The Happy Home Cook: Suam na Mais – Corn Soup with Shrimps and Spinach

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Suam na Mais (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Suam na Mais (Photo by Elizabeth Ann Quirino)

Suam na Mais is a classic Filipino soup which consists of corn kernels sautéed with shrimps, in a clear broth with spinach leaves and flavored with fish sauce (“patis”). Use either regular soup stock or rice wash, which is called "hugas bigas" for the broth. I took advantage of the sweet corn season this summer by using 4 large ears for this recipe. This is the perfect comfort food any time. I make a large cauldron of Suam and we enjoy it for many memorable meals. This was inspired from “Recipes of the Philippines” by E.D. Perez and my recipe version published on Serves 2 for a meal or up to 4 as a soup starter.


corn - 4 ears, husks peeled, silk tendrils removed
lemon juice - 1 Tablespoon
fresh shrimps - 1/2 pound, shells peeled, tails and heads removed
garlic - 2 cloves, minced
onion - 1 medium, chopped
fresh ginger - 1 Tablespoon, finely sliced in thin strips
patis (fish sauce) - 2 Tablespoons (from Asian markets)
soup stock or rice wash - 6 to 8 cups
water spinach (kangkong) - 3 cups, or use regular spinach (Water Spinach is found in Asian markets)
sea salt - 1/2 teaspoon
freshly ground black pepper - 1 teaspoon
boiled rice - for serving


  • Prepare the corn. Peel down the husks and remove the silky tendrils. Place the corn cobs in a large stockpot filled with water. Bring the water to a boil over medium high heat. Lower the heat to a medium and simmer for ten minutes to cook the corn. Turn off heat. Cover the stockpot and set aside.

  • Prepare the shrimps. Wash and remove shells, tails and heads. Sprinkle lemon juice on shrimps and set aside.

  • Remove the cooked corn from the stockpot. Place corn cobs on a colander for a few minutes to drain excess liquids. Using a sharp knife, strip the corn kernels off the cob. Set aside.

  • Using the same large stockpot over medium high heat, add the cooking oil. Saute the garlic, onions and ginger for about 2 minutes till onions are translucent.

  • Add the peeled shrimps and fish sauce (patis). Pour the rice wash or soup stock.

  • Add the corn kernels. Bring liquid to a boil, then lower to a slow simmer. Continue till shrimps turn a pink-orange hue and the corn kernels are soft. This takes about 8 to 10 minutes.

  • Lastly, add the spinach and cook for 1 to 2 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper.

  • Cook’s comments: in the Philippines, “dahon ng sili” (leaves from the chili plants) are added to the simmering broth. Here in the USA, I don’t have access to ‘dahon ng sili’ so I use water spinach or ‘kangkong’.

  • Recipe tips: to obtain rice wash or "hugas bigas" -- when cooking boiled rice, pre-wash the uncooked rice grains in water and save the "second wash" for use as soup broth in this recipe. If not convenient, use soup stock in the same amount indicated.

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino

Elizabeth Ann Quirino, based in New Jersey, is a journalist, food writer and member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). She blogs about Filipino home cooking and culinary travels to the Philippines on her site

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