The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

I’ve been lucky enough to have a multitude of “grandmothers” in my life. Two of my paternal grandmother’s sisters live with my grandmother and grandfather. And although my grandmother’s sisters may technically be my “great aunties,” I actually call all three sisters “Grandma.” Confusing, but true.

My brothers, and pretty much the rest of my family, all refer to my great aunts as “Auntie” and my grandmother as “Grandma”. So I’m not sure how or why I came to lump my grandmother and her sisters into the same “Grandma” category, but it’s something I’ve done since childhood.

All in all though, I don’t think any of the sisters mind. In fact, I think they all like being called “Grandma.” Afterall, the coveted title of “Grandma” seems to magically transform a woman into a “Culinary Superhero.” As such, each of my grandmothers has a specific Filipino specialty in their superhero arsenal. For instance, one of my grandmother’s sisters makes a pinakbet I swoon for, the other sister makes some mean Miki (a type of Filipino noodle dish), and my grandmother herself specializes in any and everything sweet.

So whenever to grandmother’s (grandmothers’) house I go, I am guaranteed to be treated to a family feast on many fronts. I am truly one lucky son of a gun to have access to wonderful Filipino food from three great grandmothers.

But thanks to Pat Tanumihardja’s new book, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, everyone can now have access to an extra set of grandmothers, and their recipes to boot.

As the title suggests, The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook (published by Sasquatch Books) features over 100 recipes from different Asian grandmothers, mothers, and aunties. Pat Tanumihardja went to great lengths to write this cookbook (it’s huge!). In addition to the various Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Indian, Korean, Thai, and Filipino recipes, Pat also compiled a series of short biographies entitled, “Profile of a Grandma”, within her cookbook. These profiles¬† provide the wonderful stories and backgrounds of a few of the grandmothers that contributed to the book–a book that is simply incredible in terms of recipes and content.

One particular “Profile of a Grandma” that I found interesting was that of a woman named Gloria Santos. Ms. Santos grew up in the Philippines and did most of her household’s cooking as a teen during WWII. Later, Ms. Santos became a teacher and married, but with a busy career she had no time to cook–leaving that task to her maid. Then in 1968, Ms. Santos and her growing family fled the Philippines and moved to the U.S., where she would have to recall and relearn the Filipino dishes she made as a teenager back home. Today, Ms. Santos continues to cook for her family and grandchildren during holidays and family gatherings.

For The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, Gloria Santos contributed a wonderful recipe for Suman Sa Gata.

A Lil’ Suman Suman

Suman Sa Gata is a Filipino snack of sweet glutinous rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar, and then wrapped and steamed in banana leaves. The resultant dish is sorta like a Filipino candy bar–minus the chocolate, nuts, caramel, and nougat. Ok, so it’s not really like a candy bar. But it is delicious! A delicious sticky rice dessert packaged and perfumed with fragrant banana leaf.

Great things come in banana leaf packages.

Suman Sa Gata also happens to be a specialty of my own grandmother (you know, the superhero of sweets). During holidays and special occasions at my grandmother’s house, there always seems to be a platter piled high with Suman. And I’m always the first one to grab a parcel of the sweet rice, being sure to carefully unwrap the banana leaf so that my fingers don’t get sticky.

Grandkid approved.

And truthfully, the Suman Sa Gata recipe in The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook is just as good as my own grandmother’s recipe (GASP!). Like I said earlier, the title of “Grandma” magically transforms women and their food, and I guess that magic transcends family ties too!

In addition to the Suman Sa Gata recipe, Pat Tanumihardja also provides a number of other Filipino recipes in The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook. These recipes include Sinangag (garlic-fried rice), Lumpia, Beef Inasal, Chicken Adobo, Easy Lechon, Pancit, Embutido, Bibinka, and Turon.

I’m also happy to say that a version of my own beloved Pinakbet recipe is featured in The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook!
I’m even mentioned by name in the headnote on page 111! Although I’m not
an Asian grandmother, much of what I do on this blog is inspired by my
grandmother and her sisters, so it was great to see Pinakbet in The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook.

If you want to see the Pinakbet recipe, and many other great Asian recipes, you’ll have to pick up a copy of The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook, available now on Amazon and at bookstores everywhere.

For more information, you can also visit Pat’s blog at

You can also visit Pat’s website at

  • Tangled Noodle October 1, 2009, 10:37 am

    I MUST get this book! It was a little bittersweet to read your post, though – I never really knew my two Filipina grandmothers, Lala and Inang. We moved to Canada when I was 5 yrs old and I saw only Inang just once from then until she passed away. Now, as I continue on my journey to learn how to cook Filipino food, I rely on long-distance help from my mother and titas back in the Philippines.
    Suman is one of my most favorite treats (well, actually anything made with sweet sticky rice) so I would love to see Mrs. Santos’ recipe. As for your Pinakbet, I can’t wait to try it out. Congratulations on being a part of what is undoubtedly an awesome compendium of grandmotherly cookery (even if you aren’t a grandma)!

