Friday, December 29, 2006
Suman is another native delicacy that we associate with the festive Christmas season. Or at least in the farming village where I grew up. Rice being abundant in our place, different delicacies with rice as the main ingredient were almost always present on our noche buena feasts--kalame ube, kalame nasi, tibok-tibok, tamales, puto, suman, kutsinta, etc.
This suman I am telling you about is what we call suman tili in Pampango and is made of glutinous rice half-cooked in coconut milk and sugar then rolled in banana leaves. The resulting cylindrical suman - sometimes the size of cigars - are then boiled for hours to complete the cooking process.
Last November, I was just too happy to find the newly-opened Filipino Mart in Lower Hutt selling banana leaves among other Filipino food items. The banana leaves were frozen and cost quite a lot if you're thinking in terms of its abundance where it came from. Yes, banana leaves are readily available back home that we almost always take it for granted. It is only when we want to use it but could not find it anywhere else that we realize how precious this thing is.
Fresh coconuts, are available here in bigger supermarkets, thanks to Samoa and Fiji islands who export the coconut in different forms - fresh, dried, dessicated or in tins. And glutinous rice sold here comes from Thailand.
The ingredients for this suman:
2 cups glutinous rice
1 cup sugar
4 cups coconut milk
pinch of salt (optional)
Preparing this suman is quite fiddly and tedious. First step is cutting and trimming the banana leaves in uniform size before wilting the pieces in fire (or boil them) for a wee while so they do not break when you roll the rice and do the folding. Next, the glutinous rice is washed and cooked with coconut milk in slow fire, careful not to burn the bottom of the pan as this will impart a burnt taste to your suman. Halfway through cooking, add the sugar. This is so because if sugar is added beforehand, the rice will never break and won't get cooked no matter how long you boil your suman. When cooler, a tablespoon or two (depending on the size of your banana leaves), is rolled onto the leaves. This too, needs skill because your suman may get flattened instead of having a nice cylindrical shape when rolling is not done properly. Pile the suman in a large wok or deep pot, add enough water and steam the suman for 30-45 minutes or until cooked according to your desired doneness.
This suman goes well with sabaw ng nilaga or tea during cold and balmy mornings.
HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!