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sticky or sweet rice, 'malagkit' - 1 cup
coconut milk - 1 and 1/2 cup (canned)
salt - 1 and 1/2 teaspoon
banana leaves - 10-12 pieces, washed and cut into 8 x 8 inch squares (frozen, from Asian markets), or use fresh
granulated white sugar - to sprinkle on suman
fresh ripe mangoes - for serving
Wash the sticky rice with water once. Drain and soak the rice in a bowl, with enough water to cover the grains. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
The next day, prepare the banana leaves by thawing them at room temperature if frozen. Wash the leaves with soap and water. Cut the large leaves into about 8 x 8 inch pieces.
Drain the water from the soaked sticky rice. You will notice the rice grains would have plumped up a bit. Add the coconut milk and salt to the bowl of rice. Mix with a spoon.
Lay out one piece of banana leaf on a flat, dry surface. Place 2 tablespoons of the rice mixture in the center of the leaf, arranging the rice in a long, narrow rectangle, about 4 inches long and an inch wide. You only need about 2 tablespoons per log. Once the rice is cooked, the grains double in size and stick to one another, to become a larger solid log.
Handle the leaf lightly and gingerly, they tend to break if you get too forceful. Wrap the leaf by folding the left and right sides inwards. Then roll the wrapped suman away from you. Tie up the wrapped suman with either butcher’s string or use the discarded strips of banana leaves. Secure the string tightly so it does not come loose during cooking.
In a large, heavy stockpot, over medium high heat, arrange the wrapped suman bundles at the bottom of the stockpot. Nestle them next to each other. If more room is needed, you can pile some of top. Pour water over the suman bundles, just enough to cover them.
Cover and let the water boil. After water boils in about 10 minutes, lower the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 2 hours. Check the water level every now and then. If water evaporates, add some more to cover the rice logs. You will know it’s cooked because the suman logs would have gotten plumper and nearly double in size. Drain water from the suman bundles. Let the wrapped suman cool on platters. Refrigerate a few hours or overnight to firm up. When serving, sprinkle granulated white sugar on top or serve with a slice of fresh, ripe mangoes.
Storage: these suman need to be refrigerated at all times. They last about 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator. The coconut milk in the suman will spoil if left outside in extremely warm weather.
Cook’s comments : Suman sa Ibus are traditionally wrapped in coconut leaves in the Philippines. Coconut trees and its leaves are not available in the suburban area where I live here in the States. So I substitute with banana leaves, frozen from Asian markets.
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 AsianInAmericamag.com.
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