  • Lorena October 1, 2009, 2:00 pm

    Awesome — I remember when the blog started a few years ago and was fascinated by the concept. In fact, it’s the reason why I started cooking with my grandmother and writing down her recipes. Glad to see it came out in print and that you were mentioned in it, too!
    As far as calling everyone grandma, I do the same thing, too. But, that’s what all us cousins call our grandmas, we just follow up with the grandma’s name, like Grandma Julie (my grandma) or Grandma Virgie (my grandma’s sister-in-law), etc. It’s easier than trying to remember, I guess.
    Anyway, after seeing that suman pic, I think I’m going to have to hit up Valerio’s this weekend. It looks SO good! Yum!

  • Manggy October 1, 2009, 6:04 pm

    You know how my family eats suman? With a mound of sugar, of course :) But next time, I might try a mango compote, just because it’s awesome :)
    Looking forward to this cookbook, even if the terrible Sasquatch Books official website doesn’t have it in its catalog. Grandmothers just know all, ya know?

  • darleene October 2, 2009, 7:35 pm

    Mmmmmmmmmm Pinakbet.
    My mom died before I was able to glean the fruits of her vast knowledge (I so miss her pancit, kare kare and pinakbet). This may be a must-have for me.

  • Mike October 3, 2009, 12:48 am

    I miss my Grandma, she didn’t really talk much, but she was funny, sarcastic and she can swear like a sailor! Puto and Kutchinta were her specialties, but i was able to learned Palitaw from her when i was in elementary.
    My Mom’s sister in Bulacan makes some really good suman. One of these days I’ll get a copy of her recipes.
    Before i devour piles of suman, my favorite thing to do is to roll them over grated coconut and brown sugar. Or, pan-frying a suman till it forms a light crust and then eat it with a ripe mango. Try it out, it’s good for you *grin*

  • wasabi prime October 4, 2009, 12:38 pm

    Oh, this book looks lovely. I think I’ve discovered a holiday gift for some friends and family. This exemplifies the notion that food is love. Thanks for featuring this!!

  • Rasa Malaysia October 5, 2009, 8:47 pm

    I am interested to get this cookbook. Pat actually asked me to contribute when she first started writing but I didn’t because I wanted to save them for my future cookbook, if any.
    BTW, my mother used to make a similar thing but inside the sticky rice, there is a banana.

  • Leela@SheSimmers October 6, 2009, 5:12 pm

    Oh, man. I have GOT to buy this book. We have something in Thailand that’s very similar to Suman as well. The most popular version has cooked black beans mixed in with the sticky rice and banana filling.

  • Lori Lynn @ Taste With The Eyes October 7, 2009, 8:44 am

    Hi Marvin – I am making a quick stop by your blog to congratulate you on the nomination for Most Humorous. Oh, you definitely deserve this, good luck!
    I’ll be back later…

  • Yelo October 7, 2009, 7:52 pm

    Waw those suman pictures are mouth-watering!
    I didn’t grow up with grandparents in America, appreciating them is very keen of you
    Have a good day,

  • dhanggit October 8, 2009, 6:57 am

    Suman is a classic in our family we love eating it with some freshly grated coconut, sesame seeds and sugar!! This book’s really great!

  • Newmicon October 8, 2009, 3:50 pm

    Excellent review, I will check the book out!

  • pleasurepalate October 11, 2009, 12:57 am

    This looks like a fanastic book. I think my Mom would really appreciate it. Thanks for the write-up on it.

  • Cynthia October 11, 2009, 5:40 pm

    I’m definitely getting a copy of this book.

  • 3hungrytummies October 13, 2009, 4:02 pm

    its a great read!!! must have!!

  • Burnt Lumpia October 16, 2009, 2:07 pm

    Hi Tangled Noodle. Long-distance help is all many of us rely on, including myself. And do pick up the book if you can, it’s loaded with great recipes!
    Hi Lorena. That’s great that you cook with your grandma and write the recipes down. It’s something that I think everyone should do if they have the opportunity. And why hit up Valerio’s? Make it yourself!
    Oooh, mango compote sounds delish, Manggy! Though, I’d stop short of the mound of sugar;)
    It is a must have, darleene!
    A grandma that curses like a sailor, Mike? That sounds like my kind of gal! And pan frying suman sounds awesome. I will definitely try that.
    No prob, wasabi prime. I’m sure the book will make for a wonderful gift.
    Hi Rasa. I hope to read your cookbook someday. I know it will happen soon!
    Hi Leela! Mmmm, banana and black beans sound like great additions.
    Thanks LL! Congrats to you too!
    Thanks Yelo.
    Hi dhanggit. I guess I’ve been missing out on all the extra toppings all this time. I usually just eat suman plain.
    Thanks Newmicon.
    No prob, pleasurepalate. Your mother will surely find some great recipes in this book.
    It’s worth it, Cynthia!
    Thanks 3hungrytummies.

  • Pat October 30, 2009, 11:03 am

    THANK YOU, Marvin for blogging about my book and to everyone and their well wishes.
    Now, I’m waiting with anticipation for Marvin’s cookbook :).

  • Chowhound November 28, 2009, 11:26 pm

    I love suman! My mom makes a wicked suman sa gata, there’s nothing in the world like it (of course because my mom makes it ;-). My grandma always makes suman sa ibos during special holidays like christmas and fiesta. It’s her special breakfast treat and it’s probably one of the things I miss the most about the Philippines. Suman sa ibos and suman sa gata are essentially the same things except they use different wrappers suman sa gata is wrapped in banana leaves and suman sa ibos uses young coconut leaves.
    I have to get a copy of this book.


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