The rice cake is stunningly green. As green as young shoots burgeoning in spring. As green as rice fields in the bucolic countryside back home. The sticky cake’s remarkable greenness becomes even more palpable against the dark verdant banana leaves on which it is nestled.

It’s not everyday that I make kalamay na pinipig [kah-lah-mahy nah pee-nee-pig] not because it is difficult to make. In fact, making kalamay is so simple. Incredibly simple. With only three ingredients: sticky rice, coconut milk, and sugar, kalamay is cooked in a pan on a stovetop over a timid flame until it becomes thick like thick, gummy oatmeal. It is then poured into a shallow dish or a cake pan lined with banana leaves that have been brushed lightly with oil and allowed to cool until the cake becomes a little firmer but still soft and chewy — makunat [mah-koo-naht] as Filipinos describe it.

I don’t make kalamay na pinipig as often as I would like because green pinipig is difficult, if not impossible, to find close to where I live. I make it only when my mom visits because I depend entirely on her pasalubong, on her care package of green pinipig along with bags of Barako coffee from Cavite and a jar of bagoong alamang from Pangasinan. Hush! I know, it’s undeclared shrimp paste.

Pinipig is sticky or glutinous rice, harvested when the grains are still young, winnowed, toasted, and pounded until they become flat like oats. The maturity of the rice and how much the grains are toasted dictate the color of pinipig, which can either be green or pale brown. Aside from the obvious difference in color, the two varieties also differ in taste. Green pinipig has a subtle sweetness and creaminess that the more common pale brown variety doesn’t have, which by the way is readily available in most Asian stores.

In Vietnam, young green rice is called com. In Thailand, it is kao mow. Filipinos cook with pinipig in a number of ways. Very sticky kalamay is one of them. Ginataang pinipig is another, which is a sweet stew of pinipig, sweet potatoes, and saba bananas slowly simmered in gata, or coconut milk, and sweetened with sugar. Pinipig is often toasted in a hot wok and sprinkled on top of halo-halo and rice cakes to give these native desserts an extra layer of flavor and crunch. Toasted pinipig is also coarsely ground and mixed with powdered milk to make the popular powdery polvoron candies.

If you ever luck out to discover the elusive green pinipig sitting on the shelves of a Vietnamese store or packed clandestinely inside a balikbayan box from Manila, give the green sticky kalamay a try. Use white sugar instead of muscovado or brown sugar for a brighter green cake. And never forget the fragrant latik. Its coconut flavor and texture complements the cake’s chewiness beautifully.


Kalamay na Pinipig Recipe
Recipe adapted from Enriqueta David-Perez’s Recipes of the Philippines, makes one 9-inch cake

3 cups pinipig
2 13.5 ounce cans coconut milk
1 cup muscovado sugar when using pale brown pinipig, or white sugar when using green pinipig
2 tablespoons latik or toasted coconut milk crumbs

Pour the contents of one can of coconut milk in a bowl. Add the pinipig and let it soak in coconut milk for at least half an hour.

Combine sugar and the contents of the second can of coconut milk in a large pan. Bring the coconut milk to a boil over medium-high heat and let the sugar dissolve. Add pinipig and coconut milk, turn the the heat down to medium-low, and stir constantly until it becomes thick like thick, gummy oatmeal. Pour into a shallow dish or a cake pan lined with banana leaves brushed lightly with oil and let the cake cool to room temperature. Serve with latik sprinkled on top.


Kalamay na Pinipig

Kalamay na Pinipig


Latik — Toasted Coconut Milk Crumbs Recipe
1 13.5-ounce can coconut milk

Bring coconut milk to a boil in a saucepan and simmer gently over low heat while stirring frequently. Continue to simmer until the milk reduces to a thick cream, about an hour. Continue heating and stirring until the cream separates into coconut oil and latik. Turn the heat off as soon as the crumbs turn a deep caramel brown color. Drain the coconut oil, which can be used for sautéing and baking. Latik will keep for a week stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.


How to Make Kalamay na Pinipig (Pinipig Rice Cake) is Jun-blog’s entry to this month’s  Kulinarya Cooking Club, a friendly group of Filipino food lovers from all around Kulinarya-Cooking-Club the world.  Each month the club assigns a theme to showcase a new Filipino dish. For the month of June, the challenge was to make something that is truly, unmistakably Filipino to celebrate Philippine Independence Day. There’s kakanin like Jun-blog’s kalamay, palitaw and kutsinta, fish dishes like pinais na isda and grilled panga ng lapu-lapu, kare-kare — oxtail in peanut sauce, tapsilog, kulawong talong, and avocado shake, Visit the Kulinarya Cooking Club site and Facebook page to meet the club members.

  • nhi

    I love com!! My mom had to ask her cousin in Ha Noi to send us some for me to bring back when I visited home. I’ve never seen it anywhere on the east coast. In V ietnam we make it into a hot soup – thick, but definitely more liquidy than this. Com ice cream is very popular, but I feel like you have to infuse the milk with A LOT of com to be able to reach a level of recognizable flavor without cooking it or leaving the com in the ice cream (I stupidly tried once and of course it got all thick and sticky and stuff. Not very ice-creamy :( ) Here we don’t have that luxury (of using a lot of com). We put it in cha as well, to make cha com (really really fine ground pork, mixed with com, fried, the com expands and becomes transparent and delicious!). What else do the Phillipinos use com for?

  • Jun Belen

    Thank you for writing.  I have heard about com ice cream (in Los Angeles) but I have not tried it.  Is it also green?  Probably a light green hue? I have been toying with the idea of making my own pandan ice cream and you just gave me the idea of making pinipig or com ice cream as well.  Back home we have a popular vanilla  fudgesicle that’s chocolate covered with pinipig strewn all over.  Most of the time pinipig is used to add texture and flavor to desserts like the fudgesicle and halo-halo.

