Granny’s Keepsake Recipe

Suman Kalabasa or Squash Rice Cake

In the Philippines, during festivals or fiestas in celebration of the barrio’s patron saint, people are busy. Every household cooks something special to be shared with visitors who come to celebrate with the community. I remember all the smell of foods and rice cakes being prepared by my grandmother. Of all the rice cakes variants, Lola Bebeng (my grandmother) would always prepare her favorite, Suman Kalabasa or Squash Rice Cake. Suman or rice cakes are usually made from glutinous rice and coconut milk wrapped in banana leaves or buri palm leaves.

This rice cake is so special that she even prepared this for me during my wedding and all my guests were surprised that there’s a rice cake with squash. This is not so popular in Bicol, except in our town in Irosin, Sorsogon.

This rice cake is delicious and nutritious, knowing all the nutrients we can get from the squash which is a power-packed veggie. The vegetable is high in vitamins A, B6, and C, folate, magnesium, fiber, riboflavin, phosphorus, and potassium. Yellow squash is also rich in manganese. This mineral helps to boost bone strength and helps the body’s ability to process fats and carbohydrates.

This is a keepsake recipe from my grandmother who’s in her 90’s already. Every time I eat this, I would remember her, who I can’t visit now because of the pandemic.

For the Suman Kalabasa (Squash Rice Cake) ingredients:

Four (4) cups boiled squash; four (4) cups brown sugar; three (3) cups ground glutinous rice; one (1) cup ground rice; four (4) cups coconut milk; dried anise or star anise to enhance the scent. You can take these out after cooking the ‘latik’ or cooked coconut milk.

For the cooking process:

As mentioned, clean, peel and boil the squash. Mash the boiled squash. Place it in a bowl, ready for the mix after cooking the ‘Latik’.

Prepare the ‘Latik’ or the coconut milk. Pour the coconut milk in a saucepan, simmer uncovered over medium heat. Add the star anise or anise seeds. Let it cook while stirring constantly from time to time to avoid lumps and until it’s reduced to a thick cream and started to become oily.

When the ‘Latik’ is ready, take out the star anise. Mix the ground glutinous rice, ground rice, and sugar in a big pan or bowl. Mix the mashed boiled squash. Add the ‘Latik’. Sprinkle some more glutinous rice when the mixture is too sticky. Check the taste, add in sugar if needed.

As this is a suman, which is usually wrapped with banana leaves, you should have smoked the banana leaves to avoid it from breaking once you wrap the mixture. On a smoked banana leaf, place a portion, fold the leaves and tie them. Prepare the steamer.

Place them all in a steamer, steam for about 30 minutes. This is a simple recipe, very much affordable and delicious. For around PhP4 dollars, I have made more than 30 pieces of suman. What a great feast during a pandemic.

Published by Maria Cristina Gino Baroso

Education advocate and travel lover

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