Suman sa lihiya (glutinous rice with lye wrapped in banana leaves)

8 servings
4 hours
2 hours
One of the popular rice snacks in the Philippines by Tina of Pinay In Texas Cooking Corner



For the sauce:

For the suman:


  • For the sauce:
    Method 1:
    Put coconut cream and brown sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar is melted. Adjust heat to low and cook mixture for about 20 minutes or until it thickens.
  • Method 2: (For this, use white sugar)
    Put sugar and 2 Tbsp water in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves. After sugar dissolves and syrup is simmering, cook for 3 minutes without stirring. Slowly add coconut cream while stirring. If syrup hardens, just keep on stirring until it melts again. Simmer for 10 minutes or until syrup and coconut cream are well incorporated.
  • For the suman:
    1. Wash rice and then soak in water for at least 3 hours.

    2. While rice is being soaked, prepare banana leaves. Clean them by wiping with wet paper towel then with a dry one. Pass the banana leaves one by one over flame to make it easy to fold. We have a ceramic glass cooktop, so I just put each piece of leaf on top of it until soft but not burnt. Cut into 2"x10" pieces. You will need about 78 pcs.

    3. Drain water from rice. Add lye water into rice and stir thoroughly. You will notice that the rice will turn yellowish. Let sit for about 15-20 minutes.

    4. Put rice and 1 cup sugar in a large saucepan. Pour coconut cream into it and stir thoroughly. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes or until rice is half done. Stir frequently to avoid sticking into the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool down.
  • 5. Cut a 2"x"10" piece of banana leaf into two. Lay them on a flat surface. Scoop about 4 Tbsp of the half-cooked rice on the center. Lift the top and left sides of the crossed banana leaves and fold towards the center. Do the same with the lower and right ends. Your suman will be about 2.25"x2.25" inch in size. Lay a 2"x10" piece of banana leaf and carefully put the suman on one end of the leaf leaving about 2 inches. Lift the lower end of the leaf and fold towards the center, then gently roll the suman away from you. Lay another 2"x10" piece of banana leaf and carefully put the suman on one end of the leaf with the folded part in perpendicular position. Gently roll it away from you.
  • 6. Wrap another suman. Pair these two with the folded sides together. Using a kitchen twine, tie the 2 suman together tightly.

    7. Repeat procedures 5 & 6 until all the cooked rice are used up. Arrange suman in a big pot and cover with water. Cook over medium heat for 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat. Drain cooking water and allow to completely cool down.

    8. Unwrap when ready to eat and serve with coconut caramel sauce.
  • Note:
    *You may store your leftover suman in the refrigerator. When ready to eat, just peel the banana leaves off, and heat up in the microwave covered with a wet paper towel for 45sec to 1 min.

    *Lye water is a strong alkali solution (caustic soda) and an essential ingredient for some rice cake cuisines in the Philippines such as suman sa lihiya and kutsinta. This liquid makes the rice cake yellowish in color and firm and elastic in texture. In Chinese cooking, lye is a common ingredient used for their noodles and dumplings. Lye is also used to cure and preserve olives, fish (especially in the nordic regions), and seafood like squid. It also gives hard pretzels their characteristic brown color and texture and is also used in bagel making. However, it can also be harmful when swallowed directly. It can also burn or irritate your skin. So be sure to take precaution when using it, and use the exact measurement. When properly cooked and mixed into the batter, the lye is reduced to a harmless state, and it serves its function of giving the rice cake a good texture and added color.


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