impromptu Diva!
    Frozen tupig? Really bagito? I will definitely go out now and try to find them. Thanks for the tip!
    Thanks oggi. I look forward to seeing your homemade version!
    Thanks Tuty! Yes, these machetes are good for lots of things, and thwacking coconuts is one of them!
    Ooooh, you’re right Tangled Noodle. Your coconut jam would be incredible with tupig!
    No problem, Lou. Thanks for commenting.
    Wow, thanks f. I think that’s the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me.

    Reply
  • Katrina February 1, 2010, 11:04 am

    Oh, I haven’t had tupig in ages!!! Back when my family had a house in Baguio, we’d always buy tupig from the street vendors on the way. But now that we’ve sold that house, we’ve had to give up tupig, too. :-(
    Like several commenters, I’d never heard of tupig in a bamboo. I’d love to try it, though. But if it tastes anything like bukayo (which it resembles), then I’ll stick to the banana leaf version. 😉

    Reply
  • Andrew@Promotional Duffel Bags February 11, 2010, 12:34 pm

    Need to request this the next time I have family come in from PI. The bamboo one reminds me of what little prize there is after spending much time opening a blue crab. I’m sure the prize is worth it though…hopefully…haha.

    Reply
  • u8mypinkcookies February 13, 2010, 10:33 pm

    i ♥ tupig too!!! hope it’s available in Manila. I only get to buy whenever we’d go to Baguio and pass by Pangasinan on our way back. We never fail to bring home some of this & puto Calasiao.

    Reply
  • philippine food for distraction February 16, 2010, 9:45 am

    yey for tupig. although i call them tinupik. one word that comes to mind when i eat it: rustic. yeah, i know hotels are rustic, sceneries are rustic. but who cares? :)

    Reply
  • sweety May 22, 2010, 8:24 am

    oh yes, tupig is my favorite. i brought 300 pcs. for me and my sisters/friends to share here in abroad from my last vacation last year. it was made from my hometown in Pangasinan. i love desserts with coconut. ilocano tupig is very yummy!:)

    Reply
  • Saluyot Lam-ang April 1, 2015, 3:27 pm

    The leaf-wrapped one, called tupig or tinupig, was overcooked, hence the burnt rice cake parts. The one in bamboo tube called tubong or tinubong is more often tastier and stickier than tinupig if it were evenly baked underground by rotating in medium heat.

    Reply

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