Steamed Sweet Rice Wrapped in Banana Leaves (Suman sa Lihiya)

I grew a banana plant in a huge pot indoors in New York just so I can have banana leaves to use in some of the Filipino dishes I cook but mostly for staging Philippine desserts I make.  The availability of fresh banana leaves here in Florida thrills me to no end and we now have banana trees planted on the ground.

This is usually made with white glutinous rice which turns green from the lye water. As a healthier option, we mostly eat whole grains like brown, red and black rice for quite sometime now. It so happened that a friend gave us some black glutinous rice from the Philippines so I decided to make this using black rice. Well the rice is not really black, it was actually a beautiful deep purple color when cooked.

Rice. This recipe makes 6-twin pieces.

  • 2 cups glutinous rice, also called sweet rice
  • 1 t lye water
  • banana leaves cut in about 10 inches, for a total of  12 pieces. Frozen banana leaves are also available in Asian food stores.
  • kitchen twine

Prepare the rice:

  • Put the rice in a bowl and cover  with water. Let it soak overnight.
  • Drain the water and add the lye water and mix.
  • Meanwhile prepare the banana wraps. On a clean sink, plug the drain, run the hot water to soak the banana leaves. This makes the leaves pliable and not break in the wrapping process. Cut the leaves into about 10 inches in length.

Wrap the rice:

  • Take 2 pieces of leaves, position the bottom piece with the horizontal grain or sideways and the second piece with the grain on the opposite direction. I just realized that I should have taken a picture of this process to illustrate. Hopefully the description can be followed. The idea is the grain of the two pieces of leaves should be in opposite direction so that the wrap will not open in the cooking process.
  • put 1/4 cup of rice in the middle of the leaf. Take both ends and fold to make about 2 inches wide tamale-like wrap. Then fold and tuck the two ends under. Set aside and make  the second piece. Take both wrapped pieces, with the folded ends facing each other, tie each end with kitchen twine. The tie should not be tight but securely knotted.
  • Repeat to do the rest. This should make 6-twin packs.

To cook:

  • In a pan, stand the wrapped rice and cover with water. Cover and boil.
  • The black rice variety  takes twice the time to cook than the white variety.
  • This can also be cooked in a pressure cooker and since I did not use a pressure cooker, it took 2 hours of boiling. The wraps will expand as the rice is cooked.

To serve, top with the following:

  • Freshly grated coconut meat
  • Sugar
  • Toasted sesame seeds

Immerse suman in water to boil.

Serve with freshly grated coconut, toasted sesame seeds and brown sugar.


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