Closed suman. Just the sight of them thrills me. Truth be told, the sight of banana leaves wrapped around anything steamed makes me happily anxious, but when I see these thin burrito-like packages, that's A-1 joy right there.
Open suman: steamed sweet rice cake. This one has some "dessert" beans--azuki beans--inside, but just plain rice is more common. The rice is usually first cooked in coconut milk and sweetened with brown sugar before being wrapped in the leaf.
Here's a basic recipe:
1. Rinse and cook two cups of 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a big pinch of salt, and sweet, sticky rice/glutinous rice/purple rice/etc. in 2-1/2 cups of coconut milk, just as you would if you were regularly cooking rice in water. Shake the can of coconut milk up before using it. Cool rice once it's fully cooked (nice and tender).
2. While rice is cooking and cooling, prepare the banana leaves: wipe them clean with a damp cloth, remove the spine, pass the leaves over flames to loosen the fibers, and tear along the fibers into 4x4 pieces so you have small sheets of leaf. Tear smaller pieces into "strings" that you can use to tie your suman closed.
3. Wrap 2 or 3 tablespoons of the cooled rice in the banana leaves, tying the ends with the banana leaf strings. You can wrap them as you would wrap lumpia, or roll them in the leaf and tie the ends off.
4. Steam the suman, preferably in a bathtub-sized steamer, for 30 minutes.
Can't find banana leaves? I'd assume that tamale husks or tamale papers would work. Can't find those, either? I've heard of some people using "food-safe" plastic wrap or just regular saran wrap, though I wouldn't in good conscience recommend it. Instead, try just scooping the rice into ramekins and steaming them that way.
If you don't want to add sugar to the recipe, you can cook it with just the coconut milk, salt, and rice, and dip the suman in sugar as you eat it for your merienda--what Filipinos and Spaniards alike call their afternoon snack.