Lugaw (congee; rice porridge) is ubiquitous in Asia and there are so many ways to enjoy it. Mostly, it’s the toppings and accompaniments that vary and give the plain lugaw a unique flavor and look each time. But what if it’s the lugaw itself that’s given a new twist?
For instructions on extracting coconut milk from grated coconuts, click here.
If using canned coconut milk and cream, pay attention to the label. Coconut milk is not the same as coconut cream, and you need both.
If using powdered coconut milk, follow the package instructions on how to reconstitute to make both coconut milk and coconut cream. … Continue reading »
If you’ve never seen nor heard of pearl balls, they are meat balls rolled in soaked glutinous rice and steamed until the rice grains puff and create a sticky crust. Pearl balls, like most dim sum food, are sized to be eaten in one go. Lift one up with chopsticks, dip lightly in the spicy, sweet, salty sauce, pop into your mouth and chew slowly to enjoy the burst of textures and flavors. … Continue reading »
It’s sticky rice filled with chicken (or pork) and black mushrooms, sometimes with peanuts or chestnuts or both, wrapped in leaf then steamed. In the Philippines, it is known as machang and it is often listed under the dimsum items in Chinese restaurant menus. That the dish is Chinese in origin, there is no doubt. But is it lo mai gai or zongzi?
Lo mai gai is wrapped in lotus leaf and shaped as a rectangle. Zongzi is wrapped in bamboo or reed leaves and shaped like a pyramid or a cone. Both are filled with chicken or pork and other savory ingredients.
In the Philippines, machang is either rectangular or triangular. The leaf wrapper does not always look the same. … Continue reading »
To say that the English translation for suman is rice cake is a bit confusing since the term “rice cake” encompasses more than suman. When cooked in a tray or dish, rice cake is called bibingka, kakanin or kalamay. If cooked to achieve a bread-like texture, it is called puto. But, the thing is, a traditional Christmas fare, a pancake-like rice delicacy topped with slices of salted eggs and white cheese, is also known as bibingka. And while it is almost exactly accurate to say that suman, in its most common meaning, is rice cake in tube form, another traditional Christmas fare known as puto-bumbong is also a rice cake in tube form but not really categorized as suman.
Confused? For purposes of this entry, let’s take suman in its most widely accepted definition — rice cake in tube form.
There are so many varieties of suman in the Philippines, some associated with particular regions. Most are wrapped in either coconut fronds or wilted banana leaves. If using uncooked rice, often soaked for several hours in water, the suman is cooked submerged in water or coconut milk. If using cooked rice, the wrapped suman is steamed.
Even the accompaniment for suman varies. The most common is a mixture of grated fresh coconut and sugar. Some suman varieties are served with a dipping sauce of coconut jam or chocolate.
My suman recipe uses glutinous (sticky) rice that has been cooked in coconut milk. The cooled rice is double wrapped in wilted banana leaves then steamed for about 45 minutes. The plain and most basic recipe is given below, followed by instructions on how to make the chocolate-flavored suman and suman with chopped fruits that you see in the background of the photo above. … Continue reading »
If you’re a Filipino living abroad, craving for suman with ripe mangoes but suman is not available, this Thai version of basically the same dish is something that you can prepare at home. Canned coconut milk can be substituted for fresh. Glutinous rice is not hard to find although they may be called by other names depending on your location. And mangoes are popular the world over.
Khao neaw mamuang is a popular snack in Thailand. You’ll find the dressed up version in restaurants but equally delicious (minus the plating) street food versions can be had for just a fraction of the price.
While there’s nothing like fresh coconut cream, the canned version is not an altogether bad substitute. For instructions on how to extract coconut cream and milk, click here. If using canned, get coconut cream instead of coconut milk, reserve what you need for the sauce and just dilute the remainder with water for cooking the rice. … Continue reading »
Known as tikoy in the Philippines, nian gao is a traditional Chinese New Year dish. Why it is so has many aspects. One account has it that it is an offering to bribe the Kitchen God (a reference in Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife) who reports everyone’s behavior to the Jade Emperor. Another interpretation is that “nian gao is a homonym for ‘every year higher and higher’.”
Nian gao is made with glutinous rice flour, sometimes steamed and, at other times, cooked in a pan and stirred until thick. It may be savory or sweetened. How it is served varies from region to region. It may simply be pan fried, stir fried with meat and vegetables, dropped into soups or made into a pudding. … Continue reading »
A story goes that, in an attempt to turn his bowl of day-old rice into something more appetizing, a very young Jose Rizal poured a cup of chocolate into the bowl and invented the dish that would become popularly known as champorado. It may or may not have happened though it’s a nice twist to totally Filipinize the chocolate rice porridge. But despite the fact that rice is a Southeast Asian staple, mixing rice with chocolate is probably more Spanish than Asian. Spain, after all, introduced chocolate to the Philippines.
Spanish explorer Hernando Cortez went to Mexico in the early 1500s, learned about Emperor Montezuma’s belief that chocolate was a powerful aphrodisiac, and so brought back to Spain the cacao beans and the tools needed to process them. Spain turned chocolate making it into a highly profitable industry by planting cacao trees in its colonies, including the Philippines. A century later, an Italian merchant, Antonio Carletti, introduced chocolate to the rest of Europe.
In Italy, where risotto is traditionally a peasant staple, there is risotto al cioccolato that is very similar to our champorado. Arborio rice is cooked and mixed with milk, sugar and chopped chocolate then garnished with chopped nuts before serving. So, now you understand my reservation about the claim that the young Jose Rizal unwittingly invented the champorado.
In Southeast Asia, particularly in Thailand, there are dark and sweet rice dishes too. Like champorado and risotto al cioccolato, they are made with glutinous rice but no chocolate is added. Rather, the dark color comes from the color of the rice. Despite being labeled as “black sticky rice”, the grains are a dark purple and the flavor is somewhat nutty. Filipinos, probably out of habit and association, mistake these Southeast Asian sweet rice dishes for champorado never discerning that complete lack of chocolate flavor. Here are my versions of two of these dishes. … Continue reading »