    You mentioned you make a hot soup with come, is it savory or sweet?  Filipinos make a sweet coconut milk stew of pinipig — pinipig, sweet potatoes and saba bananas are cooked in coconut milk and sugar. 

    The cha com you described also sounds delicious!! Thank you once again for writing.And by the way, best of luck on your PhD! 

  • Leah

    In Pampanga the green pinipig is called duman. Robyn Eckhardt has an article in Zester on how duman is made. When we were little, relatives who own rice fields would invite us for a day to make duman. I don’t think we ever made it into kalamay (or kalame in kapampangan), probably because the process is so tedious that by the time we get the green grains, we are ready to snack on them. :-)

  • nhi

    yes! it is a very light green hue, a natural green (imagine the natural pistachio ice cream green, not the fake mint green of pistachio ice cream at some places). I’ve read a Vietnamese recipe where you have to steep a lot of com in milk/heavy cream for a whole day.
    The fudgesicle with com sounds delicious! I know in the North Vietnam people also toast com and put it on stuff (desserts and savory), but can’t remember which.
    The hot soup is sweet :) It only has com (and sugar water) however. But I will copy your method and add in coconut milk!
    and thank you for the kind words :) I’m enjoying it!

  • Jun Belen

    Leah, thank you for writing and thank you for sharing the piece about duman by Robyn Eckhardt.

  • Row

    Hehe, when I was little, I used to sneak bites of latik before it was sprinkled on top of biko.  When I received my square of biko on a plate, I would move the latik to the side, eat the biko first, then slowly savour the latik crumbs.  I’ll think I’ll try making some latik, for old times’ sake. :)

  • Jun Belen

    I was the same way, too, when I was little.  For some reason latik by itself tasted incredibly good.  But now I love having the crunch in every bite of biko or kalamay.

  • MariaP

    A less involved work utilizing pinipig is pichi-pichi.  Soak the pinipig either the virgin or colored ones with canned coconut milk using a 1 to 1 ratio overinight or at least five hours and then add 50% sugar proportioned from the amount of pinipig, a pinch of salt, mix well and pour in greased and oiled pan and steam for one hour.  Let cool completely, then cut into desired shape and size and dredge in freshly grated coconut.  It’s good.

  • Jonathan

    I forgot how much I love this dessert!  Gratitude for the reminder, the inspiration,  and sharing this beautiful post, Jun. :)

  • Cherrie

    wow, you’re photo looks incredible.  The recipe is so simple.  I will try making this.

  • Malou Perez-Nievera

    I love pinipig and you’re lucky to have that care package from your mom.  wait up how did the bagoong pass the airport police haha.
    your photos are jumping off my screen… i have to brew some coffee now and pretend to have kalamay sa pinipig with my rice krispies haha.

    happy monday jun!

  • Betty Ann @Mango_Queen

    I love the green pinipig so much — is this the Duman from Pampanga that you used? If so, your stories reminded me of my late Mother in law ….Mama used to stash in her suitcase a huge pack of the green Duman during visits to us here in the USA. Sadly, since she passed, I can’t convince any relative to do the same. I will take you up on your offer to search on Vietnamese stores. Thanks for sharing the valuable info, Jun. As always, it was a pleasure to read your post ! Mabuhay!

  • Iska

    You make it sound so simple, Jun, that I want to try making some this coming weekend.  That green kalamay looks so tempting.  

  • Ann Mah

    This cake is so beautifully verdant and I loved learning about the fresh sweet rice grains. Also, I can think of quite a few uses for coconut milk crumbs… 

  • amy@currylime

    Gorgeous green rice cake!

  • Tina(PinayInTexas)

    Thanks for joining this month’s KCC Challenge, Jun! I honestly haven’t tried this kind of kalamay…but I love pinipig, so I’m pretty sure I’ll love this! Sounds so good with a cup of coffee!

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  • Anonymous

    Now I want to cook kalamay! Stunning photos as always…
    BTW,Have you tried this coconut milk and green pinipig drink???

  • Kai

    Lucky for you, at least you can cook pinipig. I’ve always been in the Philippines but I rarely have access to pinipig.

  • Jengcs

    I’ve found a vietnamese store that sell green pinipig for $1.20 a bag.  I bought 2 so I can try this recipe. thank you for sharing :-)

  • Jun Belen

    I’m glad you found green pinipig.  Don’t forget to make latik — it adds texture and a layer of flavor to the cake.

  • Iyassantos

    omigoodness! natutuwa naman ako na marunong kang gumawa nito. hindi ako mahilig sa kalamay pero this is soooo good. i love this because it’s so frangrant too!

    and yes, the green is gorgeous!

  • sallyt

    Jun this reminds me of many childhood memories when my mother and dear aunt made pinipig out of freshly harvested glutinous rice that were first toasted (in a big iron cast skillet called talyasi in tagalog) with the rice skin on until slightly browned before slowly pounding them in a lusong to flatten the rice granules and remove its outer layer skin. Oh i can’t forget the fragrant aroma of that freshly made pinipig with its very pleasant taste and light green color. thanks for sharing Jun your blog is a gem.

  • Jun Belen

    What a lovely memory of food and home! Thank you, Sally, for writing and for sharing that wonderful story. How does your family usually enjoy green pinipig? Ginataan? Kalamay? And thank you, also, for the compliments to the blog. I hope you’ll come back and try out the recipes.

  • edwin ramboyong

    Sir, my branch po ba kau sa manila?

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  • Nina Cortez

    Jun, I have tried to make Biko before and I add
    Pinipig right in the middle of cooking when rice is almost cooked. It made the Biko more chewy and adds flavour to the Biko plus the Latik.