Suman sa Lihiya

c35751d85576c64a52ece7f32285b43b Suman sa Lihiya
As with most Asian countries, rice is the staple food in our country. Most Filipinos love eating rice. It’s something we enjoy not only during the regular meals of the day…but also during snack time in the form of kakanin (sweet delicacies).
One of the popular rice snacks in the Philippines is called Suman which is basically glutinous rice wrapped in banana leaves and cooked either by boiling or steaming. There are many variations of suman and one of them is called Suman sa Lihiya. This kind of suman is yellowish in color and that is because of the lihiya (lye) which is added to the rice before it is wrapped in banana leaves. Unlike other suman which are long and tube-like, Suman sa Lihiya is typically square or rectangle in shape. It is boiled in water for a couple of hours which makes the banana leaves turn brown thereby giving the suman a darker yellow color.
The manner of cooking this suman varies from region to region. In some regions, the glutinous rice is wrapped in banana leaves after adding the lihiya…while in some, the glutinous rice is half-cooked in coconut cream after soaking in liya just before wrapping in banana leaves. I have tried both and I must say that I prefer the latter. Cooking the glutinous rice in coconut cream makes it easier to wrap and the suman becomes a lot softer and tastier. This manner of cooking is what I’m going to share with you…
So sit back, relax and enjoy the step-by-step procedure I prepared for you. Making suman sa lihiya may be a bit complicated and time consuming because of all the wrapping you have to make, but I tell you it’s all worth it! I also included the procedure in making the coconut caramel sauce that Suman sa Lihiya is usually served with in Batangas (my dad’s province). Some people eat their suman with just sugar sprinkled on top. Well, that’s good but coconut caramel sauce will make your suman even better!
dfe530155aa83d4a166969178fb966f2 Suman sa Lihiya
Suman sa Lihiya

Yield: 26 pcs.


  • For the sauce:
  • 1 can (14oz.) coconut cream
  • 2 cups brown sugar if doing method 1 and 2 cups white sugar plus 2 Tbsp water if doing method 2
  • For the suman:
  • 4 cups sweet rice
  • 4 tsp lye
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 can (14oz.) coconut cream
  • * You will need banana leaves and kitchen twine for wrapping.


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. For the suman: Wash rice and then soak in water for at least 3 hours.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Wrap another suman. Pair these two with the folded sides together. Using a kitchen twine, tie the 2 suman together tightly.
  9. 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.


*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.
3ee1ac90d2d10650bde1371c8beb3a3b Suman sa Lihiya
For  the step-by-step procedure with photos, please visit Pinay In Texas Cooking Corner.  Salamat– Mabuhay!
 Suman sa Lihiya

© 2012 – 2013, Tina a.k.a. PinayInTexas. All rights reserved.

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  • krmv

    I love suman, great blog.

  • Cathy Coleman

    I would really love to try this, as this has long been a favorite of mine. Would yuo know where I can purchase Lye? (LIHIYA). Thanks. I would really appreciate your response.

  • Elena Wilson

    san po ba makakabili ng lye? i live in texas and i really want to try this recipe. thank u!

  • Tina (PinayInTexas)

    You can find lye in most Asian stores. Nakalagay sya sa bottle tapos “lye water” ang label.

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