Suman sa Lihiya

Suman sa Lihiya

Suman is a traditional Filipino rice cake that is usually made from glutinous rice (locally referred to as “malagkit”). Aside from using glutinous rice, some variations also use root crops such as cassava. Suman sa Lihiya is the most basic variation. Glutinous rice is soaked in water for several hours before putting-in a portion of lye water and wrapping each serving in soft banana leaves. The wrapped mixture is then boiled until the glutinous rice is done. This is best eaten either with sugar or latik (this is the residue when coconut milk is simmered). Glutinous rice comes in different varieties; each has a different name, but all seem to possess the same texture. When shopping for glutinous rice, do not look for the “glutinous rice” label alone. This sticky rice has many names and varieties. Feel free to choose among the following: sticky rice, waxy rice, botan rice, biroin chal, sweet rice, mochi rice, pearl rice, and malagkit. If you are in the Philippines or any tropical place, getting fresh young banana leaves will not be a problem. If in case your situation is like mine wherein banana leaves comes fresh frozen from Asian stores, try not to run the leaves over fire to make it more flexible – it will most likely crack. Instead, gently wash it with warm water.

Some people like brushing cooking oil on the banana leaves before placing-in the glutinous rice mixture. You can do that too, if you desire.

I like having suman for breakfast and I always pair it with hot chocolate. How about you? Do you also eat suman for breakfast? What do you pair this with?


Suman sa Lihiya


  • 2 1/4 cups glutinous rice
  • 1 teaspoon lye water
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 whole banana leaf, cleaned

Watch the cooking video.

Cooking Procedure

  1. Place the glutinous rice in a mixing bowl then pour-in water. Stir and soak for 2 to 3 hours.
  2. Drain excess water from the mixing bowl then add lye water and stir thoroughly. The mixture will turn yellowish. Let stand for 30 minutes. Note: do not go beyond the recommended measurement for lye water.
  3. Prepare the banana leaves. Here are some tips:
    a.Fresh banana leaves can be heated directly in fire for a very short time. This releases the natural aroma of the leaf and makes it more flexible.
    b. If you are using fresh frozen banana leaves, it is better to just wash it in warm water.
    c. You’ll need a pair of leaves per serving. The bigger leaf should measure about 12 by 10 inches while the smaller is 4 by 5 inches.
  4. Arrange the banana leaves by placing the larger leaf first in a flat surface then put the smaller leaf in the center of the larger leaf.
  5. Scoop about 1/4 cup of the rice mixture and place it over the smaller leaf.
  6. Fold the leaf to secure the rice mixture (see video for procedure) and tie with a kitchen twine.
  7. Arrange the folded banana leaves with rice mixture in a cooking pot then pour-in enough water.
  8. Turn-on heat then let boil. Simmer for 80 minutes.
  9. Turn-off heat and transfer the banana leaf covered rice cake on a serving dish.
  10. Serve with white sugar, brown sugar, or latik.
  11. Share and enjoy!

Number of servings (yield): 3

Published by

Vanjo Merano

I blog about Filipino and Asian food and recipes.

20 thoughts on “Suman sa Lihiya”

  1. Hello, I don’t know where to buy the banana leaf :( I’ve been to our Filipino market here in CA and can’t find it. Is there any way for me to cook the suman without dahon ng saging po? Please help! been craving for this for a long time.

  2. i miss eating suman sa lihiya early in the morning with a freshly brewed kapeng barako. yummy …. they don’t cook it here in mindanao and being a kitchen dyslexic, your recipe and the video how to really helps. thanks!!!

    1. yes why not, banana leaves is traditionally use for suman but if you really craving for suman, foil will help.

  3. what can I substitute for lye water? Asian stores where I live doesn’t know what lye water is.

  4. Can anyone tell me if I use a subsitute for Banana Leaves?? I live in a country that doesn’t sell it :( I love suman! It’s one of my favorite kakanin :)

    1. try dried corn leaves where usually mexican makes tamales, then wrap it with foil, you can buy it in walmart, but sometimes mexican store sells frozen banana leaves also

  5. I could get any lye water nor banana leaves. Is there any substitute to these
    items? Please advise. I would appreciate it very much.

  6. I tried this yesterday since I have been craving for it and the ones we buy from the store here in CA does not satisfy my hunger.
    I added a pinch of salt as recommended by my in laws. It takes time to prepare but all is worth it, just ate 2 pcs cause it was gone in a flash and now my family is asking for more. We had it for breakfast and merienda. Thanks again for the recipe.

  7. Lye water should be found in the asian stores. This is also used for kutsinta. its called LIHIYA in pinas

  8. I think it will taste better if we mix a little salt & sugar to the glutinous rice and use coconut milk instead of plain water..then dip it with latik when it’s cook.

  9. I want to make my own but what is lye water? Can I use just tap water or bottled water? I love to pait it with black tea sweetened with honey.

    1. I do not think there is any substitute for lye water.
      Since lye water is sodium hydroxide and sodium bicarbonate, it is fairly active chemically. Using aluminum foil as wrap therefore may not be a good idea.

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