Tito Faborito Suman sa Mangga Snack Review: A Fresh Take on an Old ClassicApril 28, 2019
Last Christmas, one of the gift baskets my family received contained a small box of Tito Faborito Suman sa Mangga. I was intrigued by this ready-to-eat suman in a box. The suman itself was mango-flavored, and it came in foil packets that reminded me of the astronaut food pouches I saw in science museums as a child (and as an awkward, nerdy adolescent).
What is it exactly?
For the benefit of our non-Filipino readers, suman is the quintessential Filipino kakanin or rice cake. Its smooth, slightly grainy texture and mild flavor is a perfect foil for the juicy, tart sweetness of the famed Philippine mango, hence the traditional pairing of suman sa mangga (suman with mangoes). Tito Faborito Suman sa Mangga takes things a step further by directly flavoring the suman with mango and packing the individual servings in foil to facilitate an easier and more efficient steaming/cooking process.
How does it work?
The box label maintains that the snack requires no refrigeration (unless you like your suman cold), and that it has a shelf life of one year despite having no chemical preservatives. Apparently, you can eat the suman directly from the packaging, but I opted to try it via the primary serving suggestion. This involved dipping it in boiling water for about 5 mins. After that, you’re supposed to cut the foil pack open and unwrap the suman, which is further encased in a thin banana leaf.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t blown away by the first bite. Still, I soldiered on and kept munching on my brightly-colored wad of mango-flavored sticky rice (Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it). Subsequent bites yielded better results, however. The mango flavor starts out really subtle, almost non-existent, but it starts to assert itself once you’ve nibbled on the suman for a bit. I detected a delicate fruity fragrance and a slight tartness, nothing at all like the artificial, manufactured tang that you get from most mass-produced, mango-flavored “food” on the market.
The rice itself tasted like it was sweetened with a light hand (if it was sweetened at all), so there’s room for add-ons (i.e., actual mango slices or a scoop of mango ice cream) without the suman overpowering their flavors. I would’ve preferred the texture to have a bit more bite, though.
The uniqueness of the product aside, I would say that there’s plenty of room for improvement where the packaging is concerned. For starters, I find the foil packs a tad too big and wasteful when it houses just one individual piece of suman each. I’m not too crazy about the label design and the illustrations on it either, but I’ll leave that particular assessment to any graphic designer out there who might pick up a box of the stuff.
At PHP 190 for five pieces, the price is a little steep. You can get a dozen (or more, depending on where you happen to be) traditional suman plus a good-sized mango for the same price. However, I wouldn’t consider the price tag completely unreasonable if you purchase it as a gift or as an occasional indulgence. Besides, the overhead costs for such a product (including the machinery and tools for manufacturing as well as the considerable ingenuity and experimentation behind its development) probably doesn’t come cheap.
This is one area where the product excels. So long as the foil packets remain unopened, you can take these babies with you anywhere (I actually brought them over on a four-hour road trip to the province). You don’t need to worry about chucking them into a refrigerator once you arrive at your destination either. I sampled a piece right out of the box after the said road trip and it was perfectly fine (as was my tummy). Plus, even though there’s a thin layer of banana leaf that you have to remove once you open the foil packet, it still beats having to unwind a seemingly endless strip of banana leaf on a traditional suman. Lastly, while you can eat it with actual mangoes, you don’t have to. Since it’s already been infused with mango flavoring, you no longer need to slice up one of the sticky yellow fruits or worry about the mess that comes with eating it afterwards.
A bit of research revealed that local company Albisa, Inc. is the first (and so far only) manufacturer of instant, mango-flavored suman in pseudo-astronaut food packaging in the country, so the product definitely has that novelty aspect. It’s also undoubtedly a great example of both Filipino food culture and ingenuity. However, it would be a big plus if this product was more widely distributed in groceries and other food shops rather than exclusively at the SM Kultura shops.
If you’re looking for an honest-to-goodness suman sa mangga experience, this product isn’t for you. Let’s face it, nothing ever really compares to the real thing.
It is, however, great to have on hand during midnight kakanin cravings brought about by browsing food blogs (ahem, ahem) during ungodly hours. And if you’re looking for a unique gift for visiting balikbayan relatives or a convenient and satisfying snacking alternative to ubiquitous convenience store fare, Tito Faborito Suman sa Mangga should be right up your alley.