Duman (DOO-mun) is a delicacy from Sta. Rita, Pampanga, a precious strain of milagrosa rice. Planting begins in June and harvest is from November to January, when the cooler winds help retain the grains’ quality.
A kilo of duman will cost over P1,000. A steep price yes, but well worth it for the laborious process that goes into making it. Fellow food writer Micky Fenix describes it as thus (and I paraphrase):
“During harvest, mature kernels fall off. The prized duman are the young
greenish kernels that stay on the stalks. The grains are gathered, watered, and
toasted for 30-45 minutes, and then pounded and winnowed to separate chaff from grain.”
Last December 3, the 4th Duman Festival was held at the plaza of the old church of Sta. Rita. I couldn’t stay for the start of the festivities which were to begin at 7pm, so I arrived a little after 3pm. I’m grateful to fellow Pinoy food blogger, Karen, for alerting me to the festival. I met her at the church, where I watched her slide show chronicling the duman-making process. It would be grievous to say that duman is simply pinipig. Pinipig is rice that is pounded flat, while duman retains its shape. There is also no comparing the two grains’ taste and texture (not to mention price!)
As Karen answered all my questions and even showed me some of the duman-making paraphernalia, I couldn’t help but feel like I was part of some historic and valuable culinary history. There’s nothing like getting to the source of the food one eats to really feel its importance. As long as there are farmers who will plant and harvest duman, there will be more of it for future generations to enjoy. How I wish that to be true!
I grew up eating duman in tsokolate. My mom would come home with this sandwich-sized paper bag stuffed with the fragrant grain. Even then, she’d expound on how rare it was and why I needed to savor it. Mom would then give me a cup of tsokolate, to which she’d generously sprinkle some duman. I’d stir slowly, almost reverently, and then eat the duman and tsokolate with a spoon. Now that I think about it, it was like eating a more refined version of champorado. The heat of the tsokolate would puff up the duman, rendering it soft and chewy. My favorite part would be getting to the bottom of my cup and seeing the duman, swollen and glistening.
Now that it’s Christmas, I’ve been enjoying a cup of tsokolate almost every morning, sprinkled with some duman. I cherish the time to sit back and reflect that in my mouth, I am tasting history, an artisan skill that has lasted through the ages, and will hopefully, endure.